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History of Uttranchal


Garhwal
The Garhwal Himalayas have nurtured civilization from ancient times. It appears to have been a favorite locale for the voluminous mythology of the Puranic period. The traditional name of Garhwal was Uttarakhand and excavations have revealed that it formed part of the Mauryan Empire. It also finds mention in the 7th-century travelogue of Huen Tsang. However, it is with Adi Shankaracharya that the name of Garhwal will always be linked, for the great 8th-century spiritual reformer visited the remote, snow-laden heights of Garhwal, established a math (Joshimath) and restored some of the most sacred shrines, including Badrinath and Kedarnath.

The history of Garhwal as one unified whole began in the 15th century, when king Ajai Pal merged the 52 separate principalities, each with its own garh or fortress. For 300 years, Garhwal remained one kingdom, with its capital at Srinagar (not to be confused with the capital of Kashmir). Then Pauri and Dehradun were perforce ceded to the Crown as payment for British help, rendered to the Garhwalis during the Gurkha invasion, in the early 19th century.

Kumaon
Evidence of Stone Age settlements has been found in Kumaon, particularly the rock shelter at Lakhu Udyar. The paintings here date back to the Mesolithic period.

The early medieval history of Kumaon is the history of the Katyuri dynasty. The Katyuri kings ruled from the seventh to the 11th century, over large areas of Kumaon, Garhwal, and western Nepal. The town of Baijnath near Almora was the capital of this dynasty and a centre of the arts. Temple building flourished under the Katyuris and the main architectural innovation introduced by them was the replacement of bricks with hewn stone.

On a hilltop facing east (opposite Almora), is the temple of Katarmal. This 900-year-old sun temple was built during the declining years of the Katyuri dynasty. The intricately carved doors and panels have been removed to the National Museum in Delhi as a protective measure after the 10th-century idol of the presiding deity was stolen. After a gap of a couple of centuries, the Chands of Pithoragarh became the dominant dynasty. The Chand rulers built the magnificent temple complex at Jageshwar, with its cluster of a hundred and sixty-four temples, over a space of two centuries. Dedicated to Lord Shiva, the evocative carvings are complemented by the beautiful cedar forest around it. Garhwal and Kumaon were part of Uttar Pradesh state, after India gained independence. The movement for the formation of a separate state of Uttaranchal led to the creation of this state in 2000.

 

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