A mountain valley, Kullu, India.
Himachal Pradesh is so called because its name means “region of snowy mountains” and it is situated within the snow-laden Himalayan Mountain Range. Around it are the states of Kashmir, Jammu, Haryana, Punjab, Uttar Pradesh, Uttarakhand and Tibet. It is a very wealthy state, particularly due to its hydroelectricity capability as a result of the abundance of water in the form of perennial rivers. It also has the highest proportion of Hindu residents in the subcontinent, with an astounding 95% of its population subscribing to this faith.
As with many other areas of India, this state was initially ruled by various powers before the Anglo-Sikh war in the 19th century. When the British arrived, they wanted to gain dominance over the entire subcontinent. However, they had to fight for it. Even after the English had expelled them from certain provinces, they continued to fight for their independence. It should be noted, though, that this area in particular did not undertake violent revolts. Rather, they were characterised by their willingness to cooperate with the English as far as possible, without negotiating on their own rights, desires and rulerships. Finally, India gained independence from British rule in 1947 and Himachal Pradesh became an official state in 1971. Because Himachal Pradesh is situated within the Himalayan Mountains, it has a varied topography of different heights above sea level. Each major level is characterised by its own climate, ranging from humid sub-tropical areas to icy alpine. As one progresses higher up, the snowfall increases significantly. The earth and plants of this state are fed by the waters of various perennial rivers as well as by snow and melting ice from the mountains’ glaciers. These are also the key sources of water for the sacred Ganges River and the ancient Indus River.
Because of the differing climates, the animals and plants that occupy various regions also differ, depending on the temperatures, vegetation, available food, and so on. Flora ranges from sub-tropical forests and Himalayan alpine shrub to orchards, meadows and the colourful blooms of wild flowers. The number of animal species is just as extensive. Such beautiful wildlife includes the Snow Leopard, Musk Deer, and Ghoral, as well as well over 1000 bird species.
Farming remains the main industry in Himachal Pradesh, supporting almost three-quarters of the community financially. Other important industries are the crafts made by the hands of local people (including shawls, carpets, shoes, paintings, woodwork and utensils) as well as the provision of hydro-electricity being generated by this state to other parts of India.
Because this state is secluded amongst the imposing Himalayan Mountain Range, it has always been somewhat inaccessible to those without the transport that modern technology has created. Therefore, there was not the influence from other cultures that many other states experienced through the course of history. Rather, the culture of Himachal Pradesh has remained considerably ‘purer’, lending it a fascinating authenticity and identity. The locals speak Hindi, Punjabi, Kangri and Dogri, amongst other languages. The castes include Brahmins, Rajputs, and Gujjars. Song and dance is used to communicate with the various gods of the locals. These cultural elements characterise the many festivals and celebrations held on regular bases.
Lentils, rice, vegetables and bread form a basic part of the Himachal Pradesh people’s diet. Because of the large number of Hindus in this state, meat is not often consumed and recipes are almost always vegetarian. Specialities from this area include popular favourites such as chutneys, Pateer, jhoul and Bhagjery.
Tourists to this area should pay a visit to the following attractions:
• Shimla (boasting stunning natural wonders and a significant religious history)
• Kullu (also known as the “Valley of the Gods” for its exquisite beauty)
For more information, please view: http://himachaltourism.gov.in/