Uttarakhand, formerly Uttaranchal, is a state in the northern part of India. It is often referred to as the Land of Gods (Dev Bhoomi) due to the many holy Hindu temples and cities found throughout the state, some of which are among Hinduism's most spiritual and auspicious places of pilgrimage and worship. Known for its natural beauty and wealth of the Himalayas, the Bhabhar and the Terai, the state was carved out of the Himalayan and adjoining north-western districts of Uttar Pradesh on 9 November 2000, becoming the 27th state of the Republic of India. It borders the Tibet Autonomous Region on the north, Nepal on the east and the Indian states of Uttar Pradesh to the south, Haryana to the west and Himachal Pradesh to the north west.
The region is traditionally referred to as Uttarakhand in Hindu scriptures and old literature, a term which derives from Sanskrit uttara meaning north, khand meaning country or part of a country. It has an area of 20,682 sq mi (53,566 km²).
In January 2007, the name of the state was officially changed from Uttaranchal, its interim name, to Uttarakhand. The provisional capital of Uttarakhand is Dehradun, which is also a rail-head and the largest city in the region. The small hamlet of Gairsain has been mooted as the future capital owing to its geographic centrality but controversies and lack of resources have led Dehradun to remain provisional capital. The High Court of the state is in Nainital.
Recent developments in the region include initiatives by the state government to capitalise on handloom and handicrafts, the burgeoning tourist trade as well as tax incentives to lure high-tech industry to the state. The state also has big-dam projects, controversial and often criticised in India, such as the very large Tehri dam on the Bhagirathi-Bhilangana rivers, conceived in 1953, the phase one of which has already been completed. Uttarakhand is also well known as the birthplace of the Chipko environmental movement, and other social movements including the mass agitation in the 1990s that led to its formation.
The Kingdom of Garhwal was founded by Rajputs nearly 700 years ago, one of these chiefs, Ajai Pal, reduced all the minor principalities under his own sway, and founded the Garhwal Kingdom. He and his ancestors ruled over Garhwal and the adjacent state of Tehri-Garhwal, in an uninterrupted line till 1803, when the Gurkhas invaded Kumaon and Garhwal, driving the Garhwal chief into the plains. For twelve years the Gurkhas ruled the country with a rod of iron, until a series of encroachments by them on British territory led to the Anglo–Nepalese War in 1814. At the termination of the campaign, Garhwal and Kumaon were converted into British districts, while the Tehri principality was restored to a son of the former chief. The British district of Garhwal was in the Kumaon Division of the United Provinces, and had an area of 5,629 sq mi (14,580 km2). After annexation, Garhwal rapidly advanced in material prosperity. Two battalions of the Indian army (the 39th Garhwal Rifles) were recruited in the district, which also contained the military cantonment of Lansdowne. Grain and coarse cloth were exported, and salt, borax, livestock and wool were imported, and the trade with Tibet was considerable. The administrative headquarters were at the village of Pauri, but Srinagar was the largest city. It was an important mart, as was Kotdwara, the terminus of a branch of the Oudh and Rohilkhand railway from Najibabad. Later it was part of the Punjab Hill States Agency of British India, consisting of the present day Tehri Garhwal district and most of the Uttarkashi district and acceded to the Union of India in 1949.
The culture of the present Garhwal is an amalgamation of influences from the indigenous population coupled with traditions superimposed by various immigrants, especially the Khas-Aryans, who settled in the region from time to time. And thus due to this the myths, dialects, languages, folk literature, festivals, fairs and forms of artistic expression, arts form the basis and the general essence of the character that Garhwali people generally possess.
Garhwali people follow Hinduism along with a mix of traditional Garhwali Animism. As per Hinduism, Garhwalis relate every peak, lake or mountain range somehow or the other to God and Goddess, ranging from those associated with the Shaiva, Shakta and Vaishnava traditions, to local Gods like Narsingh, Khetrapal, Ghandiyal, Aachris, Dainkinis, Sainkinis etc. The protagonists of the epic Mahabharat, the Pandavas, are said to have ended their life on earth by ascending the slopes of a peak in Western Garhwal called Swargarohini - literally, the 'Ascent to Heaven'. They are worshipped at in Garhwal and just like the epic unfolds that the five Pandava brothers had a common wife similar tradition have been reported in some areas like Jaunsaar, Bhabar and Ranwain. Temples are dedicated to the nine famous Goddesses, other local Goddesses, Bhairava, Surya, Ganesh, Kandar devta, Bhagwati, Ghandiyal. The Char Dham or the four pilgrimage which are auspicious to the Hindus are all located in the Garhwal region of Uttarakhand. There are many famous temples in and around various areas of Garhwal but most temples are dedicated to Kalbhairav, Bhagwati, Ghandiyal, Narhsingh and Khetrapal.
The Indian Armed Forces and the Paramilitary forces of India have been the major source of employment for the Garhwali population. Designated as a "Martial Race" under British India, recruits from Uttarakhand are still over-represented in the armed forces compared to other states. The nineteen battalions of the Garhwal Rifles together with the Kumaon Regiment of the Indian Army clearly reflects the participation of the Garhwali people in defending and safe-guarding the frontiers of India.
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