A Geographical view of Uttarakhand

गंगा यमुना तेरा आँचल दिव्य हिमालय तेरा शीष
सब धर्मों की छाया तुझ पर चार धाम देते आशीष,
श्रीबद्री केदारनाथ हैं कलियर हेमकुण्ड अतिपावन।
अभिनन्दन! अभिनन्दन!
उत्तराखण्ड देवभूमि मातृभूमि शत शत वन्दन अभिनन्दन॥

Uttarakhand State Song (link)

This write up will present various aspects of the state of Uttarakhand’s Geography.

The Peaks

Nanda Devi Peak

Nanda Devi is the third highest mountain in India after K2 and Kangchenjunga. It is the 23rd-highest peak in the world. Nanda Devi main summit is located at Chamoli District and Nanda Devi East is in Pithoragarh-Chamoli.

Elevation : 7,816 m

Nanda devi peak
Peak of Nanda Devi

History behind the name : Nanda Devi is the incarnation of Mother Durga and the consort of Lord Shiva Shankar and is worshiped as the main goddess of the mountainous region. She is worshipped as the Isht Devi of the hills and also as the “destroyer of evil”.

The genesis of Nanda Devi is not very clear however. Folk lyrics suggest that Nanda was a princess of the Chanda dynasty of Almora.

The Goddess finds mention in Sanskrit literature (Srimad Bhagvatam or Bhagavata Purana). Peaks together are also referred as peaks of the goddesses Nanda and Sunanda and they are worshipped together as twins in Uttarakhand.

Some very old statues found in Mathura show Goddess Eknansha who was subsequently regarded as Nanda. Naini (of Nainital) and Naina (of Himachal Pradesh) also appear to be variants of the same Goddess.

Nanda Devi is one of the most revered goddess of the state and the peak and its route is both a adventure trek and a pilgrimage destination.

Kamet Peak

Kamet peak lies in the Chamoli district of Uttarakhand. After Nanda Devi, it is considered to be the second tallest peak in the Garhwal region of Uttarakhand

Elevation : 7,756 m 

Kamet Peak
Kamet Peak

History behind the name : Kamet or Kang-med is a Tibetan word meaning “Glacier Fire”. This being the highest peak in the region, it catches the first rays of the rising sun and the last rays of the setting sun, lighting the ice on the top like a huge mass of fire.

Kamet is surrounded by three principal neighboring or subsidiary peaks:

  • Mukut Parbat, 7,242 m, northwest of Kamet;
  • Abi Gamin, 7,355m, north-northeast of Kamet;
  • Mana, 7,272m, south-southeast of Kamet.

Chaukhamba I Peak

Chaukhamba I is the main summit and the highest peak in the Gangotri Group of the Garhwal Himalaya, It has four mountain summits other are known as Chaukhamba II,Chaukhamba III and Chaukhamba IV.

Elevation : 7138 m 

Chaukhamba I peak

History behind the name :  ‘Chaukhamba’ literally means ‘four pillars’ and its four impressive peaks as following are the reasons behind the nomenclature.

  • Chaukamba I : 7,138 m;
  • Chaukamba II : 7,070 m;
  • Chaukamba III : 6,995 m;
  • Chaukamba IV :6,854 m.

Trisul I Peak

Trisul is a group of three Himalayan mountain peaks of western Kumaun, with the highest (Trisul I). The Trishul group forms the southwest corner of the ring of peaks enclosing the Nanda Devi Sanctuary, about 15 kilometres (9 mi) west-southwest of Nanda Devi itself.

Elevation : 7120m 

Trishul Peaks

History behind the name :The three peaks resemble a trident – in Hindi/Sanskrit, Trishula, trident, is the weapon of lord Shiva as shown below.

Trishul of Lord Shiva

The Passes

Lipulekh Pass : It lies at the tri-junction of Uttarakhand (India), Tibet (China) and Nepal borders. This pass is used by pilgrims to Kailash-Mansarowar Yatra.

The Border Roads Organisation (BRO) has completed construction of 80 km road stretch that connects Dharchula to Lipulekh (China Border). At present, the travel to Kailash Mansarovar takes around two-three weeks through Sikkim or Nepal. Lipulekh route had a trek of 90 Km through high altitude terrain and making the trek even more difficult for the elderly. This journey can now be completed by vehicles after the construction of this route.

Representation of road constructed by the BRO from Dharchula to Lipulekh (Map not to scale)

The path and distance from Lipulekh pass to kailash Mansarovar and Mansarovar Lake is depicted below. Distance between Lipulekh and Mansarovar lake is roughly 70km and Lipulekh and Mount Kailash is over a 100km.

lipulekh to mansarovar distance
Representation of the distance between the Lipulekh pass to the Mount Kailash and lake Mansarovar (Map not to scale)

Mana Pass: It connects Uttarakhand with Tibet. It is situated at an elevation of 5610m, North of the holy place of Badrinath. It Remains closed in the winter season (Nov – Apr).

Mangsha Dhura Pass and Lampiya Dhura: High Himalayan passes of Mangsha Dhura(5,490 M) and Lampiya Dhura(5,530 M) are situated in Kuthi valley situated in the Pithoragarh District of Uttarakhand state of India.

Niti Pass: The Niti Pass located at 5800 mtrs connects India with Tibet. During winters, Niti village and valley is covered with heavy snow.

Traill’s Pass: It is situated at the end of the Pindari glacier and connects the Pindari valley to Milam valley. This pass is very steep and rugged. It is located between Nanda Devi and Nanda Kot peaks in the Uttarakhand state in the districts of Pithoragarh and Bageshwar in India

Other important passes like Kungribingri Pass and Kiogad Pass are shown in the map below.

Passes from the state of Uttarakhand in the physical map of Uttarakhand
Passes from the state of Uttarakhand

The Rivers

The Rivers and the Prayags (confluences)

Check this space for more about the origin and legends surrounding these great rivers : https://uttarakhand.life/blog/places/religious/

The Minerals

Mineral NameDistrict Uses
Barites (BaSO4)Dehra Dun, ChamoliPaint Industry, Drilling mud, As a filler in paper industry
Base MetalsAlmora, Chamoli, Dehra Dun, Nainital, Pauri Garhwal, Tehri Garhwal, PithoragarhCopper : Electric Industry, Manufacturing Of containers, Manufacturing of Alloys, Aero planes
Lead : Manufacturing of strong Batteries, Paint Industry, Photo cells, Ammunitions, Telephone Industry, Manufacturing of Alloys, Soldering
Zinc : Manufacturing of Alloys, Electric cell, Chemicals, Paint Industry
Placer GoldNainital, PauriOrnaments, Pharmaceutical Industry
Primary GoldChamoli, Pithoragarh, NainitalOrnaments, Pharmaceutical Industry
GraphiteAlmora, PauriWriting Materials,
Lubricant Industry,
Refractory Industry,
Nuclear Reactors,
Batteries Industry,
Graphene Sheets
GypsumDehra Dun, Nainital, Pauri, TehriPaint Industry, Agriculture Industry
LimestoneDehra Dun, Pithoragarh, Tehri, NainitalCement Industry, Steel Industry, Pharmaceutical Industry
MagnesiteAlmora, Pithoragarh, ChamoliCement Industry, Steel Industry as blast Furnace Bricks, Metal Industry
MarbleDehra DunBuilding material, Decorative show Pieces
PhosphoriteDehra Dun, Tehri, NainitalAgriculture Industry, Chemical Industry
Silica sandUttarkashiGlass Industry, Pharmaceutical Industry, Ceramic Industry, Rubber Industry
SoapstoneAlmora, Chamoli, PithoragarhCosmetic Industry
Sulphur and sulphur springsChamoli, Dehra DunPharmaceutical Industry, Cosmetic Industry, Chemical Industry
TungstenAlmora, ChamoliElectric Industry
UraniumChamoliNuclear power plants, Weapons
Table showing the minerals present at various locations in Uttarakhand

The Agriculture

About 90 per cent of the population depends on agriculture. The total cultivated area in the state is 7,67,459 hectare. In hilly areas Terrace Farming is prevalent.

Terrace Farming in Ranikhet

Agricultural land under irrigation is 5,61,733 hectare. The state has excellent potential for hydropower generation. There are a number of hydroelectric projects on the rivers Yamuna, Bhagirathi, Bhilangana, Alaknanda, Mandakini, Saryu, Gauri, Kosi and Kali generating electricity.

The Transport

Roads : The total length of metalled roads is 33,914 km. The length of PWD roads is 25,665 km. The length of roads built by local bodies is 2,674 km.

Railways : The main railway stations are Dehradun, Haridwar, Roorkee, Kotdwar, Kashipur, Udhamsingh Nagar, Haldwani, Ramnagar and Kathgodam.

Aviation : There are air strips at Jolly Grant (Dehradun) and Pantnagar (Udham Singh Nagar). Air strips at Naini-Seni (Pithoragarh), Gauchar (Chamoli) and Chinyalisaur (Uttarkashi) are under construction. Pawan Hans Ltd. is also operating helicopter service from Rudraprayag to Kedarnath for pilgrims.

Jolly Grant Airport Dehradun

The richness of the Geography of Uttarakhand can be seen in this article. Let us all join hands to sustainably preserve this rich Geography.

Mussoorie Goli Kand

The state of Uttarakhand was formed on November 9, 2000, as the 27th state of India. The state was formed as the result of a long struggle and many sacrifices. One of the most important components of that struggle was put up by the people of Mussoorie in 1994.

It was the morning of 2nd September 1994. People were conducting a silent and peaceful procession for the demand of Uttarakhand state.

Suddenly huge stones started being hurled from Gunhill towards the peaceful agitators. People were of the opinion that it was done on the directions of Mulayam Singh Yadav. This increased tension between the police forces and the people.

The then CO Mussoorie police station was stationed at the Jhula Ghar wearing a helmet. As described by one of the agitators Mr V. K Dobhal “The CO shouted, who is throwing the stones, stop the stones first, but who was there to hear, the agitators got wounded from the bombardment and suddenly the PAC rammed bullets at the state agitators, killing six people.” 

The then Deputy Superintendent of Police Umakant Tripathi tried to stop the policemen and PAC shouting “please stop the firing” (फायर बन्द करो) but a murderous rage was on their heads and in the heat of the moment they continued firing. DSP Umakant also got hit by a bullet in his hand and got severly injured. He was admitted in a nearby government hospital along with a large number of injured and wounded Andolankaris.

The firing converted the tranquil of the queen of hills, Mussoorie into panic and fear.

The Andolankaris of the movement

Two women, Hansa Dhanai and Belmati Chauhan, were killed in the firing on the spot. Four others who were mercilessly shot down included Rai Singh Bangari, Dhanpat Singh, Madan Mohan Mamgain and Balveer Negi.

The police took Hukum Singh Panwar, one of the leaders of the movement in Mussoorie, to Bareilly Jail. His son Advocate Rajendra Singh Panwar was shot in the procession and was badly injured. The police took many agitators like Late Radhe Shyam Tayal to the Bareilly Jail and Late Devendra Mittal to the Gorakhpur Jail. Late Rajendra Singh Shah(then MLA) and Late Kalam Singh Rawat even faced National Security Act (NSA) trial.

The main leaders of movement like Ramkrishna Pant, D.R. Kapoor, Madan Mohan Sharma, Jabar Singh Barthwal, Pooran Juyal, Advocate RD Gupta, AC Mangla, Jai Prakash Uttarakhandi were then harassed during the curfew.

During the curfew that lasted for about a fortnight from September 2, people had to crave for essential items.

Fake cases were then registered on six martyrs and fourteen other agitators for murdering Umakant Tripathi. Many were sent to jail and tortured. CBI also believed these false claims and submitted statements against the Andolankaris in the Court. All the Andolankaris like Subhashini Bhartwal, Devendra Mittal, Kalam Singh Rawat, Rajendra Shah, Advocate Rajendra Pawar, Sumer Chand Kumai, Pratap Singh Kaintura, Ajay Rawat, Shurveer Singh, Karan Singh Bhartwal, Hukum Singh Rawat and (then Nagar karyavah of RSS) Dr Harimohan Goel faced these CBI cases for nearly a decade and eventually turned out to be victorious as no evidence against them was submitted.

The story the forgotten Martyr

Deputy Superintendent of Police Umakant Tripathi succumbed to injuries and blood loss in the hospital.

Umakant Tripathi was a soft-spoken, generous and religious person. According to his wife, Mrs Yashoda Tripathi, Mr Tripathi’s entire family is a religious family with Nobel ideals.

According to a Mussoorie weekly ‘Mussoorie Times’ published after the incident of the Golikand, Umakant Tripathi said in his last breath, ‘Jai Uttarakhand’. Residents of Mussoorie can never forget Umakant Tripathi.

An old image of the Martyr Umakant Tripathi

Some questions about Umakant Tripathi still remained unanswered:

  • The first is how was he injured and died?
  • The second is why did the PAC fire on him?
  • The third is why his own department or the government of the day showed a lack of interest in the real investigation of his death?

The Uttarakhand Andolankaris of Mussoorie have time and again demanded the honour and status of martyrdom for the then DSP, Umakant Tripathi. In this regard, the Mussoorie Andolankaris including Kedar Singh Chauhan, Subhashini Barthwal,Devi Godiyal, Dr Harimohan Goel, Shurveer Gunsola, Advocate Rajendra Panwar, Pratap Singh Kaintura, Karan Singh Barthwal, Yashpal Singh Rawat have written a letter to Ravindra Jugran, the chairman of Andolankari Samman Parishad (आंदोलनकारी सम्मान परिषद ), demanding the same.

Hope is that this forgotten martyr of Uttarakhand gets his due honour and place in the history of Uttarakhand and India.

Are the dreams of the Andolankaris fulfilled?

Idols of the martyrs installed at Jhula Ghar Mussoorie

The idols of the martyrs are being installed to pay tribute at Jhula Ghar in Mussoorie but the dreams of the Andolankaris and Martyrs are still not fulfilled. The uncontrolled migration from villages of Uttarakhand, high rate of unemployment and a high rate of corruption has left the state and its culture high and dry. At the same time, the people present in the 1994 movement have not been accurately identified like Late Hari Singh Gunsola (participated in the movement and also captured all the pictures shared on this page during the horrific incident without fearing for his own life), many participants and their struggles are forgotten over the years.
Overcoming all these challenges would be a true tribute to the martyrs and Andolankaris of the movement.

Looking at the past for a Sustainable future.

People in India often say “don’t look back if you want to go ahead”. People also say “the past glory of India is a myth” and many proclaim that “we have to move with the time”. But if the time is considered cyclical, looking backwards can open the way for sustainable living and make the roads to the future clearer.

The cyclical representation of time using Chakra at Sun Temple,Konark, Odisha

Let us look at some of the ways how we can learn from ourself.

1. Water Conservation

नाप्सु मूत्रं पुरीष वाष्टवनं समुत्सृजत्‌ ।
अमेध्यलिप्तमन्याद्वा लोहितं वा विषणि वा ।।
Polluting substances like excreta, urine, spit or blood should never be released into the water


विष्णुं च वरुणं च सम्पूज्य जलाशय निर्माण कारयेत्‌ ।
Along with the worship of Vishnu and Varun, water reservoirs should be constructed

Agni Purana

1.1 Water temples or Naulas in Uttarakhand
Naulas, are shallow, 4-sided stepped wells as shown in the picture below. In Uttarakhand, naulas are commonly found in Kumaon. The oldest functioning Naula is the Badrinath ji ka naula which dates back to 7 BCE. They are designed to collect water from subterranean seepages or springs and are used to meet domestic water needs by the local communities.
The well is walled on three sides and covered with a roof of stone slabs. Water may seep in from fissures in the steps or the base. The drainage is usually designed so that the source is not contaminated.

Naula in Uttarakhand

To ensure Naulas are not defiled, they are dedicated to lord Vishnu Ji and a stone idol is placed inside to protect the water. Thus they are also referred as Vishnu ji ka Mandir (Vishnu Temple). Today, thousands of naulas in Uttarakhand lie forgotten and decaying. Their degraded condition reflects a decline in community water management.

In Himachal Pradesh, the structure similar to Naulas are called baoris. The bigger ones measure about 5m x 5m at the top while the smaller ones, called baoru, may measure just 2m x 2m. Very large baoris are called nauns.

1.2 Dharas or Mungurus
A common source of drinking water in Uttarakhand is the dhara or munguru. It is essentially a drinking water fountain. Water from springs etc is channeled out through carved outlets. The latter are often in the shape of either a simple pipe, carved human figures or animal face masks.

Dhara or Munguru in Uttarakhand

Many urban and rural settlements still depend on dharas for a secure supply of water. For example 2 dharas, Parda dhara and Sipahi dhara supply water to a large population in Nainital. In Gopeshwar, a perennial dhara near a Shiva temple supplies water to the city.

Dhara in Nainital, Uttarakhand

1.3 Guhls / Kuhls
Guhls or Kuhls are gravity contour channels that are used to transport water from hill torrents and perennial streams to agricultural fields in Jammu and Kashmir, Himachal Pradesh and Uttarakhand.

Traditionally, guhls were made of mud and brick with hollow logs of wood or bamboo poles. But over the year, particularly since the state control of water resources, these have been cemented.

Most of the traditional irrigation systems comprised the main guhl, with a number of offshoots depending on the area to be irrigated. The water flow in the offshoots was regulated by opening or blocking the mouth of the offshoot, generally with stones.

The legendary guhl in Maletha village of Tehri Garhwal district is perhaps the most well-known guhl in Uttarakhand. It was built by digging a 100 m tunnel through hard rock about 350 m from its diversion point. The Katyuri kings (9th to 15th century A.D.) built tunnels at several places in Uttarakhand to provide water for otherwise dry villages. Such tunnels can be seen at Lakhanpur, Patal Bhubneshwar, Jakh, Devalgarh and Chandpur even today.

Guhl or Kuhl

1.4 Tankas
In every house of Guda Bishoniyan village in Jodhpur, there is a tanka to collect rainwater. Tankas are underground structures that store rainwater which flows into it through filtered inlets on the external wall of the structure. Depending upon the capacity of the tanka, it can store enough water to feed a family for up to as many as seven months. But apart from tankas, the village also has man-made talaabs and beris to conserve water.

Tankas in Rajasthan

1.5 Johads
A johad, also known as a pokhar or a percolation pond, is a community-owned traditional harvested rainwater storage wetland principally used for effectively harnessing water resources in the states of Rajasthan, Punjab,Haryana and western Uttar Pradesh, that collects and stores water throughout the year especially in the rainy season, to be used for the purpose of recharging the groundwater in the nearby water wells, washing, bathing and drinking by humans and cattle. Some johads also have bricked or stones masonry and cemented ghat (series of steps and/or ramp)

Johad in Haryana

1.6 Kenis or Kennis

Kenis are centuries old mini wells, that have ensured water for the Mullu Kuruma tribe even during the harshest of summers. Kenis are cylindrical structures dug a metre-deep that are ringed with a wooden wall made of toddy palm.

The tribe considers kenis to be a blessing from God. It is customary that every newborn in the hamlet is first given a bath with water drawn from a keni. Also, brides collect a pot of water from keni and offer it at Veliyapura, the abode of their ancestors. When a person dies, the body is bathed with keni water  before the funeral.

Kenis in Kerala

1.7 Baoli 

Baoli refers to a man-made water tank, which was principally used to store water. It is also a source of groundwater. Baolis were built to collect rainwater to be used around the year. Most Baolis have dried up now. While Delhi once had more than a 100 Baolis, the number has now shrunk to 11. Separate Baolis were constructed for drinking and bathing purposes while some were constructed for the travellers.

Agrasen ki Baoli Delhi (dried up)
Agrasen ki Baoli Delhi (with water)

1.8 Ahar Pyne

Ahar-pyne system is an indigenous irrigation technology, which continues to irrigate substantial areas even today in South Bihar plains of India.
Ahars are reservoirs and consist of a major embankment across the line of the drainage with two side embankments running backwards up to the line of the drainage gradually losing their heights because of the gradient of the surface. Thus, an ahar resembles a rectangular catchment basin with only three embankments, and the fourth side left open for the drainage water to enter the catchment basin following the natural gradient of the country.

Under ‘Project jal sanchay’ check dams were created and traditional Aahar-Pyne irrigation system were renovated, accompanied by campaigns to create awareness about rainwater harvesting. The water conservation project has not only improved the availability of water but has also positively impacted farm production in the areas covered by the project.

Ahar Pyne in Bihar
Need for the revival of past structures:

Accroding to a NITI Aayog report published in the year 2018, in India

  • 75% of households do not have drinking water on premise.
  • 84% rural households do not have Piped water access.
  • When water is available, it is likely to be contaminated (up to 70% of our water supply), resulting in nearly 200,000 deaths each year.
  • India is currently ranked 120 among 122 countries in the water quality index.

According to yet another report by Niti Aayog titled ‘Inventory and Revival of Springs in the Himalayas for Water Security. ‘
Most of the Himalayas’ natural springs are depleting and almost half of the perennial springs have already dried up or have become seasonal and tens of thousands of villages are currently facing acute water shortage for drinking and other domestic purposes.

If no action is taken to address this, the demand for water would far outstrip its supply by 2030. (40% population will not have access to water). So it is important to revive the past to make way for the sustainable future.

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