Himachal Pradesh is a state in North India. Its area is 55,673 km2 (21,495 sq mi), and is bordered byJammu and Kashmir on the north, Punjab on the west, Haryana on the south-west, Uttarakhand on the south-east and by the Tibet Autonomous Region on the east. Hima means snow in Sanskrit, and the literal meaning of the state’s name is in the lap of the Himalayas. It was named by Acharya Diwakar Datt Sharma, one of the most eminent Sanskrit scholars of Himachal Pradesh.

Himachal Pradesh is famous for its natural beauty, hill stations and temples. Himachal Pradesh has been ranked fifteenth in the list of the highest per capita incomes of Indian states and union territories for year 2013-14. There are many perennial rivers flowing in the state with hydroelectric projects set up. Himachal owing to its great hydroelectric potential produces surplus hydroelectricity and even sells it to other states such as Delhi, Punjab, and Rajasthan. Hydroelectric power projects, tourism, and agriculture form an important part of the state’s economy.

There are several valleys in the state with more than 90% of the population living in rural areas. However, 100% hygiene has been achieved in the state and practically all houses have a toilet. The villages have good connectivity with roads, public health centres, and now with Lokmitra kendra using high-speed broadband. Shimla district has maximum urban population of 25%. Successfully imposed environmental protection and tourism development with ban on the use ofpolyethylene and tobacco products by the government has led to a boost in tourism According to a 2005 Transparency International survey, Himachal Pradesh was ranked the second-least corrupt state in the country, after Kerala.

History

Main article: History of Himachal pradesh

The history of the area that now constitutes Himachal Pradesh dates back to the time when the Indus valley civilisation flourished between 2250 and 1750 BCE. Tribes such as the Koilis, Halis, Dagis, Dhaugris, Dasa, Khasas, Kinnars, and Kirats inhabited the region from the prehistoric era.During the Vedic period, several small republics known as “Janapada” existed which were later conquered by the Gupta Empire. After a brief period of supremacy by King Harshavardhana, the region was once again divided into several local powers headed by chieftains, including some Rajput principalities. These kingdoms enjoyed a large degree of independence and were invaded by Delhi Sultanate a number of times. Mahmud Ghaznavi conquered Kangra at the beginning of the 10th century. Timur and Sikander Lodi also marched through the lower hills of the state and captured a number of forts and fought many battles. Several hill states acknowledged Mughal suzerainty and paid regular tribute to the Mughals.

The Gurkhas, a martial tribe, came to power in Nepal in the year 1768. They consolidated their military power and began to expand their territory. Gradually, the Gorkhas annexed Sirmour and Shimla. Under the leadership of Amar Singh Thapa, Gorkhas laid siege to Kangra. They managed to defeat Sansar Chand Katoch, the ruler of Kangra, in 1806 with the help of many provincial chiefs. However, Gurkhas could not capture Kangra fort which came under Maharaja Ranjeet Singh in 1809. After the defeat, the Gurkhas began to expand towards the south of the state. However, Raja Ram Singh, Raja of Siba State managed to capture the fort of Siba from the remnants of Lahore Darbar in Samvat 1846, during the First Anglo-Sikh War. They came into direct conflict with the British along the tarai belt after which the British expelled them from the provinces of theSatluj. The British gradually emerged as the paramount power. In the revolt of 1857, or first Indian war of independence, arising from a number of grievances against the British, the people of the hill states were not as politically active as were those in other parts of the country.They and their rulers, with the exception of Bushahr, remained more or less inactive. Some, including the rulers of Chamba, Bilaspur, Bhagal and Dhami, rendered help to the British government during the revolt.

The British territories came under the British Crown after Queen Victoria’s proclamation of 1858. The states of Chamba, Mandiand Bilaspur made good progress in many fields during the British rule. During World War I, virtually all rulers of the hill states remained loyal and contributed to the British war effort, both in the form of men and materials. Among these were the states of Kangra, Jaswan, Datarpur, Guler, Nurpur, Chamba, Suket, Mandi, and Bilaspur.

After independence, the Chief Commissioner’s Province of H.P. came into being on 15 April 1948 as a result of integration of 28 petty princely states (including feudal princes and zaildars) in the promontories of the western Himalaya, known in full as the Simla Hills States and four Punjab southern hill states by issue of the Himachal Pradesh (Administration) Order, 1948 under Sections 3 and 4 of the Extra-Provincial Jurisdiction Act, 1947 (later renamed as the Foreign Jurisdiction Act, 1947 vide A.O. of 1950). The State of Bilaspur was merged into Himachal Pradesh on 1 April 1954 by the Himachal Pradesh and Bilaspur (New State) Act, 1954. Himachal became a part C state on 26 January 1950 with the implementation of the Constitution of India and the Lieutenant Governor was appointed. The Legislative Assembly was elected in 1952. Himachal Pradesh became a union territory on 1 November 1956. Some areas of Punjab State—namely Simla, Kangra, Kulu and Lahul and Spiti Districts, Nalagarh tehsil of Ambala District, Lohara, Amb and Una kanungo circles, some area of Santokhgarh kanungo circle and some other specified area of Una tehsil of Hoshiarpur District besides some parts of Dhar Kalan Kanungo circle of Pathankot tehsil of Gurdaspur District—were merged with Himachal Pradesh on 1 November 1966 on enactment of Punjab Reorganisation Act, 1966 by the Parliament. On 18 December 1970, the State of Himachal Pradesh Act was passed by Parliament, and the new state came into being on 25 January 1971. Thus Himachal emerged as the 18th state of the Indian Union.

Geography and climate

Himachal is in the western Himalayas. Covering an area of 55,673 square kilometres (21,495 sq mi), it is a mountainous state. Most of the state lies on the foothills of theDhauladhar Range. At 6,816 m Reo Purgyil is the highest mountain peak in the state of Himachal Pradesh.

The drainage system of Himachal is composed both of rivers and glaciers. Himalayan rivers criss-cross the entire mountain chain. Himachal Pradesh provides water to both the Indus and Ganges basins. The drainage systems of the region are the Chandra Bhaga or the Chenab, the Ravi, the Beas, the Sutlej, and the Yamuna. These rivers are perennial and are fed by snow and rainfall. They are protected by an extensive cover of natural vegetation.

Demographics

Himachal Pradesh has a total population of 6,864,602 including 3,481,873 males and 3,382,729 females as per the final results of the Census of India 2011. This is only 0.57 per cent of India’s total population, recording a growth of 12.81 per cent. The total fertility rate (TFR) per woman is 1.8, one of lowest in India.

In the census, the state is placed 21st on the population chart, followed by Tripura at 22nd place. Kangra district was top ranked with a population strength of 1,507,223 (21.98%), Mandi district 999,518 (14.58%), Shimla district 813,384 (11.86%), Solan district 576,670 (8.41%), Sirmaur district 530,164 (7.73%), Una district 521,057 (7.60%),Chamba district 518,844 (7.57%), Hamirpur district 454,293 (6.63%), Kullu district 437,474 (6.38%), Bilaspur district 382,056 (5.57%), Kinnaur district 84,298 (1.23%) andLahaul Spiti 31,528 (0.46%).

Languages

Hindi is both the official language and the lingua franca of Himachal Pradesh. However, most of the population speaks Pahari in everyday conversation, which includes nearly all Western Pahari dialects. There are a total of 32 languages in Himachal. English also has official status for government work. Hindi is spoken by 89% of the population while Punjabi is spoken by 6% of the population.

Religion

Hinduism is the main religion in Himachal Pradesh, which ranks first in India in terms of the proportion of Hindus present within it. More than 95% of the total population belongs to the Hindu faith, the distribution of which is evenly spread throughout the state. Himachal Pradesh thus has the one of the highest proportions of Hindu population in India (95.17%).

Other religions that form a small percentage are Islam, Buddhism and Sikhism. Muslims are mainly concentrated in Sirmaur, Chamba, Kangra and Una districts where they form 1.31-6.27% of the population. The Lahaulis of Lahaul and Spiti region are mainly Buddhists. Sikhs mostly live in towns and cities and constitute 1.16% of the state population. The Buddhists, who constitute 1.15%, are mainly natives and tribals from Lahaul and Spiti, where they form a majority of 62%, and Kinnaur, where they form 21.5%.

Test your Skill

1. Which is the state bird of Himachal Pradesh?
2. Name the first Chief Minister of Himachal Pradesh.
3. In which year was the Himachal Pradesh Compulsory Primary Education Act passed?
4. When was Shimla declared as the Summer Capital of India during the British rule?
5. Which animal is known as Himachal Pradesh’s state animal?
6. When was Himachal Pradesh declared as a state?
7. In which year was the CSK Himachal Pradesh Krishi Vishwavidyalya established?
8. Where is the Nathpa Jhakri Power Corporation, the largest Hydro Project of Asia located?
9. Where is the Gaggal Airport?
10. In which year was the Indian Institute of Advanced Study (IIAS) established?
11. How many airports are there in Himachal Pradesh?
12. Which book on Shimla was written by George Francis?