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Introduction to Uttarakhand


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Introduction to Uttarakhand

Uttarakhand, a northern state in India, is a place with utmost spiritual and geographic relevance. The state, which lies in the lap of the mighty Himalayas, is a gift of nature indeed. It has a breathtaking terrain with ever inspiring views, cool environs, gushing rivers that slither down endlessly, glaciers, rich natural resources, abundant flora and fauna, and one can go on and on to distinguish the state of Uttarakhand from the rest. The name ‘Uttarakhand’ originates from Sanskrit, which means, ‘Uttara’ – north, ‘Khand’ – region or province.

Information About Uttarakhand

The land once taken by great ascetics and sages, along with many temples and pilgrim centres, is also referred to as the ‘Land of God’. It is a border state of India with land boundaries with China to the north, and with Nepal to the east. Uttarakhand, which was the part of Uttar Pradesh became a separate political state entity on the 9th of November, 2000.

Dehradun remains to be the provisional capital of Uttarakhand. It is the only Indian state to have Sanskrit as one of its official language. Chronological history of this land can be traced back to Mahabharata, which is evident in the very name of Dehradun, derived from the word ‘Dronanagiri’. Uttarakhand is a state with extensive diversity in all aspects. The state continues to be a favoured tourist destination, be it the for the holy shrines or for the bountiful nature destinations.

History of Uttarakhand

Uttarakhand MapUttarakhand, formerly known as Uttaranchal, can be traced back to the pre-historic era of modern times. Archaeologists have closely associated scriptures and evidences in order to date the history of the state, which is estimated to have been inhabited during early stone age too. Evidences of human settlements were unearthed during excavations in the rock shelters. Further proofs in the form of paintings strengthened the existing records of human life in the region. During the Puranic period this state was mentioned using different names. Few of them being, Uttaranchal, Uttarkaushal, Khashades, and Uttarkuru.

The history of Uttarakhand can be well appreciated or understood, if we trace back to the roots of its most important divisions, ‘Kumaon’ and ‘Garhwal’. Kumaon according to the Hindu mythology is the land of the Kurmavatar, the tortoise incarnation of Lord Vishnu. Kurmavatar is described to be part of Satya Yuga, thus, putting history to some millions of years back from present times. Kumaon emerged as a unified state from its early stages. The Kumaoni region was unified under the powerful rule of the Katyuris, and the state was supposed to have been at its zenith during their rule. Under their regime, it was known as Kartipur. Many temples were built during their rule, the 900-year-old sun temple was built during this time. After a couple of decades, the Chands of Pithoragarh took over the Kumaoni region. The temple of Jageshwar, though built during the Katyuris regime, was remodelled and restructured under the powerful rule of the Chand Dynasty.

‘Garhwal’ has also found a great amount of mention in Hindu mythology during the Puranic period. The word ‘Garhwal’ roughly translates to the ‘land of many forts’. This region was dominated mostly by the ‘Kshatriyas’ and later taken over by the Katyuris. The Katyuris ruled over the unified region of ‘Kumaon and Garhwal’. Huen Tsang’s travelogues gives a clear account of this region, and the existence of a kingdom named Barampura.

Uttarakhand KedarnathSpiritual significance of Garhwal grew with the visits of Saint Shri Adi Shankaracharya, a 8th century Hindu philosopher and theologist from the South India. Shri Shankaracharya established the Joshimath and the most important shrines of Kedarnath and Badrinath. Joshimath or Jyotirmath is the northern monastery, one of the four cardinal institutions established by Adi Shankara, the others being Shringeri, Puri and Dwaraka. Garhwal became a unified kingdom when all its 52 principalities were brought under one and merged in the 15th century.

In 1803, Garhwal faced invasion by the Gorkhas. They ruled the land with an iron fist for about 12 years. The Treaty of Sagauli was signed between the East India Company and the King of Nepal. One third of the Nepalese territory including the Kumaon and Garhwal region was given to the British, under this treaty.

After Independence, the Garhwal and Kumaon region were merged with Uttar Pradesh. Inspite of very different identities between the Garhwalis and the Kumaonis, geographic contiguity, culture, language and tradition were the strong chords which kept the bond intact. In 1994, few incidents sparked and paved way for the need of a separate statehood. The process of forming a separate state was initiated when the Uttar Pradesh Reorganisation Bill was formed by the Uttar Pradesh Legislative Assembly in 1998. A separate territorial dominion ‘Uttarakhand’ was formed on 9th November, 2000.

Click Here to know about the History of Haridwar | Nainital | Dehradun | Mussoorie | Haldwani | Roorkee

Geography of Uttarakhand

Quick Facts

  • Head of the Sate: Governor
  • Head of the Government: Chief Minister
  • Area: 53,483 sq km
  • Number of Districts: 13
  • Number of towns: 86
  • Number of Villages: 16,826
  • Population: 10,116,552 as per the census of 2011
  • Population density (per sq km): 189
  • Languages spoken : Garhwali, Western Hindi.
  • Literacy rate: 79.63%
  • Area Rank: 18
  • Largest City: Dehradun
  • Highest point: 25,646 ft
  • Website: uk.gov.in
Uttarakhand is the 18th biggest state in India with an area of about 53,483 Sq km. It borders Tibet to the north, Nepal to the east, the plains of Uttar Pradesh to the west and Himachal Pradesh to the north west. It comprises of two main hilly regions, Garhwal and Kumaon, which is connected by the flatlands called the Terai in the base. Uttarakhand extends from 28°43’N to 31°27’N longitude and 77°34’E to 81°01E latitude. The Shivaliks, the Himachal ranges and the Himadri ranges forms the three different or distinct topographical belts of Uttarakhand.


Uttarakhand nestled amidst the southern slope of the great Himalayas is known for its mystifying landforms. The magnificent mountains consisting of cliffs, plateaus, flat lands and raised ridges, make for an array of interesting topography. The Terai belt, which connects the two main hills namely Garhwal and Kumaon, has thick forests, grasslands and wetlands. Major portion of this belt has been converted into agricultural areas.

The diversity of the state, in terms of flora and fauna largely owes to the expanse and the varsity of the region. As the altitude changes so does the flora and fauna.

Flora of Uttarakhand

Uttarakhand GeographyThe Bhabar and Terai regions make for the deciduous forests and savannah grasslands respectively. As the elevation gradually increases, the types of trees vary accordingly, at about 9,800 to 16,400 feet where everything is covered with ice, one can find the Western Himalayan Alpine shrubs and meadows. As we move down, the Himalayan sub-alpine coniferous forest adorns the surroundings. Further below are the Western Himalayan broadleaf forests and another dip with an elevation of about 4900ft is the Western Himalayan Subtropical Pine forests. Himalayas is said to hold within it a reservoir of medicinal plants.

Fauna of Uttarakhand

Fauna of Uttarakhand GeographyThe animal life in this region is as diverse as its expanse. The very fact that there are a number of reserved forest areas and sanctuaries goes on to authenticate the array of wild animals present. The impregnable forests remain to be a conducive abode. Sloth bears, Tigers, Leopards, Elephants and wild boars are few wild animals which are found in the forests. This state also serves as a nesting ground for many  migratory birds. Internal migration of birds from higher altitude is also a common phenomena. Pigeons, wood peckers, ducks, jays, quails, sparrows, peacocks are very commonly sighted birds.

Climate of Uttarakhand

The climatic conditions also varies depending on the altitude of the place. From severe and extreme cold conditions in the higher peaks of Himalayan ranges to warm conditions in the lower regions is witnessed. The temperature ranges from a sub zero in high altitudes during winter to a moderate temperature in the plains during summer.

Uttarakhand experiences three different seasons, the winter season (between October and February), summer season (between March and May), Monsoon (between June and September). The state by far experiences almost all forms of precipitation in the form of rain, hailstorms and snow.

While rain and occasional hailstorms are witnessed across the region, snowfall is confined to the higher altitudes alone. The higher altitudes are sparsely populated and migrating during winters is common ritual in this region.

Glaciers in Uttarakhand

Did You Know?
Some of the world famous mountains are found in Uttarakhand
  • Nanda Devi, (25,646 feet [7,817 metres])
  • Kamet, (25,446 feet [7,756 metres])
  • Badrinath,(23,420 feet [7,138 metres])

Uttarakhand remains to be one of the main source of rivers that flow across the country owing to its glaciers. These large and slow moving mass of ice, remain to be the largest source of fresh water. Apart from this primary purpose, they also contribute for the abundant beauty. Many avid adventure seekers and trekkers have always been attracted to these glaciers.

Some of the famous glaciers include

Gangotri Glacier
Gangotri is one of the largest in the Himalayas, which spreads to about 30 km long and 2 to 4 km wide. This glacier is situated at a height of about 7,100 mt above sea level. It is also considered as an important religious destinations amongst Hindus. The three main tributaries being, Kirti, Chaturan and Raktavarn along with 18 other small tributaries.

Chorbari Bamak Glacier
This glacier, situated in the Rudraprayag district, originates from the southern slopes of Kedar dome, Kirthi Stamb and Bharte Kunta. It stretches for about 6 kms. The glacier is at about 3,800 metres above sea level. The glacier has two snouts, one being the Mandakini river and the other drains in to the Chorbari Tal.

Dronagiri Glacier
Glacier in UttarakhandOften thronged by trekkers to explore the beauty, is situated in the Chamoli district of Uttarakhand. It forms a significant part of the Dhauli Ganga System along with 500 others. It stretches up to 5.5kms.

Kaphini Glacier
Kaphini glacier is located in the district of Bageshwar. This glacier lies to the left of the Pindar valley, beneath the NandaKot peak. It is small glacier and much sought-after by tourists, for both accessibility and the colourful blooms that is spread across the valley. It is also famous for the breathtaking and panoramic view of the many famous Himalayan peaks it offers.

Maitkoli Glacier
Stretching up to 5-km-long, this glacier is located to the southern slope of the Sundhendhunga Khal. It is at an elevation of about 6803 mt, and a famous glacier of the Kumaon region in Karnaprayag.

Pindari Glacier
Pindari Glacier in UttarakhandLocated at the Pindar valley, the Pindari glacier lies between the Nanda Devi and the NandaKot peaks. It stretches to upto five kilometres and the Pindari river originates from this very glacier. This remains to be the most accessible of all the glaciers situated in the region.

Khatling Glacier
It is the main source of the river Bhilaganga and is situated in the Tehri district. This glacier is surrounded by many snow capped mountains.

Bandar Poonch Glacier
Bandar Poonch Glacier in UttarakhandLocated at the western edge Of Himalayas in the Yamuna basin, has geologists and avid trekkers coming for its interesting formation. It stretches for about 12 km, and is at a height of about 4442 mt. This glacier feeds water to both Yamuna and the Ganga.

Rivers in Uttarakhand

Perennial rivers which are continuously fed by Greater Himalayas and Zaskar ranges contribute phenomenally to the network of waterways in and around the state.

Rivers in UttarakhandIt is formed at the foot of Gangotri glacier and Khatling glacier of the Himalayas. According to Hindu mythology it is considered as the source river of the Ganga, hence, considered to be highly sacred. It is one of the violent streams of the region.

The source of this river, being Satopanath and Bhagirath Kharak Glacier. Alaknanda merges with Bhagirathi at Devprayag. It drains parts of Chamoli, Tehri and Pauri districts.

Ganga River in UttarakhandIt is one of the major rivers of the Indian subcontinent. The Alaknanda and Bhagirathi joins at the town of Devaprayag to form the Ganges. Mandakini, Nandakini, Dhauliganga and Pindar are the main tributaries of Alaknanda which in turn merges in to the Ganga. The Ganges rises in the Himalayas, and drains into the Sunderban delta in Bay of Bengal. This holy river holds utmost spiritual semblance.

The western part of the watershed is formed by Yamuna and its tributaries. It is one of the largest tributaries of Ganga, and originates from the Yamunotri Glacier. It approximately travels a length of about, 1,376 kms.

Pindar River
Pindar River in UttarakhandThe source of Pindar river being the Pindari Glacier, flows in to Alaknanda at Karnaprayag. The glacial terrace for a stretch of about 10kms formed on both sides of the gorge, makes it unique and interesting.

Gori Ganga
Draining to the southeast is the Goriganga, its main source remaining the Milam glacier. The Kali river originates from the Greater Kailash at Kaala Paani. When it reaches the plains of Uttarakhand, it is known as River Sharda.

Ram Ganga
Ram Ganga River in UttarakhandThe Ram Ganga river which originates from the district of Puri, Garhwal, is known for its hydroelectric generation.

Ganga and Yamuna, till date plays a pivotal role in the lives of Hindus, and it is believed to wash away the sins of its partakers.

The geography of the state is one main attribute to the diversity of the state.

Uttarakhand - Pin Codes and Postals

Almora - 263601
Dehradun - 248001
Haldwani - 263139
Haridwar - 249401
Mussoorie - 248179
Nainital - 263001
Pantnagar - 263145
Pithoragarh - 262501
Ranikhet - 263645
Roorkee - 247667

Administration in Uttarakhand

The state polity in this 27th Indian state is similar to other Indian states with Governor being the fountainhead of the State administration. The Governor is appointed by the President of India and holds a fixed tenure. The Chief Minister, the elected head of the members of the state legislative assembly is the political head and Chief Executive of the state government. The Chief Minister’s tenure is limited by the extent of majority enjoyed by the political party in the State Assembly and the pleasure of the President.

The normal tenure of the assembly and the government is five years after which fresh general elections are held. The executive work of the government is carried out by the bureaucrats who are permanent members of the administration. The state administration comprises various departments such as finance, agriculture, industry, electricity and power generation etc. which are headed by the respective ministers (political head). The head of bureaucracy are the Secretaries in various departments and the Chief Secretary who oversees their functioning and further reports to the Chief Minister.

The state is divided into 13 districts which form the next level of administration. Each district is headed by a bureaucrat called ‘District Collector’. Not limited to the geographical limits of the districts, there are political divisions called ‘assembly constituencies’ which are represented by an elected member called the ‘Member of Legislative Assembly’ or MLA. The MLAs form the political side of the administration and participates at the state level through the highest political body, i.e. the State Assembly. The MLA acts as a representative of the constituency population and seeks focus on his constituent issues. The third tier of government is through the village or block level (cluster of villages) administration called Gram Panchayats, Gram Parishads and Zilla Parishads. The lowest functionary in the Administrative side, (the third tier) is the ‘Tehsildar’ or the ‘Revenue Officers’.

Aziz Qureshi is the present Governor of Uttarakhand while Harish Rawat of Indian National Congress is the Chief Minister of the state.

Culture of Uttarakhand

Uttarakhand CultureDue to unforgiving weather conditions and unterrainable mountains the higher altitudes of Uttarakhand till date remains to be sparsely populated. The culture to a large extent is kept intact confining it to that of the natives, however, one can see the influence of immigrants who have settled down. If on one hand Uttarakhand attracts tourists for the rich natural potpourri it brims with, on the other it also has many people flocking to experience the colourful culture of the natives.

The state is home to several ethnic groups. Some of the ethnic groups are Bhotia, Kholtas, Khasa, Jadhas, Shaukas, Kumaoni, Buksha, etc. Rajputs contribute to 70% of the population, Hindus are 20%, while the rest of the 10% comprises of other castes and communities. The people of Uttarakhand are often referred to as ‘Pahari’ or ‘Uttarakhandi’. The blend of fine culture, legacy and heritage has given rise to many literary works. Folk tales, lyrical ballads have immensely influenced the Hindi literature, which are evident even today.

Agriculture and animal husbandry remain to be the major source of livelihood. The natives are known for their intricate wooden carving and stone carving. The hand-woven baskets of Garhwal are famous across the country. Other crafts include, shawls, rugs, hand crafted gold jewellery etc. The society of Uttarakhand is merely a reflection of the culture of the state. The people are known to be laborious and simple. Most of the areas remain untouched by modernisation.

Economy of Uttarakhand

The economy of Uttarakhand largely depends on agriculture. Agricultural export zones have been setup for medicinal plants, herbs, horticulture and basmati rice, which is said to bring in a good amount of cash inflow. Apart from agriculture, tourism and hydropower make a considerable and favourable impact on the economy of Uttarakhand.

Cuisines of Uttarakhand

Cuisines Uttarakhand

No place is complete without its robust and authentic cuisines. The people of Uttarakhand are mostly vegetarians, with few exceptions. Since the area is vast and experiences different climatic conditions, the availability of the local produce also varies by and large, thereby, providing for a wide range of exquisite cuisines.

On higher altitudes, where fresh produce is often a rare commodity, hence, meat and sun dried vegetables form a part of their diet. People living on high altitudes prepare their own liquor out of Barley, which keeps the body warm. However, as one moves further down to the lower regions or the plains, the variety of Vegetarian food prepared knows no bounds. Rotis made of coarse grains with high fibre content is common. Apart from these to spice up a meal, the chutneys and raitas add a great variety. Ghee and mustard oil are often used for cooking, and the cuisines are generally laced with spices. The use of milk and dairy products is limited.

Few of the famed and savoured dishes are Ras, Garhwal Ki Fannah, Jholi, Kafuli, Gaderi Ki Gutke, Palk Tinri, and Kaapa. Baal Mithai, Mal Pua, Besan Bhadela and Singhodi are few popular sweets of the region.

Tourist Attractions of Uttarakhand

Travel to Uttarakhand

If one wishes to see nature at its best, Uttarakhand provides a great opportunity. With the snow-peaked mighty Himalayas, variety of flora and fauna, holy shrines, gushing rivers, forest reserves and national parks, the options to explore does not seem to reach a saturation point. No wonder it is referred to as the ‘Switzerland of India’.

Hill stations, where one can simmer in the tranquil space and admire the beauty of the surroundings. Some of the famous hill stations include Almora, Kasauni, Nainital, Raniket, Mussoorie, Lansdowne, Sattal, chamoli and Mukteshwar.

National parks of Uttarakhand remain to be a home for a variety of animals and plant life. The Jim Corbett National Park, Valley of Flowers National Park, Rajaji National Park and Govind National Park.

Uttarakhand has been mentioned as the Devbhumi right from the Puranic period, this mystical land is dotted with sacred and holy shrines. It remains to be an important religious tourist destination amongst people. Pilgrims throng this place in multitudes. The famous destinations include, Badrinath, Rishikesh, Haridwar, HemKund Sahib, Kedarnath, Char Dham, Gangotri, Yamunotri, Jageshwar and many more. Haridwar hosts the Kumbh Mela every twelve years, which attracts millions of people across the globe.

Apart from these many tourists visit this region for trekking, white water rafting, mountaineering, rappling, skiing and many other adventure activities.

Did You Know
Uttarakhand is also a home to the world's highest gurudwara, Sri Hemkunt Sahib Ji; it is located in Chamoli district of the state.

Shopping in Uttarakhand

Buying things pertaining to a place, picking up a souvenir or two, adding a couple of things to one’s artefact collection is always a welcome, when you visit new places. Local made handicrafts, hand made candles, wooden and stone carvings, hand woven shawls, woollen clothing are a few items which you may not find in other run-of-the-mill destinations. Big towns like Dehradun, Nainital, Mussoorie, Haridwar and Rishikesh have their local markets, from where you can shop for these items.

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