Uttaranchal is a small state tucked away in the Himalayas with the Kumaon hills in its east and the Garhwal hills in the west. Uttaranchal formerly part of Uttar Pradesh and also called as Uttarakhand, is the 27th state of the Republic of India and was formed on 9th Nov 2000. Blessed with natural beauty, the state is a favourite with the adventure tourist. Fine ski slopes at Auli, rapids perfect for white water rafting on river Ganges at Kaudiyala near Haridwar, wildlife safari at Corbett National park (tigers, panthers, sambar, spotted deer and more). It has many Hindu pilgrim centres that Hindus hold in reverence, a visit to these is believed to bless the pilgrim with ‘moksha’. ‘Moksha’ in Sanskrit means freedom from the cycles of birth and death and unification with God. Uttaranchal is popularly known as the ‘Abode of Gods’ and Nature has endowed it with the famous ‘Valley of flowers’, the mighty Himalayas standing guard in their majestic splendour. It is really a feast for the eyes and soul to see the Himalayas close upfront and it registers home the unity in creation and awes us by it. Populated by friendly, hardy and cheerful people, Uttaranchal welcomes the tourist to the day to day life of its people. Innumerable small and big fairs and festivals, the colourful dances and costumes of the populace, their age old traditions are all a glimpse of the rich culture of the land.
The earliest historical references to the region are found in the Vedas, paeans to the purity of the Himalayas.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, an epic dated 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. The land had the taste of Macedonian onslaught, experienced rule of big empires of Guptas and Vardhanas, been a safe haven during Turkish onslaught of plains down south, the ‘Karmabhoomi’ of Adi Shankara with his discourses and ‘Maths’ and been the summer haunt of colonial British. But whoever ruled, peace and meditation was always Uttaranchal’s hallmark.
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.
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.