The beautiful Nanda Devi mountain in Uttarkhand
Uttarakhand, which was once known as Uttaranchal, is often called Deybhumi, which literally translates as the ‘Land of the Gods’ owing to the many pilgrimage landmarks and Hindu temples scattered across the state. Apart from the magnificent architecture, the picturesque landscapes of the Himalaya mountains, the Bhabhar alluvial apron and the Terai grasslands, the state is home to Nanda Devi, the second highest mountain in India, which is part of the Kumaon Himalayas.
Uttarakhand is yet another Indian state with archaeological evidence of prehistoric humans, proving once again that the lands of present day India are rife with the history of humanity. Remains discovered here have also illustrated early Vedic practises from 1500BCE. One of the first dynasties to rule what is now present day Uttarakhand was part of the Kuninda Kingdom of the 2nd century BCE. Over the course of history, Uttarakhand’s culture became infused with those of the numerous diverse ethnicities of India. This gave rise to rich traditional literature in various languages, including Hindi and Bhoti, and birthed many literary figures, such as Ganga Prasad Vimal, Prasoon Joshi and philosopher Vandana Shiva.
Apart from literature, Uttarakhand’s pride lay in its art and craft. Pahari paintings are a renowned form of painting with Mughal influences that flourished in the 17th century in the region’s historic Guler State. Wood carving is a craft that can be seen to decorate the many temples and village houses found across the state. Other handicrafts prominent from Uttarakhand are the making of gold jewellery and the weaving and embroidering of shawls and scarves. The Bhotia community, who primarily reside in the northern countryside of Uttarakhand, are prominent for their exquisite woollen hand woven and hand knitted winter articles. Traditional items include padded blankets, cosy shawls, gloves, socks and hats. Today, these items are still produced using traditional methods, and are a favourite amongst many who visit Uttarakhand.
Image: Carol Mitchell