Uttarakhand is a state in North India. The capital of the state is Dehradun. The state shares international border with China in the north and Nepal to the east. Some areas require a special permit to visit.
The region is known for its natural beauty of the Himalayas, glaciers, alpine meadows, lakes and rivers.
Ancient temples, forest reserves, national parks, hill stations, and mountain peaks draw large number of tourists making Uttarakhand a popular tourist destination.
The popular tourist sites in the state include: Haridwar town, Rishikesh (the yoga capital of the world), Jim Corbett National Park (the oldest national park of India), Valley of Flowers and Nanda Devi National Park (the UNESCO World Heritage Site), Mussoorie, Almora and Nainital hill resorts. Uttarkhand is known for having some of the most famous and beautiful hill stations in India.
For Hindus Uttarakhand is the Land of Gods. Two of India's largest and holiest rivers, the Ganges and the Yamuna, originate in glaciers of the region. The state is a popular destination for religious tourism. Every year during the yatra (pilgrimage) season (April to November) hundreds of thousands of dedicated Hindu pilgrims visit char dham - ancient temples that mark the spiritual sources of four sacred rivers: the Yamuna (Yamunotri), the Ganges (Gangotri), the Mandakini (Kedarnath) and the Alaknanda (Badrinath).
Uttarakhand state is a popular destination for adventurous tourism. Mountaineering, hiking, trekking, rock climbing, white water rafting, canoeing, skiing, paragliding, bungy jumping are popular activities.
The state has 12 National Parks and Wildlife Sanctuaries. The Himalayan ecosystem provides habitat for a variety of species of animals, plants and herbs. The Jim Corbett National Park is home to the endangered Bengal tiger.
The handicrafts of the region include handcrafted gold jewellery, basketry, handmade woolen shawls, tweeds, scarves, and rugs. Among the prominent local crafts is wood carving, which appears most frequently in the ornately decorated temples.
Music is an integral part of the Uttarakhandi culture. Popular types of folk songs include Mangal, Basanti, Khuded and Chhopati. Folk dances exhibit myriad human emotions and are performed during some religious festivals.
Some of the popular Festivals and Fairs of the region are: Magh Mela – an annual religious fair at Haridwar (January and February); International Yoga Festival at Rishikesh (March); Shivaratri - a festival celebrated with carnival rides and stalls at a picturesque riverside cave temple on the outskirts of Dehra Dun (March); Nanda Devi Fair – a five day fair with image of the goddess parade, dances and cultural shows at Almora (September).
Uttarakhand cuisine is primarily vegetarian, although non-vegetarian food is also served. Some of the popular dishes are: Chainsoo (dry or gravied dish prepared by using black gram dal), Kafuli (a thick gravy dish made from green leafy vegetables), Jholi (very thin and watery gravy usually made with tomatoes, potatoes, tubers, curd and asafoetida). Roat is a popular sweet meal made of sweet bread flavoured with fennel soaked water.
Hinduism is the dominant religion in the region (85%). Other religions include Islam, Sikhism, Christianity, Buddhism and Jainism. Hindi is the most widely spoken language. Other languages are Garhwali, Kumaoni and Sanskrit. Uttarakhand is the only state in India with Sanskrit as one of its official languages.
The climate and vegetation vary greatly with elevation. From ice covered glaciers at the highest elevations, to subtropical forests and alpine meadows at the lower elevations. The average temperature stays around 30o C (86 o F) in summers and 2o C (35,6 o F) in winters.
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