Uttarakhand, India

Uttarakhand

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About Uttarakhand

It is often referred to as the Devbhumi i.e., "Land of the Gods” due to the many holy Hindu temples and pilgrimage centres found throughout the state. Uttarakhand is known for its natural beauty of the Himalayas, the Bhabhar and the Terai. On 9 November 2000, this 27th state of the Republic of India was carved out of the Himalayan and adjoining northwestern districts of Uttar Pradesh.

It borders the Tibet Autonomous Region on the north; the Mahakali Zone of the Far-Western Region, Nepal on the east; and the Indian states of Uttar Pradesh to the south and Himachal Pradesh to the northwest. The state is divided into two divisions, Garhwal and Kumaon, with a total of 13 districts. The provisional capital of Uttarakhand is Dehradun, the largest city in the region, which is a railhead. The high court of the state is in Nainital.

The most esteemed pilgrimage circuit of the country incorporates Shri Badrinath and Shri Kedarnath, the holy seats of Lord Vishnu and Lord Shiva respectively. Another prominent pilgrim-destination in Uttarakhand is the holy town of Haridwar, where the prestigious Kumbh Mela is held every twelve years, attracting millions of devout people from all over the world.

If the mountains of Uttarakhand are home to the gods and the goddesses, it is only natural for the rivers rising in the lap of these mountains to carry a lot of religious significance. Many of the rivers therefore borrow names from Hinduism.

The holiest of all Hindu rivers, the Ganga, gushes from Gaumukh in the Gangotri Glacier and flows on to nourish the soils of the Indo-Gangetic plain, whilst bringing people closer. A dip in the holy waters of the Ganga promises to wipe the soul’s slate clean of all sin. The confluences of rivers are considered to be extremely important sacred places to which millions of devotees flock every year.

Two of the most important rivers in Hinduism originate in the region, the Ganga at Gangotri and the Yamuna at Yamunotri. These two along with Badrinath and Kedarnath form the Char Dham, a holy pilgrimage for the Hindus. The state hosts the Bengal tiger in Jim Corbett National Park, the oldest national park of the Indian subcontinent. The Valley of Flowers, a Unesco World Heritage Site located in the upper expanses of Bhyundar Ganga near Joshimath in Gharwal region, is known for the variety and rarity of its flowers and plants. The state offers journey-options to both - the religious and the spiritual.

There are a number of religious events attached to River Ganga - the holiest of all the rivers. Daily aartis performed every evening at the banks of the Mother-River in Haridwar and Rishikesh present a memorable sight to behold when the star studded sky seems to be reflecting the serene waters of the river upon the surface of which float countless diyas offered to the goddess. The Kumbh Mela that is held every twelve years witnesses some of the largest gatherings of devotees to be seen anywhere in the whole world.

There are countless other temples and shrines in the state, homes to local deities and various manifestations of Lord Shiva and Durga. It is not as though Uttarakhand is a pilgimage destination exclusively for Hindus - there are several important shrines related to other religions too, keeping in line with the secular traditions of our country. These include Hemkund Sahib, Nanak Matta Sahib, Ritha Metha Sahib, and Piran Kaliyar Sharif near Roorkee, the Mind Rolling Monastery and its Buddha Stupa in Dehradun.

Overwhelming natural panoramas accompany the pilgrims taking part in the Nanda Devi Raj Jaat and Kailash Mansarovar Yatras. The shrines of Hemkund Sahib and Nanakmatta Sahib are visited by thousands of Sikh devotees while a symbol of national integration - the Dargaah at Piran Kaliyar Sharif, holds a significant religious rank for Muslims and people from other faiths alike.

Several indigenous tribes and communities flourish in this state today maintaining their distinct cultural heritage and traditions. The several fairs and festivals celebrated by the tribes such as Bhotias (Shaukas), Tharus, Buxas and Jaunsaris are opprtunies for the locals and the visitors to witness these events as opportunities to keep the traditional modes of life and art alive apart from providing them the recognition they so strongly deserve.

Legends, myths and anecdotes galore in the state of Uttarakhand which has in turn been bestowed by the richest, holy rivers and the most esteemed mountains. Series of legends and tales are intricately woven around the sacred shrines, temples and rivers by simple hearted, god-fearing people that simultaneously reflect the socio- cultural diversity of the state.

According to the glacial formations, two of the five traditional divisions of the Himalayan range are found in Uttarakhand, namely Garhwal and Kumaon. The major glacial formations of Garhwal include Bandarpunch, Doonagiri, Khatling, Gangotri and the Nanda Devi cluster of glaciers, while Kumaon incorporates the Kaphni, Milam, Pindari and Ralam Glaciers.

Mountaineering as an activity has been known to mankind since the first tryst with the mountains was made. Since time immemorial, sages and pilgrims have been drawn to these mountains because they provide not only serene sheds of solitude, but their very sight uplifts the spirit and makes it soar, fulfilling the longing for the Infinite that is both beyond and yet within the human soul. The Himalayan Mountains are no exception to this longing.

Holiday-makers can make the most of these mountains, which are a playground for many an enjoyable holiday activity. Trekking, high altitude camping, mountain biking, rock climbing and skiing in the winter months are some of the many holiday activities offered, and the State Tourism Board is doing all it can to make Uttarakhand the adventure capital of the country. Nature-lovers and photographers can invigorate their passion with the plush flora and fauna of this kingdom of nature that boasts of thousands of species, some of which can only be found in this lap of the world. The importance of eco-friendly diversity has been noted and this is why forest institutes in the region promote the learning and discovery of new species with an emphasis on the preservation of existing ones.

The snow-capped peaks of the mountains that surround this region make a profound impression, connecting the spirits of man the mountains. The beauty of Uttarakhand is said by many to be unsurpassed where mountains and valleys, birds and animals all come together to mingle in delightful synchronicity.

With a long history of Ayurveda, Yoga and meditation, Uttarakhand has become an ideal destination to learn, practice and master these ways of life. The state has lately come to be known as the Yoga Country on account of the number of ashrams, health centres, retreats and high-end spas, it is home to. These institutions have retained the essence of an age-old wisdom of the land in order to cater to the novel needs of an ever-evolving society. There are people who come to learn Yoga as a way of life, and then there are those who come to seek Ayurvedic treatment for a range of their maladies. Whatever the reason, each visitor invariably finds an apt solution to his problem and goes back with a sounder mind and healthier body.

In ancient times ascetics made arduous treks through hostile terrains to reach the core of the Himalayas, There, in the tranquil surroundings, under the shadows of virgin peaks, they meditated and performed penance to attain knowledge and wisdom. Among the many sciences that they developed, practised and perfected were Yoga and Ayurveda. Yoga helped them achieve a perfect balance between a healthy body and a sound mind- a prerequisite for survival in the harsh climatic conditions of the Himalayas. Living in a world far removed from civilization, these wise men extracted medicines from herbs obtained from the plentiful forests around. Thus was born the science of Ayurveda (literally meaning - the science of life). Both Yoga and Ayurveda offer a holistic approach to achieving mental and physical wellbeing through diet, exercise, breathing practices, herbal remedies, meditation and physical therapy. Over past centuries, Yoga and Ayurveda have both come to be acknowledged in the mainstream and are widely practised.

Today, when spirituality is being defined as wellness, healing and rejuvenation, Uttarakhand beckons you as the perfect destination for cleansing your system of toxins and relieving the stress of everyday life. Here, the essence of the age-old knowledge systems of Yoga and Ayurveda and new age healing systems like Reiki are offered and are accessible in a number of health centres, ranging from top-end spas to affordable health resorts to the traditional ashrams. Stress management as well as preventive and curative therapy for a range of heath disorders are the most vital factors of contemporary treatments for physical, mental and emotional wellbeing of individuals.

From the snowbound peaks of the Himalayas to the moist Alpine scrub, sub Alpine forests, dry - temperate and moist- temperate forests to moist deciduous forests, the state possesses a wide biodiversity that in return nurtures a large multiplicity of floral and faunal forms.

The state is home to nearly 4048 species of Angiosperms and Gymnosperms belonging to 1198 genera under 192 families. Of these nearly 116 species are specific to Uttarakhand i.e. their geographical distribution is limited to the boundaries of the state. 161 species of flora found in Uttarakhand are recognized as rare or threatened under the categorization of the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN). Out of the 223 species of Orchids reported from the North Western Himalayas, over 150 have been reported from the State.

This great floral diversity supports a wide variety of faunal forms too. It includes about 102 species of mammals, 623 species of birds, 124 species of fish, 69 species of reptiles and 19 species of amphibians. Highly endangered species like the Snow Leopard, Musk Deer, Tiger, Asian Elephant, Bharal, Himalayan Monal, Cheer Pheasant, and King Cobra etc. find suitable habitat in the forests of Uttarakhand.

This precious natural wealth is our common heritage. In order to conserve this heritage, the state has declared twelve areas as ‘Protected’ including 6 National Parks and six Wildlife Sanctuaries. Nearly 65% of the geographical area of the State is under forest cover, of which over 12% comes under the Protected Area network. This exceeds the national average by a fair margin and is a reflection of the state’s commitment to conservation. The Corbett National Park, established in 1936 is the first National Park of the Asian mainland. The Nandadevi Biosphere Reserve, established under the “Man and biosphere” programme of UNESCO has the honour of being Uttarakhand’s only and the country’s second Biosphere Reserve. This biodiversity wealth is the pride of Uttarakhand.

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