Himachal Pradesh

Himachal Pradesh
/hi mah"cheuhl prddeuh daysh"/
a state in N India. 3,750,000; 10,904 sq. mi. (28,241 sq. km). Cap.: Simla.

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State (pop., 2001 prelim.: 6,077,248), northern India.

Located in the western Himalayas, it is bordered by Tibet (China) and the states of Uttaranchal, Haryana, Punjab, and Jammu and Kashmir and covers an area of 21,495 sq mi (55,673 sq km); its capital is Shimla. The area's history dates back to the Vedic period; later the Aryans assimilated the indigenous peoples. It was exposed to successive invasions through the centuries, ending with British domination in the 19th century. Between 1948 and the achievement of statehood in 1971, the state underwent various changes in size and administrative status. It is one of the least urbanized states in India, and most of the people are subsistence-level farmers.

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      state of India. It is located in the extreme northern part of the subcontinent and occupies a region of scenic splendour in the western Himalayas. It has towering snow-clad mountains divided by deep valleys with thick woods, green fields, lakes, and cascading streams. It is bounded on the north by the state of Jammu and Kashmir, on the east by the Tibet Autonomous Region of China, and, respectively, on the southeast, south, and west by the states of Uttar Pradesh, Haryāna, and Punjab. The area is 21,495 square miles (55,673 square kilometres). Shimla, at an elevation of about 7,100 feet, is the state capital and the largest and most popular hill resort in India.

      Himāchal means “Snowy Mountain” (Sanskrit: hima, “snow”; acal, “mountain”); Pradesh means “State.” Shimla was the summer headquarters of preindependence British viceroys. Formerly a union territory, Himāchal Pradesh became a state of India on Jan. 25, 1971.

Physical and human geography

The land
      The terrain of Himāchal Pradesh is highly varied, with hills, snow-clad lofty mountains, and valleys carved by glaciers and rivers. Within this diversified terrain are three parallel physiographic regions of the Himalayan mountain system. Nearest to the plains of Punjab are the Shiwālik Hills, or the Outer Himalayas (Siwalik Range), which have elevations averaging from 3,000 to 5,000 feet (900 to 1,500 metres). The valleys between these parallel ranges are called dūns. To the north of the Shiwāliks are the Lesser (Lesser Himalayas) (or Lower) Himalayas (known in ancient times as Himāchal), which rise to about 15,200 feet. Within this region are the spectacular snow-capped Dhaola Dhār and Pīr Panjāl ranges. Farthest north are the Great Himalayas (Himādri) and the Zāskār Mountains, which tower over the other ranges of this region from heights reaching more than 22,000 feet. Many active mountain glaciers originate in the Great Himalayas. Major rivers in Himāchal Pradesh include Chenāb (Chenāb River) (Chandra-Bhāga), Rāvi (Rāvi River), and Beās in the west and the Sutlej and Yamuna (Yamuna River) in the east.

      The climate in the Shiwālik region is akin to the adjoining Punjābī plains, with most of the rainfall occurring from June to September. As elevations increase farther north in the Himalayas, the climate becomes cooler and winters bitterly cold and snowy.

The people
      The population of Himāchal Pradesh is composed of a variety of distinctive ethnolinguistic hill tribes and social groups, including the Gadīs (Gaddīs), Gūjarīs, Kinnaurīs, Lāhulīs, Pangwalīs, and Rājputs. In the major towns and cities, there are many immigrants from the plains of Punjab.

      More than 95 percent of the population is Hindu, although Buddhists form a majority in the district of Lāhul and Spiti and are a significant minority in the district of Kinnaur, which borders Tibet. The state also has small minorities of Sikhs, Muslims, and Christians. Hindi (the official state language) and Pahāṛī are the principal languages in Himāchal Pradesh, except in the sparsely populated Kinnauer and Lāhul and Spiti, where the most widely spoken dialects belong to the Sino-Tibetan family of languages.

 Himāchal Pradesh is the least urbanized state in India. Its urban population accounts for less than 10 percent of the total. There are about 55 towns, of which only the capital, Shimla, has a population exceeding 80,000. Other major towns are Bilāspur Chamba, Dalhousie, Dharmshāla, Hamīrpur, Kāngra, Kasauli, Kulla, Mandi, Nāhan, Pālampur, Solan, and Sundarnagar.

The economy
      Most people in Himāchal Pradesh depend for their livelihood on agriculture, pastoralism, horticulture, and forestry. The Gadī pastoralists practice transhumance and make use of seasonal pastures.

      The government of Himāchal Pradesh has encouraged the development and dispersal of industry. Among the state's main industrial products are agricultural implements, turpentine, and resin at Nāhan (Nahan), television sets, fertilizer, beer, and liquor at Solan, cement at Rājban, processed fruit at Parwānoo, and electronics near Shimla. Thousands of artisan-based, small-scale industrial units are also in operation.

      The state has implemented a series of development plans based on the utilization of its abundant hydropower potential and mineral and forest resources, as well as on the promotion of tourism. Himāchal Pradesh, with its perennially snow-fed rivers, has the potential to produce about 20 percent of the nation's hydroelectric power. Existing hydropower plants include the station on the Uhl River at Jogindarnagar, the massive Bhākra Dam across the Sutlej River, the Pong Dam across the Beās River, and the Giri River project in Sirmaur district. In a joint venture with the union government, the state has embarked upon new hydropower projects, including the Nathpa Jhakri project in Shimla district.

      To combat a serious soil erosion problem in the Shiwāliks and to protect the fragile Himalayan ecosystem, the state has launched a reforestation program. Also important has been the stricter enforcement of already existing environmental laws.

      Except for the scenic, narrow-gauge rail line from Kālka (in Haryāna) to Shimla and the narrow-gauge track connecting Pathānkot (Punjab) and Jogindarnagar through the Kāngra valley, there are no railways or waterways in the state. Roads are the communications lifeline of Himāchal Pradesh. The state-owned transport system operates more than 140 bus routes in Himāchal Pradesh.

Administration and social conditions
      The head of the state is the governor, appointed by the president of India. The Council of Ministers, headed by a chief minister, is responsible to the Legislative Assembly (Vidhān Sabhā), which is elected directly on the basis of adult suffrage. The state is divided into 12 districts—Bilāspur, Chamba, Hamīrpur, Kāngra, Kinnaur, Kullu, Lāhul and Spiti, Mandi, Shimla, Solan, Sirmaur, and Una.

Education and welfare
      Himāchal Pradesh has made great efforts at expanding education and public health facilities and improving communications. Most of the people, however, remain at the subsistence level, and the state's vast natural resources have yet to be tapped systematically. Higher education was aided by the founding in 1970 of Himāchal Pradesh University, located at Shimla. The university has more than 50 affiliated or associated colleges. There is also a medical college at Shimla, an agricultural university at Pālampur, and a university of horticulture and forestry near Solan. Research is conducted at the Indian Institute of Advanced Study (Shimla) and the Central Research Institute (Kasauli). Since the late 1960s there has been a remarkable rise in the number of schools in primary, middle, and higher education and a corresponding increase in school enrollment.

Cultural life
      The fairs and festivals of the hill people are occasions of joyful song and dance. Exquisitely designed shawls of Kinnaur, the distinctive woolen caps of Kullu, and the embroidered handkerchiefs of Chamba accent their colourful, festive clothing. Himāchal Pradesh is also known for its Kāngṛa Valley school of paintings.

      The Shimla hills, the Kullu valley (including the town of Manāli), and Dalhousie are tourist attractions. Skiing, golfing, fishing, trekking, and mountaineering are activities for which Himāchal Pradesh is ideally suited. Pilgrims from neighbouring states and from within Himāchal Pradesh itself converge in large numbers to worship at shrines of legendary antiquity.

      The Kullu valley is known as the valley of the gods; its pine and deodar forests, flower-spangled meadows, and fruit orchards provide the setting for the colourful Dussehra festival held each autumn. The temple gods are taken in caparisoned palanquins accompanied by bands of singers and dancers. Recently sacred for Buddhists (especially Tibetans) is the town of Dharmshāla (Dharmshala), because it has become the home of the Dalāi Lāma since he fled from Tibet in 1959 in the wake of China's occupation of Lhasa.

      The history of this mountainous state is complex and fragmented. It is known that a number of so-called Aryan groups filtered into the more productive valleys during the Vedic Period (c. 1500 to 500 BC) and assimilated the pre-Aryan population. Later, successive Indian empires—such as the Mauryans (c. 321–185 BC), the Guptas (c. 320–540), and the Mughals (1526–1761), all emerging in the Indo-Gangetic Plain—sought to exercise varying degrees of control over trade and pilgrimage routes into this area and between India and Tibet across the Himalayas.

      The remote, predominantly Buddhist area of Lāhul and Spiti was controlled by Ladākh from the decline of the Mughal Empire (about the mid-18th century) until the early 1840s, when it briefly came under Sikh rule. Also during this period, warring, semiautonomous, petty rulers controlled the trade routes as well as desirable segments of agricultural and pastoral land, in the other areas of what is now Himāchal Pradesh. Owing to relative isolation, some parts of this state, such as Chamba, escaped the destructive impact of invasions and were thus able to preserve many aspects of ancient Hinduism. British domination of this region followed the Anglo-Sikh Wars of the 1840s and continued, directly or indirectly, for the next 100 years.

      In 1948 Himāchal Pradesh was constituted as an administrative unit comprising 30 princely states. This event, however, was preceded by a movement for the end of feudalism, and one of the princely states, Suket, virtually surrendered to the peaceful demonstrators, hastening the process of change.

      Between 1948 and the achievement of statehood in 1971, Himāchal Pradesh went through various changes in size and administrative form. Initially a substate and then a union territory directly administered by the central government, Himāchal Pradesh was enlarged in 1954 by the merger of Bilāspur (a former Indian state and then a chief commissioner's province) and again in 1966 by the merger of numerous Punjab hill areas, including Shimla, Kāngra, Kullu, the district of Lāhul and Spiti, and parts of Ambāla, Hoshiārpur, and Gurdāspur districts. Y.S. Parmar, who since the 1940s had led the hill people of Himāchal Pradesh in the quest for self-government, became the state's first chief minister.

Chakravarthi Raghavan Surinder M. Bhardwaj

Additional Reading
S.S. Shashi, Himachal: Nature's Peaceful Paradise (1971), is a useful introduction. Surinder Mohan Bhardwaj, Hindu Places of Pilgrimage in India: A Study in Cultural Geography (1973, reissued 1983), contains considerable discussion of holy places in Himāchal Pradesh. Hermann Goetz, The Early Wooden Temples of Chamba (1955), is an outstanding work on the art history of the state. J. Hutchison and J. Ph. Vogel, History of the Panjab Hill States, 2 vol. (1933, reprinted 1982), is a classic work on the history and culture of the region.Surinder M. Bhardwaj

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Universalium. 2010.

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