Uttarakhand

Uttarakhand, state in northwestern India, bordered on the south and southwest by Uttar Pradesh state, on the west by a corner of Haryana state, on the northwest by Himchal Pradesh state, on the northeast by the Tibet region of China, and on the east by Nepal. Uttarakhand covers an area of 63,157 sq km (24,385 sq mi). The word means the northern region in Hindi.

The rolling foothills

The rolling foothills, fertile river valleys, and snowcapped peaks of the Himalayas form the majestic landscape of Uttarakhand. The mountains gradually descend in height from north to south, with the Siwlik Range and foothills stretching along the state`s southern border. Nanda Devi, one of the highest Himalayan peaks at 7,817 m (25,646 ft), is located in the northeastern part of the state. The northern area also contains glaciers that feed the Bhagirathi and Alaknanda rivers, which are the headwaters of the Ganges, India`s largest river. The Yamuna, the principal tributary of the Ganges, also rises here.

Uttarakhand has two distinct regions

Uttarakhand has two distinct regions, Garhwl in the west and Kumaon in the east. In the south is Corbett National Park, one of the only areas of the Siwlik Range where the government has sought to protect native forests and wildlife species. The climate of the state varies by elevation. At an altitude of about 3,000 m (10,000 ft), temperatures rarely rise above 20C (68F) during summer, while subzero conditions prevail in winter. Because of the pleasant summer weather in the Himalayan foothills, a number of so-called hill stations were established there as summer resorts by the British. The most popular hill station is Mussoorie, at an altitude of about 2,000 m (6,600 ft).

Uttarakhand had a population of 8.48 million

Uttarakhand had a population of 8.48 million in 2001, giving it an average density of 159 persons per sq km (412 per sq mi). The state capital is Dehra Dn, located near the western border. Many small, distinct ethnic groups reside in remote mountain villages, such as the Bhutia. The state is also home to many people who are classified as members of `castes` (groupings based on rigid social hierarchies). The state`s largest caste is the Shilpkar, who make up about 10 percent of the population. In the hill areas, the major ethnic group is the Khasa (Khasiya), who are divided into Brahmin and Rajput castes. Hindi is the principal language of business and administration in the state. Regional Hindi dialects and indigenous languages are also spoken. Hinduism is the predominant religion. The state also has practitioners of Buddhism, Islam, Sikhism, and indigenous religions.

Institutes of higher education in Uttarakhand

Institutes of higher education in Uttarakhand include the Forest Research Institute (founded in 1906) in Dehra Dn, the Indian Institute of Technology (founded in 1847 as Thomason College) in Roorkee, Kumaun University (founded in 1973) in Nainital, and Gurukula Kangri Vishwavidyalaya (founded in 1900, given university status in 1962) in Haridwr. The site has many Hindu pilgrimage sites because the source of the Ganges is revered as sacred in the Hindu religion. These include the `Panch Prayag` (Five Confluences), marking the headwater tributaries of the Ganges, and the `Char Dham` (Four Abodes), comprising the pilgrimage shrines and temples of Yamunotri, Gangotri, Kedarnath, and Badrinath.

Agriculture is the chief economic activity

Agriculture is the chief economic activity in Uttarakhand, mostly in the form of subsistence farming. Commercial production of fruits, medicinal plants, tea, and flowers has potential for growth. Tourism is an important revenue source, as well. Catering to Hindus who make religious pilgrimages to the sacred sites of the Ganges provides considerable income, particularly in Haridwr. Hydroelectricity is considered the state`s greatest potential source of revenue because of the many glacier-fed rivers. However, local populations strongly oppose the construction of hydropower projects, such as the Tehri Dam on the Bhagirathi River, because the dams threaten to alter the environment and displace local communities.

The state has mineral deposits of gypsum

The state has mineral deposits of gypsum, limestone, graphite, copper, and iron ore. The Himalayas are forested with coniferous trees such as `deodar` (a species of cedar), fir, spruce, and pine. Forests of `sal` (a deciduous hardwood tree) are native to the foothills, although many forests have been cleared to cultivate more land. Deforestation has caused soil erosion problems in Uttarakhand, damaging watersheds.

When India gained independence from the

When India gained independence from the United Kingdom in 1947, the area of present-day Uttarakhand (then known as Uttaranchal) was merged into an administrative division called the United Provinces. This division was re-formed as the state of Uttar Pradesh in 1950. However, the residents of Uttaranchal, who preferred the historical name Uttarakhand, believed their cultural and economic interests were neglected by the administration of Uttar Pradesh, the most populous state in India.

In 1979 the `Uttarakhand Kranti Dal`

In 1979 the `Uttarakhand Kranti Dal` (UKD; Uttarakhand Revolutionary Front) was formed to fight for a separate state. In 1985 the head of the UKD was elected to the Uttar Pradesh legislative assembly. The struggle for statehood gained momentum in 1994 after the Uttar Pradesh government announced it would reserve jobs for lower castes, threatening the interests of the largely high-ranking caste population of Uttarakhand. Demonstrations that year turned violent, with police killing some protesters. Demands for separation continued in 1995 by the Uttarakhand United Struggle Association, a coalition headed by the UKD. The Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), which came to power nationally as part of a coalition government in 1998, also supported and lobbied for a separate state on behalf of its high-caste constituencies in Uttar Pradesh, where it was the majority party. Statehood was finally granted on November 9, 2000, under the name Uttaranchal. It was one of three new states formed in India that year, along with Chhattisgarh and Jharkhand. In 2006 the name of the state was changed to Uttarakhand.

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