History of Uttarakhand

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Uttarakhand is both the new and traditional name of the state that was formed from the hill districts of Uttar Pradesh, India. Literally North Country or Section in Sanskrit, the name of Uttarakhand finds mention in the early Hindu scriptures as the combined region of Kedarkhand and Manaskhand.

Uttarakhand was also the ancient Puranic term for the central stretch of the Indian Himalayas. Its peaks and valleys were well known in ancient times as the abode of gods and goddesses and source of the Ganges River. Today, it is often called "the Land of the Gods" (Dev Bhoomi) because of the presence of a multitude of Hindu pilgrimage spots. Uttarakhand is known as Dev Bhoomi from ancient times. The Pauravas, Kushanas, Kunindas, Guptas, Katyuris, Palas, the Chands, and Parmars or Panwars and the British have ruled Uttarakhand in turns.[1]

Early history[edit]

The region was originally settled by Kols, an aboriginal people of the Dravidian physical type who were later joined by Indo-Aryan Khas tribes that arrived from the northwest by the Vedic period. At that time, present-day Uttarakhand also served as a haunt for Rishis and Sadhus. It is believed that Sage Vyasa scripted the Mahabharata here as the Pandavas are believed to have traveled and camped in the region. Among the first major dynasties of Garhwal and Kumaon were the Kunindas in the 2nd century B.C. who practiced an early form of Shaivism. They traded salt with Western Tibet. It is evident from the Ashokan edict at Kalsi, near Dehradun in Western Garhwal that Buddhism made inroads in this region. Folk shamanic practices deviating from Hindu orthodoxy also persisted here. However, Garhwal and Kumaon were restored to nominal Brahmanical rule due to the travails of Shankaracharya and the arrival of migrants from the plains. In the fourth century, the Kunindas gave way to the Naga Dynasties. Between the 7th and 14th centuries, the Katyuri dynasty of Khas origin dominated lands of varying extent from the Katyur (modern day Baijnath) valley in Kumaon. Other peoples of the Tibeto-Burman group known as Kiratas are thought to have settled in the northern highlands as well as in pockets throughout the region, and believed to be the ancestors to the modern day Bhotiya, Raji, Buksha, and Tharu peoples.[2]

Uttarakhand as a part of the United Province, 1903

By the medieval period, the region was consolidated under the Garhwal Kingdom in the west and the Kumaon Kingdom in the east. From the 13th-18th century, Kumaon prospered under the Chand Rajas who had their origins in the plains of India. During this period, learning and new forms of painting (the Pahari school of art) developed.[3] Modern-day Garhwal was likewise unified under the rule of Parmar/Panwar Rajas, who along with a mass migration of Brahmins and Rajputs, also arrived from the plains.[4] In 1791, the expanding Gurkha Empire of Nepal, overran Almora, the seat of the Kumaon Kingdom. In 1803, the Garhwal Kingdom also fell to the Gurkhas. With the conclusion of the Anglo-Nepalese War in 1816, a rump portion of the Garhwal Kingdom was reestablished from Tehri, and eastern British Garhwal and Kumaon ceded to the British as part of the Treaty of Sugauli.

Post-independencee[edit]

In the post-independence period, the Tehri princely state was merged into Uttar Pradesh state, where Uttarakhand composed the Garhwal and Kumaon Divisions.[5] Until 1998, Uttarakhand was the name most commonly used to refer to the region, as various political groups including most significantly the Uttarakhand Kranti Dal (Uttarakhand Revolutionary Party est. 1979), began agitating for separate statehood under its banner. Although the erstwhile hill kingdoms of Garhwal and Kumaon were traditional rivals with diverse lingual and cultural influences due to the proximity of different neighbouring ethnic groups, the inseparable and complementary nature of their geography, economy, culture, language, and traditions created strong bonds between the two regions.[6] These bonds formed the basis of the new political identity of Uttarakhand, which gained significant momentum in 1994, when demand for separate statehood (within the Union of India) achieved almost unanimous acceptance among the local populace as well as political parties at the national level.[7] Most notable incident during this period was the Rampur Tiraha firing case on the night of October 1, 1994, which led to public uproar and eventually to the division of the state of Uttar Pradesh in 2000.[8]

However, the term Uttaranchal came into use when the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) led central and Uttar Pradesh state governments initiated a new round of state reorganization in 1998 and introduced its preferred name. Chosen for its allegedly less separatist connotations, the name change generated enormous controversy among the rank and file of the separate state activists who saw it as a political act,[9] however they were not quite as successful as Jharkhand state that successfully thwarted a similar move to impose the name Vananchal. Nevertheless, the name Uttarakhand remained popular in the region, even while Uttaranchal was promulgated through official usage.

In August 2006, India's Union Cabinet assented to the four-year-old demand of the Uttaranchal state assembly and leading members of the Uttarakhand movement to rename Uttaranchal state as Uttarakhand. Legislation to that effect was passed by the State Legislative Assembly in October 2006,[10] and the Union Cabinet brought in the bill in the winter session of Parliament. The bill was passed by Parliament and signed into law by the President in December 2006. Since then, Uttarakhand denotes a state in the Union of India

Further reading[edit]

References[edit]

  1. ^ Kandari, O. P., & Gusain, O. P. (Eds.). (2001). Garhwal Himalaya : Nature, Culture & Society. Srinagar, Garhwal: Transmedia.
  2. ^ Saklani, D. P. (1998). Ancient communities of the Himalaya. New Delhi: Indus Pub. Co.
  3. ^ Pande, B. D. (1993). History of Kumaun : English version of "Kumaun ka itihas". Almora, U.P., India: Shyam Prakashan : Shree Almora Book Depot.
  4. ^ Rawat, A. S. (1989). History of Garhwal, 1358-1947: an erstwhile kingdom in the Himalayas. New Delhi: Indus Pub. Co.
  5. ^ Saklani, A. (1987). The history of a Himalayan princely state : change, conflicts and awakening : an interpretative history of princely state of Tehri Garhwal, U.P., A.D. 1815 to 1949 A.D (1st ed.). Delhi: Durga Publications.
  6. ^ Aggarwal, J. C., Agrawal, S. P., & Gupta, S. S. (Eds.). (1995). Uttarakhand: past, present, and future. New Delhi: Concept Pub. Co.
  7. ^ Kumar, P. (2000). The Uttarakhand Movement: Construction of a Regional Identity. New Delhi: Kanishka Publishers.
  8. ^ Rampur Tiraha firing The Times of India, Jul 31, 2003.
  9. ^ Negi, B. (2001). "Round One to the Lobbyists, Politicians and Bureaucrats." Indian Express, January 2.
  10. ^ UNI. (2006). "Uttaranchal becomes Uttarakhand." Tribune (India), October 12.