Uttarakhand was formally knowan as Uttaranchal. In Sanskrit the name Himalaya means 'Abode of Snow' truly characterizing the vast permanent snowfields of the region. In the heart of these majestic mountains lies the state of Uttarakhand with the Kumaon hills in its east and the Garhwal hills in the west. Uttarakhand is the 27th state of the Republic of India and was formed on 9th Nov 2000. It was carved out of Uttar Pradesh after a long struggle of the Uttaranchali people. Together Garhwal and Kumaon form a sizable wedge in the Central Himalayas, joining Himachal Pradesh in the northwest, Uttar Pradesh in the south and international borders with Nepal and China. The city of Dehradun has been declared as the interim capital of the new state. Though the debate on making Gairsain as the new capital is still on.
Once known as Uttaranchal, the 'Northern Territories' of the pre-Vedic era, this is the domain of the ascetic Lord Shiva, the destroyer and re-creator; it is a land charged with Shakti, the power and energy of goddess Parvati, the consort of Shiva. The earliest historical references to the region are found in the Vedas, paeans to the purity of the Himalayas. Specific mention of the mountains exists in the Mahabharata, dated to about 1000 BC, when the protagonists of the epic, the Pandava Brothers, are said to have ended their life on earth by ascending the slopes of a peak in western Garhwal called Swargarohini, literally meaning the 'Ascent to Heaven'. The epic also mentions this region as the home of the Kirata, Pulinda and Tangara tribes.
Succeeding the Macedonian march across the Himalayan foothills, an imperialist tradition was instituted around 330 AD by the Guptas. This was followed by the Vardhanas in the 5th century AD. The ultimate downfall of the Vardhana Empire saw the emergence of a number of small principalities controlled by petty chiefs. Subsequently, during the time of the Turkish onslaught on the plains they were subject to change in size and power as additional waves of migration took place. Whoever was in power added to the tradition of meditation and worship in these unspoiled mountain enclaves. Today, if a resident is asked about the history of the region, the answer is more likely to be shaped by myth than by chronicle. This is largely due to the efforts of the saint, Adi Shankaracharya, a Namboodri Brahmin from the Malabar in South India. He was almost entirely responsible for the revival of Hinduism in early 9th century AD. At the time that he set out on his reformist mission, Uttarakhand was a medley of mystic cults, naga (snake) worship, Tantric rites and animistic faith. He established a series of dhams and maths (seats of Hindu religion) at elevated sites in the midst of the Himalayas.
Nature has endowed this region with so much beauty and spiritual bliss that the place is also known as 'Dev Bhoomi' or the Abode of Gods. Blessed with magnificent glaciers, sparkling and joyful rivers, gigantic and ecstatic Himalayan peaks, natural biosphere, valley of flowers, skiing slopes and dense forests, this Abode includes many shrines and places of pilgrimage. The four most sacred and revered Hindu temples, namely Badrinath, Kedarnath, Gangotri and Yamunotri are nestled in these Mighty Mountains. This is the land where Vedas and Shastras (Holy Scriptures) were composed and the great Indian epic, the Mahabharata was written. The land has always been the source of inspiration for nature lovers and seekers of peace and spirituality.
Garhwal today remains a land of myth and legend, where every stone tells a story. Kumaon, which lies almost south to the great Himalayan range, is moderate in its constitution. The lie of its land is gentler in its undulations, its lore more lyrical. What permeates the open valleys is a simpler, singular faith in the presiding deity of Kumaon, Nanda Devi, the goddess of Bliss. The graceful peak of Nanda Devi, is visible from almost everywhere in Kumaon. Other famous peaks of Uttaranchal are the Kedarnath, Nilkantha, Trishul, Bandarpunch and Mt. Kamet. The major Glaciers include Gangotri, Pindari, Milam and Khatling. The scenic northwestern corner has hill stations sprinkled along the foothills of the Himalayas with many rivers, tributaries and streams. It offers some excellent trekking and river rafting opportunities. For an Indian, a venture into the Himalayas is more than a mere journey; it is a Yatra. And a pilgrimage does not hold more importance than it does in Garhwal and Kumaon.