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Adapted from the works of A.S. Rawat of Kumaon University and V.R. Trivedi

Early History

mid-1st millennium B.C. ?

First reference to Uttarakhand and her pilgrimage centers appear in the Skanda Purana and Mahabharataas Kedarkhand. As the land of perpetual snow, early Hindus identify Uttarakhandas the abode of gods and a holy place.

2nd-1st century B.C.

Sakas establish colonies in the hills.

1st century A.D.

Kirats (Tibeto-Burmesepeople) inhabit parts of the hills.

4th-5th century

Naga dominionsinclude principalities between the Alaknanda and Bhagirathi.


Chinese pilgrim HuienTsang visits India. Mentions a land governed by women in Uttarakhand (Brahmaputra

c. 700

The Chand dynasty from Rajasthan begins it reign in Champawat. King Som Chand's small kingdomforms the foundation of what later becomes Kumaon.

mid-8th century

Silk worms are brought to Kumaon from Nepal and Tibet. Silk production continues until the 1791Gurkha conquest.

9th-11th century

The Katyuri Dynastyholds sway from the Sutlej river in the west, to Almora in the east. At itsmaximum extent, the Katyuri Empire stretches from Kabul to Nepal. Originallyseated at Joshimath, the Katyuris eventually move their capital to the Katyurvalley in Almora. Enlightened and dynamic administration during the firstcentury gives way to despotism and cruelty in later years. Empire fragments intonumerous principalities by the 12th century.


Khas (indigenous)chieftains rebel against the Chand dynasty and succeed in driving the royalcourt to the plains.


Vir Chand returns toChampawat and regains his dynasty's lost kingdom.

Feudal Era

12th century

Mallas from Dullu inWestern Nepal shatter the Katyuri kingdom. Katyur descendants continue to rulein isolated pockets throughout the Himalayas.


King Ajay Pal of theParmar dynasty ascends the throne of Chandpur principality. Originally frompresent day Gujarat, Ajay Pal succeeds in conquering and uniting all 52 Garhs orforts and becomes the first overlord of a united Garhwal. He transfers his courtto Srinagar, which persists as capital until 1803. After complete unification,Ajay Pal, like Ashoka, develops a distaste for warfare and pursues a spirituallife.

14th-15th century

The Chand dynastyrule grows oppressive and despotic. While seeking favour from Emperor MohammedTughluq in Delhi, the Kumaoni kings try pacifying their subjects with acts ofpiety. Nepotism and profligate spending keep people from open revolt.


With popular support,King Bharati Chand overthrows his corrupt uncle, King Vikram Chand and restoresthe popularity and fortunes of the Chands.


Mughal emperors sweepthe plains of Hindu resistance. Garhwal retains her independence and adiplomatic presence at the Mughal court. Kumaon pays tribute.


Battle of Gwaldam -Garhwal rebuffs Kumaoni invasion.


English travelerWilliam Finch visits Garhwal, describing a wealthy and prosperous Himalayankingdom.


Kumaon invadesGarhwal seven times. King Man Shah repels each incursion, eventually defeatingKing Laxmi Chand of Kumaon and taking his capital.


In retaliation forraids by Tibetan bandits, King Mahipat Shah invades Tibet with 12,000 men.Though a courageous and able leader, Mahipat Shah retreats from heavy snowfallin the passes and vigourous Tibetan resistance.

In the same year,Portuguese Jesuit missionary Antonio de Andrade passes through Srinagar on hisway to Tibet.


Mahipat Shah dies.Queen mother Karnavati assumes reigns of power for her young son, Prince PrithviPat Shah.


King Baz BahadurChand ascends the Kumaoni throne. At the time, Kumaon is a tributary state ofthe Mughal Empire. The King introduces Muslim court customs to Kumaon. BazBahadur Chand and his successors invade Garhwal frequently.


King Baz Bahadur Shahincites Emperor Shah Jahan's Mughal forces to invade Garhwal. Led by QueenMother Karnavati, the Garhwali defenders crush the numerically superiorexpeditionary forces from the plains. Rather than executing prisoners, she cutsoff the noses of all captured troops. This act earns the Queen mother the title"Nak-katti-Rani", the queen who cuts off noses.


King Prithvi Pat Shahgrows old enough to rule. Courage on the battlefield, liberalism, and religioustolerance marks his remarkable reign. He proves particularly friendly to theJesuits who eventually return from their Tibetan mission to establish a churchat Srinagar.


In retaliation forKing Prithvi Pat Shah granting sanctuary to his defeated enemy's son, SuleimanShikoh, Emperor Aurangzeb intrigues to encourage the crown prince to revoltagainst his father. The king discovers the plot and banishes Prince Medni Shahfrom the kingdom. Due to renewed fighting with Kumaon and the threat of invasionby the Mughals, King Prithvi Pat Shah yields Suleiman Shikoh to Aurangzeb.


King Fateh Shah'sreign is marked by the building of a Gurudwara in Dehra Dun by Guru Ram Rai. Abrave and capable warrior, Fateh Shah leads raids against the plains and Tibet.He also invades Sirmor to the west, yet through the intercession of Guru GobindSingh, peaceful relations are eventually established between the neighbours.Raids and counter-raids trouble the peace with Kumaon.


Pradip Shah's yearsas king finds Garhwal at peace with Kumaon and general prosperity prevalentthroughout the land.


Muslim marauders fromRohilkhand invade Kumaon, vandalizing Hindu temples and idols. Garhwal comes toKumaon's aid, yet only a peace settlement is achieved. The Rohillas demand acash tribute, which is loaned to Kumaoni king Kalyan Chand by Pradip Shah.


The Rohillas underNajib Khan also invade Garhwal, defeating Pradip Shah's forces and annexing theDun valley.


Garhwal reestablishescontrol over the Dun valley.

late-18th century

Garhwali kingspatronize the Garhwali school of painting that compares favourably with the muchadmired Punjabi and Kangra styles. Mola Ram is the best known artist that workedat the royal court during this period.

Mola Ram


Mola Ram



Intrigue in theKumaoni court draws Garhwal into her internal conflict. Lalit Shah installsecond son, Pradyumna Shah on the Kumaoni throne, but dies shortly after.


Lalit Shah cedes thethrone to his eldest son, Jai Krit Shah who conspires to oust his stepbrotherfrom the throne of Kumaon. In return, Pradyumna Shah invades Garhwal.Factionalism erupts in the Garhwali court, further weakening Jai Krit Shah'shold on power. Dehra Dun's governor, sensing a power struggle, rebels and seizespower in the capital. Jai Krit Shah, now desperate, asks Jagat Prakash, the kingof Sirmor for help. Jagat Prakash succeeds against the combined rebel andKumaoni forces, and reinstalls Jai Krit Shah in Srinagar. Shortly after hisdeparture though, Jai Krit Shah goes on a pilgrimage. Pradyumna Shah seizes theopportunity, invading and taking the capital.



Pradyumna Shah



Pradyumna Shahreturns to Kumaon.


New troubles provetoo much for Jai Krit Shah. He ends his own life. Pradyumna Shah returns toGarhwal to assume leadership.


Years of turmoil:Garhwal slides into anarchy. Internecine strife and court intrigues rip apartGarhwal's political, administrative, and military foundations.


Gurkhas overrunKumaon and cross the frontier with Garhwal. The Gurkha forces reach as far asFort Langurgarhi, where a desperate and heroic stand prevents furtherpenetration by the Gurkhas for over year. The Gurkha forces retreat to ward offa Chinese invasion of Nepal.


Gurkha marauders andslavers loot and kidnap the inhabitants of the borderlands. Kumaoni and Garhwalifrontier villages are burnt and whole regions made desolate. A brutal andarbitrary system of justice is administered including trials by ordeal andexecutions for minor offenses. Caste distinctions are intensified and caste ruleinfractions are made punishable by death. Border conflicts eventually culminatein the calamitous events of 1803-04.


A terrible faminewracks Garhwal.


Great earthquakeshakes the foundations of Garhwal. This catastrophe portends the coming ofconquest and subjection by the growing might of the Gurkhas.


Gurkha attack Garhwalin strength. King Pradyumna Shah is dislodged from Srinagar and retreats acrossthe Alaknanda River. Defeated again at Barahat, Uttar Kashi, Pradyumna Shahfalls back towards the plains. At the Garhwali kingdom's final stand near DehraDun, the King dies with most of his men.


Gurkha rule proves tobe despotic and tyrannical. Military despotism carries off over a third of thepopulation into slavery. Retribution for the earlier defeat of Gurkha forces in1791 is long and bloody. Indiscriminate killing and raping marks a militaryadministration interested in solely the pillage and plunder of the land. Anoppressive tax levy is imposed. Fields lie abandoned.


Sudarshan Shah,Pradyumna Shah's son, resides in poverty at Bareilly in the plains. SudarshanShah spends much of his time encouraging British intervention to end Gurkhatyranny.

British Era


Anglo-Gurkha warerupts along the Gurkha Empire's southern border. Major General Gillespiesucceeds at driving out the Gurkhas from Kumaon by 1815. Treaty of Sagaulirestores Sudarshan Shah to the much smaller Garhwali kingdom seated at Tehri.The Kumaoni Commissionery is established to administer Kumaon, and eastern(British) Garhwal for the British. British acquire the region's substantialnatural resources and lucrative trade routes to Tibet and China.


Sudarshan Shah isofficially installed by the British as head of the nominally independentprincely state of Tehri-Garhwal.


The British establisha convalescent depot for their soldiers in Landour, marking the present dayfoundation of Mussoorie hill station.


The Britishadventurer Wilson procures his first forest lease from Tehri-Garhwal. Heexploits the forest by introducing the practice of floating logs down rivers.The government renews his lease in 1850 and again in 1864. Whole saleclearfelling of oak, cedar, and pine forests follows, ravaging the economy andenvironment of Uttarakhand.



'Pahari' Wilson


In the same year,Henry Ramsay begins service as Assistant Commissioner. Ramsay proves to be theablest of British officials posted to Kumaon, enjoying wide-scale respect andsupport from the inhabitants. His unassuming and friendly demeanour witheveryone, high and low, works to ensure the region's loyalty to the British.However, Ramsay establishes martial law throughout the region asanti-establishment comments are made punishable by internment or death.


Henry Ramsay becomesCommissioner, serving British interests in British Garhwal and Kumaon for 28more years.


The Indian Mutinyspreads throughout the plains, but calls for insurrection go largely ignored inthe hills. Memories of Gurkha oppression and British deliverance keepUttarakhand loyal. King Sudarshan Shah supports the British with men and materičle.He also deploys troops to protect the Europeans that had fled the plains forMussoorie and other hill stations.


The explorer, NainSingh Rawat, reaches Lhasa where he meets the Dalai Lama.



Nain Singh Rawat



Forest Act of thisyear severely curtails the forest rights of the hill inhabitants. Largeconcessions are granted to outside commercial interests at the expense of thehill people.


First all-Garhwaliregiment, the 39th Garhwal Rifles, is raised and headquartered inLansdowne. Garhwalis had previously served with distinction in British Gurkharegiments. This new job opportunity portends the rise of a money-order economyin the hills with the male population migrating to the plains for jobs and thewomen taking on the onerous burden of fending for the family and managing thefarm.


ON LEFT:Insignia upon formation in 1887, Phoenix adopted as regimental symbol
ON RIGHT: Insignia during WWI



Garhwal Rifles



Villagers of Bangarhnear Tehri protest the forest conservation policies of Tehri state and rough upthe local forest officer.


The Home Rule Leagueorganizes in the hills, bringing the independence movement to Kumaon and, later,Garhwal. The wide scale resentment towards the degrading forced labour practicesof Coolie and Utar Begar proves to be an effective organizingprinciple. These rules dictated that any subject of the hills must provide freeporterage for visiting Europeans and State officials. Subjects were alsoobligated to serve as servants of the royal household for four times a year andwithout compensation.


39th Garhwal Riflesare sent overseas with the advent of World War I. Landing in France in October,Garhwali troops earn fame as "the stormtroopers of the Allies", ascoined by the Germans. Out of five Victoria Crosses earned by Indian soldiers inFrance, Garhwalis earn two, including the first ever awarded to an Indian by theKing-Emperor himself. The battalions suffer heavy casualties though, and arewithdrawn from Europe in 1915. After the war, the Garhwal Regiment becomes the18th Royal Garhwal Regiment.

Great War


France, 1914



The Britishauthorities end the Coolieand Utar Begar practice in the hills asa concession to the swaraj activists.


The Forest Act ofthis year makes further demands of local needs. Further usage restrictionsincreases alienation among the hill people.


Villagers in theRawain district protest forest policies and form their own independent villagecouncil in Tilari (Western Tehri). The State militia, led by Juyal, the ministerof the Raja, eventually crushes the rebellion with enormous bloodshed. Protestforest fires are lit throughout the 1930s as a result.

While deployed torestore order during Home Rule agitation, Garhwali troops, encourage by HavildarChander Singh Garhwali, refuse to fire on unarmed demonstrators in Peshawardespite intense provocation. The British authorities disarm and dress down theregiment.


Two Garhwalibattalions captured by the Japanese in Malaya join the Indian National Army andthe independence struggle against the British. Making up one-tenth of theinsurgent Army, the Garhwalis fight honourably in Burma against their ownbrothers-in-arms on the British side.



Congress activistsand a peasant movement force the King of Tehri Garhwal to abdicate the throne infavour of unification with the rest of British India. Along with the rest ofUttarakhand, Tehri-Garhwal is integrated into a newly independent India as adistrict of Uttar Pradesh.


P.C. Joshi of theCommunist Party of India advocates separates statehood for the U.P. hilldistricts.


Unrest in Tibetresults in a crackdown by the Chinese Communists. The Dalai Lama flees andestablishes a government-in-exile in Dharamsala, Himachal Pradesh. The Chinesethreat is countered with the militarization of the border and expropriations bythe Indian military of large parts of Uttarakhand.


The India-China warshocks the nation. Military development is speeded up in the Uttarakhand region,leading to dramatic social and economic changes. Mining and timber interestsrush into the hills. Pilgrimage routes also see increased traffic due to newlybuilt roads. With the closing of the frontier, centuries-old trade routes acrossthe Himalayas are disrupted.


Mainly Punjabitrespassers seize much of the best Terai land. The dispossession of thenative Pahari inhabitants (Buksha and Tharu tribals) and other Hindi-speakingresidents exacerbates communal tensions. Various U.P. governments, influenced bybig landowning interests, legalize land seizures.

Women organize tofight alcohol consumption in the hills, a distressing byproduct of developmentand the worsening economic situation.


P.C. Joshi and otherKumaoni intellectuals form the Kumaon Morcha group to agitate for localautonomy. Bitter political infighting with the Garhwal-based UttaranchalParishad deflates the movement.


Due to erosion anddeclining ground cover, the Alaknanda floods, killing hundreds of people.


The Chipko movementstruggles for the forest rights of Uttarakhandi people. Marches, demonstrations,and spontaneous actions in defense of the forests spread throughout the hills.Gandhian in nature, the movement's activists fan out across the hills toorganize peasants against the commercial interests undermining theirlivelihoods.


Non-violent forestrights demonstrations are held in Uttar Kashi and Gopeshwar.


Gaura Devi leadsvillage women to save Reni forest from contractors.



Gaura Devi (left)



Student activistsform the left-oriented Uttarakhand Sangarsh Vahini to fight the liquorand timber mafias that benefit from their collusion with the police.


Chipko spreads toKumaon.


Several attempts tofell Uttarakhand forests are thwarted by mass action on the part of localvillagers. Once again, women play a pivotal role in the struggle to save thetrees.


Activists form the UttarakhandKranti Dal to contest elections and pursue statehood for the impoverishedregion.


The Indian governmentbans the felling of trees above 1000 meters. However, the Forest Protection Acthas the unintended consequence of strengthening the timber mafia while alsodepriving people of their forest rights.


Improving relationsbetween India and China allows for the reopening of the pilgrimage route to Mt.Kailash and Lake Mansarovar (through Pitharogarh district and to Tibet throughLipu Lekh pass).


Anti-alcoholagitation begins anew and sharpens social tensions between men and women in thehills. Deforestation continues, though tempered by government regulations.Mining interests and dam projects threaten the Himalayan ecosystem.


Several left-leaningorganizations assemble to form the Uttarakhand Sanyukta Sangarsh Samiti (USSS)to campaign for autonomy.


A devastatingearthquake rocks Uttar Kashi, killing over 2,000 people. The slowness of reliefoperations and reconstruction upsets many hill residents, already accustom tothe prolonged neglect afforded the region by state and federal governments.


Despite measures inthe state legislature towards granting separate status for Uttarakhand, the newbackward-caste dominated government of Uttar Pradesh extends caste reservationsinto the hills. These reservations, though established to increase opportunityand social justice for low-caste people, meets with fierce resistance inUttarakhand. Uttarakhandis see the measures as an attempt to colonize the hillswith people from the plains, as low-caste Hindus make up a tiny fraction of thehill districts' population. Demonstrations are fired upon, leaving dozens dead.On October 2, the birthday of Mahatma Gandhi, buses carrying protesters to thecapital are stopped in the town of Muzaffarnagar. More violence ensues includingthe molestation and rape of dozens of Uttarakhand women by state police.



Police tear gas



The cover-up of the1994 incidents unravels under further investigation. The Uttar Pradeshgovernment refuses to acknowledge responsibility. Uttarakhandis hold monthlyprotest rallies in remembrance of the movement's martyrs.

Massive forest firesin May devastate Uttarakhand.



Protest March



Early in the year,the state government apologizes to and compensates the victims of the 1994violence.