Garhwal is the northwestern region and administrative division of the northern Indian state of Uttarakhand which is home to the Garhwali people. Lying in the Himalayas, it is bounded on the north by Tibet, on the east by Kumaon region, on the south by Uttar Pradesh state, and on the northwest by Himachal Pradesh state. It includes the districts of Chamoli, Dehradun, Haridwar, Pauri Garhwal, Rudraprayag, Tehri Garhwal, and Uttarkashi. The people of Garhwal are known as Garhwali and speak the Garhwali language. The administrative center for Garhwal division is the town of Pauri. The Divisional Commissioner is the administrative head of the Division, and is a senior Indian Administrative Service officer. As the administrative head of the division, the Commissioner is overall incharge of the 7 districts in the Garhwal region of Uttarakhand, and is aided in his duties by an Additional Commissioner and the District Magistrates. Mr. Vinod Sharma, IAS is currently the Divisional Commissioner of the Garhwal Division.
The region consists almost entirely of rugged mountain ranges running in all directions and separated by narrow valleys, which in some cases become deep gorges or ravines. The only level portion of the district was a narrow strip of waterless forest between the southern slopes of the hills and the fertile plains of Rohilkhand. The highest mountains are in the eastern Chamoli district, the principal peaks being Nanda Devi 7,816 m (25,643 ft), Kamet 7,756 m (25,446 ft), Chaukhamba 7,138 m (23,419 ft), Trisul 7,120 m (23,360 ft), Dunagiri 7,066 m (23,182 ft), and Kedarnath 6,940 m (22,769 ft).
The Alaknanda River, one of the main sources of the Ganges, receives with its affluents the whole drainage of the district. At Devprayag the Alaknanda joins the Bhagirathi, and thenceforward the united streams bear the name of the Ganges. Cultivation is principally confined to the immediate vicinity of the rivers, which are employed for irrigation.
In June 2013 a multi-day cloudburst centered in the mountainous valleys of the area resulted in widespread damage and over 5,000 deaths. It was India’s worst natural disaster insofar as death toll since the 2004 tsunami.
Garhwalis are an Indo-Aryan ethno-linguistic group who primarily inhabit the Garhwal Himalayas. Any person who has ancestral Garhwali roots or lives in Garhwal and has a Garhwali heritage is called a Garhwali. They include all those who speak the Garhwali language or any of its dialects.
The culture of the present Garhwal is an amalgamation of influences from the indigenous population coupled with traditions superimposed by immigrants who settled in the region. A majority of the people are involved in the agriculture, tourism and the defense industry.
Garhwali people are divided into three castes: Garhwali Brahmins, Garhwali Rajputs and Shilpkars. Their surnames are based either on the names of their villages (Raturi, Kotiyal, Khanduri Gairola, Butola, Kharola, Jakhmola, Naithani, Maithani, Chamoli, Bahuguna, Mamgain, Bhatt, Pant, Hatwal, Dabral Juyal, Uniyal, Pokhriyal, Dobhal, Semwal, Nautiyal, Thapliyal, Painuly (Painuli), Dimri, Dobhal, Kaintura, Kanswal, Badoni, Ghildiyal, Belwal, Nainlwal, Kathait, Bagiyal, Bartwal etc.) or according to their professions (Bisht, Bhandari, Negi, Rana, Payal, Joshi, Kothari, Aswal, Rautela, Chauhan, Kandari, Gosain, Panwar, Patwal, Rawat[disambiguation needed], Kuthi, Koli, Tamta etc.)
Shilpkars, on the other hand, are composed of sub-castes and are classified as Scheduled Castes in the Constitution of India. Even with the wave of migrations, the ancient culture survived and was adopted by incoming people.
The Garhwali language (गढ़वाली भाषा) is a Central Pahari language belonging to the Northern Zone of Indo-Aryan and is native to Garhwal.
Garhwali is one of the 325 recognized languages of India, spoken by over 2,267,314 people in Tehri Garhwal, Pauri Garhwal, Uttarkashi, Chamoli, Dehradun and Rudraprayag districts of Uttarakhand. Garhwali is also spoken by people in other parts of India including Himachal Pradesh, Delhi, Haryana, Punjab, Uttar Pradesh and Bihar.
UNESCO’s Atlas of the World’s Languages in Danger designates Garhwali as a language in the ‘unsafe’ category and requires consistent conservation efforts.
Garhwali Art & Sculpture:
Garhwal was known for real art of stone carving which is died later but still you can experience woodcarving art. You can experience this art on every door of the house and on Hundreds of temples. The places where you can experience more architectural beauty are Chandpur Fort, Pandukeshwar near Badrinath, Temple of Srinagar and the Devalgarh Temple.
Kumaon or Kumaun is one of the two regions and administrative divisions of Uttarakhand, a mountainous state of northern India, the other being Garhwal. It includes the districts of Almora, Bageshwar, Champawat, Nainital, Pithoragarh, and Udham Singh Nagar. It is bounded on the north by Tibet, on the east by Nepal, on the south by the state of Uttar Pradesh, and on the west by the Garhwal region. The people of Kumaon are known as Kumaonis and speak the Kumaoni language.
It is home to a famous Indian Army regiment, the Kumaon Regiment. Important towns of Kumaon are Haldwani, Nainital, Almora, Pithoragarh, Rudrapur, Kashipur, Pantnagar, Mukteshwar and Ranikhet. Nainital is the administrative centre of Kumaon Division and this is where the Uttarakhand high court is located.
The Kumaon region consists of a large Himalayan tract, together with two submontane strips called the Terai and the Bhabar. The submontane strips were up to 1850 an almost impenetrable forest, given up to wild animals; but after 1850 the numerous clearings attracted a large population from the hills, who cultivated the rich soil during the hot and cold seasons, returning to the hills in the rains. The rest of Kumaon is a maze of mountains, part of the Himalaya range, some of which are among the loftiest known. In a tract not more than 225 km in length and 65 km in breadth there are over thirty peaks rising to elevations exceeding 5500 m.
The rivers like Gori, Dhauli, and Kali rise chiefly in the southern slope of the Tibetan watershed north of the loftiest peaks, amongst which they make their way down valleys of rapid declivity and extraordinary depth. The principal is the Sharda (Kali Ganga), the Pindari and Kailganga, whose waters join the Alaknanda. The river Sharda (Kali Ganga) forms the international boundary between India and Nepal. The pilgrim route currently used to visit Kailash-Mansarovar goes along this river and crosses into Tibet at Lipu Lekh pass.
The chief trees are the Chir Pine, Himalayan Cypress, Pindrow Fir, alder, sal or iron-wood, and saindan. Limestone, sandstone, slate, gneiss and granite constitute the principal geological formations. Mines of iron, copper, gypsum, lead and asbestos exist; but they are not thoroughly worked. Except in the submontane strips and deep valleys, the climate is mild. The rainfall of the outer Himalayan range, which is first struck by the monsoon, is double that of the central hills, in the average proportion of 2000 mm to 1000 mm. No winter passes without snow on the higher ridges, and in some years, it is universal throughout the mountain tract. Frosts, especially in the valleys, are often severe.
What is the difference between Garhwalis and Kumaonis people of Uttarakhand?
The major difference between Garhwal and Kumaon are the hills, which means the places of their origin. Kumaon consists of six districts with Nainital as zonal headquarters, while Garhwal consists of seven with Pauri Garhwal as headquarters. Dehradun, the capital of Uttarakhand ( earlier known as Uttaranchal), is part of Garhwal, which with 41 constituencies is larger than Kumaon with 29. Yet it is Kumaoni leaders who have mostly dominated politics here, even before Uttarakhand became a state.
Every year, the people of Kumaon celebrate a Khatadva festival, in order to commemorate a legend according to which a Kumaoni king had defeated a Garhwali ruler called Khatad Singh and emerged victorious. The divide grew during British rule. While much of Garhwal was ruled by native kings until the 20th century, Kumaon became the centre of British activities and modern education. In 1889, Kumaon became a commissionerate that included parts of Garhwal too.
It is Garhwal that has the prominent religious sites — Haridwar and Rishikesh, besides the Yamunotri, Gangotri, Kedarnath and Badrinath dhams. On the other hand, the Kumaon region consists of beautiful destinations like Nainital, Almora, Haldwani and Ranikhet. Now if we look at the rivers, Garhwal has the big ones – both Ganga and Yamuna, while the major ones in Kumaon are Kali nadi, Gori ganga, Saryu and Ramganga.
Another major difference lies in the dialects spoken by the people of these two regions. The people of Kumaon speak Kumaoni, while that of Garhwal speak Garhwali. Differences also lies in some of the food cuisines of these two regions.
The women in the Kumaon region wear a costume known as the rangwali pichhora, during special occasions, whereas the Garhwal region has no such tradition.
The Garhwalis and Kumaonis also differ in certain festivals that they celebrate. The Kumaonis celebrate a festival known as phool dei. This festival takes place during spring and on this day, young girls of the house sprinkle rice and flowers on the doorstep, and go to all the houses in the village. They offer good wishes for the prosperity of the household, and in return they are given presents ( sweets, money, jaggery).
Another festival celebrated by the Kumaoni people is the Vat Savitri. On this day, the married women of the Kumaon region observe a fast for their husband and worship the Banayan (Vat) tree.
Kumaoni Holi is another festival celebrated all across Uttarakhand’s Kumaon region and this holi, interestingly enough is more of a musical festival rather than a festival of colors. Musical performers from different parts of the country gather at the various temple premises to soothe the ears with their melodious renditions.
On the other hand, the people of the Garhwal region celebrate festivals like Saradotsava, which is celebrated every year during October or November in the picturesque Pauri town. Over the years this festival has become a showcase for local talent in Art, Culture, Dance and Music.
Being a Kumaoni myself, I am not quite familiar with the traditions and festivals of the Garhwal region.
Overall, both Garhwali and Kumaoni people belong to the Uttarakhand region and both of them are simple, helpful, composed and down to earth. One thing that is common to the people of these two regions is pure simplicity.
What To See And Do
Uttarakhand is also a major destination for adventure sports lovers. Many national and international competitions of Skiing, Mountaineering, Water rafting, Rock climbing etc. are held annually. The many thrills the state has on offer range from treks to white water rafting to paragliding to biking are sufficient to entice the adventure-bound souls to explore and experience the newer highs.
Home to a myriad holy shrines, the name Uttarakhand is aptly associated with Devbhumi i.e. Land of Gods. Pilgrims from far and wide visit this Himalayan state, seeking salvation and self-purgation. Two of the most revered rivers of the country, namely Ganga and Yamuna originate from Gaumukh (Gangotri) and Yamunotri. The most esteemed pilgrimage circuit of the country incorporates Shri Badrinath and Shri Kedarnath, the holy seats of Lord Vishnu and Lord Shiva respectively. Another prominent pilgrim-destination in Uttarakhand is the holy town of Haridwar, where the prestigious Kumbh Mela is held every twelve years, attracting millions of devout people from all over the world. Situated close to Haridwar, on the banks of the divine Ganga is Rishikesh, a major centre for Yoga and Meditation – people from several parts of the world have been visiting this town for decades.
There are countless other temples and shrines in the state, homes to local deities and various manifestations of Lord Shiva and Durga. It is not as though Uttarakhand is a pilgimage destination exclusively for Hindus – there are several important shrines related to other religions too, keeping in line with the secular traditions of our country. These include Hemkund Sahib, Nanak Matta Sahib, Ritha Metha Sahib, Piran Kaliyar Sharif near Roorkee, the Mind Rolling Monastery and its Buddha Stupa in Dehradun.
National parks and wildlife sanctuaries are a prime feature of Uttarakhand. Wildlife lovers, naturalists, eco-tourists and holidaymakers keep flocking to the region all the year round. The state is known for its diversified flora and fauna. It is in this reagion that travellers get to see some of the most endangered and rarely seen animal species in the world. Not only for animal lovers but for bird watching enthusiasts as well, Uttarakhand has a number of surprises in store to satiate their thirst for wildlife watching. Major wildlife species to be watched here include the Indian Tiger, deer, Sloth bear, Black bear, Indian elephant, leopard, Jungle cat, Rhesus monkey, langur, ghoral (goat antelopes), wild dog, common otter, porcupine, python, King cobra and a variety of resident and migratory bird species.
Uttarakhand has 12 National Parks and Wildlife Sanctuaries covering 13.8 percent of the total area of the state where you can capture the indisputable expressions of various animals and birds. The various Parks and Sanctuaries are located at different altitudes varying from 800 mts to the high altitude Protected Areas at 5400 mts. Apart from these there are two Conservation Reserves– The Asan Barrage and Jhilmil Tal conservation Reserves, two World Heritage sites of the Nanda Devi Biosphere reserve and Valley of Flowers National Park.
The high altitude National Park in Uttarakhand includes the Nandadevi National Park and the Valley of Flowers National Park which are regarded as unique creation of nature. They have become popular with trekkers and mountaineers. Almost 300 species of wild flowers bloom here and attracts nature lovers, botanists, ecologists, zoologists, ornithologists and trekkers. Other National Parks and Sanctuaries include Binog Wildlifie Sanctuary near Mussoorie, Govind Pashu Vihar and National Park, Askot wildlife Sanctuary, Kedarnath Wildlife Sanctuary, Sonanadi Wildlife Sanctuary, Binsar WLS near almora, Gangotri National Park.
ith a long history of Ayurveda, Yoga and meditation, Uttarakhand has become an ideal destination to learn, practice and master these ways of life. The state has lately come to be known as the Yoga Country on account of the number of ashrams, health centres, retreats and high-end spas, it is home to. These institutions have retained the essence of an age-old wisdom of the land in order to cater to the novel needs of an ever-evolving society. There are people who come to learn Yoga as a way of life, and then there are those who come to seek Ayurvedic treatment for a range of their maladies. Whatever the reason, each visitor invariably finds an apt solution to his problem and goes back with a sounder mind and healthier body.
In ancient times ascetics made arduous treks through hostile terrains to reach the core of the Himalayas, There, in the tranquil surroundings, under the shadows of virgin peaks, they meditated and performed penance to attain knowledge and wisdom. Among the many sciences that they developed, practised and perfected were Yoga and Ayurveda. Yoga helped them achieve a perfect balance between a healthy body and a sound mind- a prerequisite for survival in the harsh climatic conditions of the Himalayas. Living in a world far removed from civilization, these wise men extracted medicines from herbs obtained from the plentiful forests around. Thus was born the science of Ayurveda (literally meaning – the science of life). Both Yoga and Ayurveda offer a holistic approach to achieving mental and physical wellbeing through diet, exercise, breathing practices, herbal remedies, meditation and physical therapy. Over past centuries, Yoga and Ayurveda have both come to be acknowledged in the mainstream and are widely practised.
Today, when spirituality is being defined as wellness, healing and rejuvenation, Uttarakhand beckons you as the perfect destination for cleansing your system of toxins and relieving the stress of everyday life. Here, the essence of the age-old knowledge systems of Yoga and Ayurveda and new age healing systems like Reiki are offered and are accessible in a number of health centres, ranging from top-end spas to affordable health resorts to the traditional ashrams. Stress management as well as preventive and curative therapy for a range of heath disorders are the most vital factors of contemporary treatments for physical, mental and emotional wellbeing of individuals.
Uttarakhand offers all this and more.
Where To Stay
Many good Hotels and Resorts are available in Uttarakhand
How To Get Around
The state of Uttarakhand has only one airport till now in the form of Jolly Grant Airport in Dehradun. The second is in Pant Nagar, near Nainital, with limited flights. Almost all public and private airlines operate regular flights to Dehradun.
Uttarakhand has a wide-ranging road network covering the state. The state has an exceptional road connection with Delhi and many State Highways. They provide the linkage to tourist destinations and important places like Corbett National Park, Haridwar and Rishikesh. Regular bus shuttle services (private, deluxe, state or otherwise) are available for journey to Uttarakhand.
Rail network is also quite very convenient in Uttarakhand. The key Railway Stations in the state are Dehradun, Haridwar and Kathgodam. Many super-fast express and passenger (local) trains connect these locations with cities in other parts of India. However due to difficult terrain of the hilly Uttaranchal, it is not possible to extend the railway services to interior and remote locales.