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Uttarakhand
 

The state of Uttarakhand lies in north India with the international borders of Tibet and Nepal to its north. It has Himachal Pradesh to its west and Uttar Pradesh to its south.

Blessed with magnificent glaciers, majestic snow-clad mountains overlooking plush meadows, gigantic and ecstatic peaks and clear mountain lakes. Emerald green dense forests, serrated by deep gorges, reverberate with the gurgle of innumerable streams and rivers that crisscross their way to the plains below. A splendid combination of flora and fauna can also be seen.

The hills of Uttaranchal have all the ingredients for adventure, packed with excitement and thrill - an unexplored valley, towering peaks, flowing rivers, snow-capped mountains, a splendid combination of flora and fauna and vast tracts of virgin snow. It offers some of the best venues for adventure sports such as skiing, river rafting, canoeing, para glidng and rock climbing.

Much of India's religious beliefs originate in Himalayas. Each mountain, lake and river is steeped in mythology. This "abode of Gods" includes many shrines and places of pilgrimage. Char-dhams, the four most sacred and revered Hindu temples: Badrinath, Kedarnath, Gangotri and Yamunotri; Sikh's Hemkund Sahib, nestled in the mighty mountains, are some of the important pilgrimages.

 
In January 2007, the name of the state was officially changed from Uttaranchal, its interim name, to Uttarakhand. The provisional capital of Uttarakhand is Dehradun, which is also a rail-head and the largest city in the region. The small hamlet of Gairsain has been mooted as the future capital owing to its geographic centrality but controversies and lack of resources have led Dehradun to remain provisional capital. The High Court of the state is in Nainital.
 
Recent developments in the region include initiatives by the state government to capitalise on handloom and handicrafts, the burgeoning tourist trade as well as tax incentives to lure high-tech industry to the state. The state also has big-dam projects, controversial and often criticised in India, such as the very large Tehri dam on the Bhagirathi-Bhilangana rivers, conceived in 1953, the phase one of which has already been completed. Uttarakhand is also well known as the birthplace of the Chipko environmental movement, and other social movements including the mass agitation in the 1990s that led to its formation.
 
Geography
 
Uttarakhand has a total geographic area of 51,125 km², of which 93% is mountainous and 64% is covered by forest. Most of the northern parts of the state are part of Greater Himalaya ranges, covered by the high Himalayan peaks and glaciers, while the lower foothills were densely forested till denuded by the British log merchants and later, after independence, by forest contractors. Recent efforts in reforestation, however, have restored the situation to some extent. The Himalayan ecosystem plays host to a large number of animals (including bharal, snow leopards, leopards and tigers), plants and rare herbs. Two of India's largest rivers, the Ganges and the Yamuna originate in the glaciers of Uttarakhand, and are fed by myriad lakes, glacial melts and streams in the region.
 
Uttarakhand lies on the southern slope of the Himalaya range, and the climate and vegetation vary greatly with elevation, from glaciers at the highest elevations to subtropical forests at the lower elevations. The highest elevations are covered by ice and bare rock. Below them, between 3,000 and 5,000 metres (9,800 and 16,000 ft) are montane grasslands and shrublands: the western Himalayan alpine shrub and meadows. Temperate coniferous forests, the western Himalayan subalpine conifer forests, grow just below the tree line. At 3,000 to 2,600 metres (9,800 to 8,500 ft) elevation they transition to the temperate western Himalayan broadleaf forests, which lie in a belt from 2,600 to 1,500 metres (8,500 to 4,900 ft) elevation. Below 1,500 metres (4,900 ft) elevation lie the Himalayan subtropical pine forests. The Upper Gangetic Plains moist deciduous forests and the drier Terai-Duar savanna and grasslands cover the lowlands along the Uttar Pradesh border. This belt is locally known as Bhabhar. These lowland forests have mostly been cleared for agriculture, but a few pockets remain.
 
Indian National Parks in Uttarakhand include the Jim Corbett National Park (the oldest national park of India) at Ramnagar in Nainital District, Valley of Flowers National Park and Nanda Devi National Park in Chamoli District, which together are a UNESCO World Heritage Site, Rajaji National Park in Haridwar District, and Govind Pashu Vihar National Park and Gangotri National Park in Uttarkashi District.
 
Economy
 
The size of Uttarakhand's Economy as measured by it's Gross State Domestic Product (GSDP) for 2011 (Financial year ending March 2011) is estimated at 775.8 billion in current prices. Born out of the division of Uttar Pradesh, the new state of Uttarakhand produces about 12% of the output of the old Uttar Pradesh state. Consolidated Finvest and Holdings, a S&P CNX 500 conglomerate has its corporate office in Uttarakhand. It reported a gross income of 137 million for 2005.
 
In 2003, a new industrial policy for the state with generous tax benefits for investors was initiated that has led to a massive upsurge of capital investment. SIDCUL, the State Industrial Development Corporation of Uttarakhand has established seven industrial estates in the southern periphery of the state, while dozens of hydroelectric dams are being built in the upper reaches. However, hill development remains an uphill challenge as out migration of local peoples continues from the highland hinterlands.
 
Tourism
 
To Uttarakhand, long called "abode of the gods" (Devbhumi), belong some of the holiest Hindu shrines, and for more than a thousand years, pilgrims have been visiting the region in the hopes of salvation and purification from sin. Gangotri and Yamunotri, the sources of both the Ganges and Yamuna fall in the upper reaches of the state and together with Badrinath (dedicated to Vishnu) and Kedarnath (dedicated to Shiva) form the Char Dham, one of Hinduism's most spiritual and auspicious pilgrimage circuits. Haridwar, meaning "Gateway to God" is a prime Hindu destination. Haridwar hosts the Kumbha Mela every twelve years, in which millions of pilgrims take part from all parts of the India and the world. Rishikesh near Haridwar is known as the preeminent yoga centre of India. The state has an abundance of temples and shrines, many dedicated to local deities or manifestations of Shiva and Durga, references to many of which can be found in Hindu scriptures and legends.
 
The architecture of most of these temples is typical of the region and slightly different from other parts of India. The ancient temples at Jageshwar (a complex of 124 temples in a deodar woodland) are historically the most prominent for their distinct architectural features. Uttarakhand is, however, a place of pilgrimage not only for the Hindus. Hemkund nested in the Himalayas is a prime pilgrimage center for the Sikhs. Tibetan Buddhism has also made itself felt with the recent reconstruction of Mindroling Monastery and its Buddha Stupa, touted as the world's highest, southwest of Dehradun.
 
The state has always been a destination for mountaineering, hiking and rock climbing in India. A recent development in adventure tourism in the region has been white water rafting and other adventures sports. Eco tourism, agritourism and rural tourism have also found new grounds in many villages of the state.
 
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