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History of Uttar Pradesh

Legend and ancient periods

The known history of Uttar Pradesh goes back to 4000 years, when the Aryans first made it their home in 2000 BC. This heralded the Vedic age of the Indian civilization and Uttar Pradesh was its home. The Aryans first inhabited the Doab region and the Ghagra plains and called it the Madhya Desha (midland) or Aryavarta (the Aryan land) or Bharatvarsha (the kingdom of Bharat, an important Aryan king). In the ages to come, Aryans spread to other parts of the Indian subcontinent, reaching as far south as Kerala and Sri Lanka.

The ancient kingdom of Kosala in Ayodhya - where, according to Hindu legend, the divine king Rama of the Ramayana epic reigned - was located here. Krishna - another divine king of Hindu legend, who plays a key role in the Mahabharata epic and is revered as the eighth reincarnation (Avatara) of Hindu god Vishnu - was born in the city of Mathura. The aftermath of Mahabharata war is believed to have taken place in the area between Uttar Pradesh and Delhi, during the reign of the Pandava king Yudhishtira.

Control over this region was of vital importance to the power and stability of all of India's major empires, including the Mauryan (320-200 BC), Kushan (100-250 AD) and Gupta (350-600 AD) empires. After the Guptas, the Ganga-Yamuna Doab saw the rise of Kannauj. During the reign of Harshavardhana, Kannauj empire was at its zenith: it covered an area extending from Afghanistan and Kashmir in the west to Bengal in the east and up to the Vindhyas in the south, with its capital at Kannauj. Even today many communities in various parts of India - from Kashmir, Rajasthan, Uttarakhand, Bihar and Bengal - boast of being descendants of migrants from Kannauj, reflecting its glory in the past.

The state is important to Budhism since its early days. The Chaukhandi Stupa marks the spot where Buddha met his first disciples. The Dhamek Stupa in Sarnath commemorates Buddha's first sermon.


Causing the fall of post-Harshavardhana Rajput kings of north India came the Turko-Afghan Muslim rulers and what we call Uttar Pradesh today once again became the catalyst for things to come; much of the state formed part of the various Indo-Islamic empires (Sultanates) after 1000 AD and was ruled from their capital, Delhi. Later, in Mughal times, U.P. became the heart-land of their vast empire; they called the place 'Hindustan'. Hindustan is also often considered another synonym for India.

Agra and Fatehpur Sikri were the capital cities of Akbar, the great Mughal Emperor of India. At their zenith, the Mughal empire covered almost the entire Indian subcontinent (including present day Afghanistan, Pakistan and Bangladesh), which was ruled at different times from Delhi, Agra and Allahabad. But, when the empire disintegrated, their last territory remained confined to the Doab region of Hindustan and Delhi.

Other areas of Hindustan (U.P.) were now ruled by different rulers: Oudh was ruled by the Nawabs of Oudh, Rohilkhand by Afghans, Bundelkhand by the Marathas and Benaras by its own king, while Nepal controlled Kumaon-Garhwal. The state's capital city of Lucknow was established by the Muslim Nawabs of Oudh in the 18th century.

Starting from Bengal in the later half of the 18th century, a series of battles for North Indian lands finally gave the British East India Company accession over this state's territories, including the last Mughal territory of Doab and Delhi as also Bundelkhand, Kumaon and Benaras divisions. Ajmer and Jaipur were also included in this northern territory and they called it the North Western Provinces (of Agra). To day the area may seem big compared to several of the Republic of India's present 'mini-states' - no more than the size of earlier 'divisions' of the British era - but at the time it was one of the smallest British provinces. Its capital shifted twice between Agra and Allahabad.
After the failed first freedom war or the Indian Rebellion of 1857, when things settled, the British made a major revamp, in desperation; they truncated the Delhi region from NWFP of Agra and merged it with Punjab, while the Ajmer-Merwar region was merged with Rajputana. At the same time they included Oudh into the state. The new state was called the North Western Provinces of Agra and Oudh, which in 1902 was renamed as the United Provinces of Agra and Oudh. It was commonly referred to as the United Provinces or its acronym UP.

In 1920, the capital of the province was shifted from Allahabad to Lucknow. The high court continued to be at Allahabad, but a bench was established at Lucknow. Allahabad continues to be an important administrative base of today's Uttar Pradesh and has several administrative headquarters.

Uttar Pradesh continued to be central to Indian culture and politics and was especially important in modern Indian history as a hotbed of both the Indian Independence Movement and the Pakistan Movement.

Modern post-independence

After independence, the state was renamed Uttar Pradesh ("northern province") by its first chief minister, Govind Ballabh Pant. Pant was well-known to Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru and was also popular in the Congress party; he established such a good reputation in Lucknow that Nehru called him to Delhi to make him Home Minister in December 27, 1954. He was succeeded by Dr. Sampoornanand, a university professor and classicist Sanskrit scholar, who was in office till 1957, before becoming governor of Rajasthan.

Sucheta Kripalani was sworn in in October 1963, and became India's first woman chief minister, until a two-month long strike by state employees in March 1967 caused her to step down. The confusion and chaos ended only with the defection of Charan Singh from the Congress with a small set of legislators; he set up a party called the Jana Congress, which formed the first non-Congress government in U.P. and ruled for over a year.

Fellow socialist Hemvati Nandan Bahuguna of the Bharatiya Lok Dal was Chief Minister for part of the 1970s. He was dismissed by the Central Government, along with several other non-Congress chief ministers, shortly after the imposition of the Emergency, when Narain Dutt Tewari - later chief minister of Uttarakhand - became chief minister. The Congress Party lost heavily in 1977 following the lifting of the Emergency, but roared back to power in 1980, when Mrs. Gandhi handpicked the man who would become her son's principal opposition, V.P. Singh, to become Chief Minister.

In 2000, the Himalyan portion of the state, comprising the Garhwal and Kumaon divisions, was formed into a new state called Uttarakhand, meaning the 'Northern Segment' state
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