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India: Uttar Pradesh

Allahabad Fort

Map of Uttar Pradesh

Uttar Pradesh is one of the ancient cradles of Indian culture. It is the rainbow land where the multi-hued Indian culture has blossomed from times immemorial. Blessed with a variety of geographical and cultural diversities, Uttar Pradesh has been the area of activity for historical and modern heroes alike.

Blessed by Ganges and Yamuna, the two revered rivers of Indian mythology, Uttar Pradesh is bound by Bihar in the east, Madhya Pradesh in the south, Rajasthan, Delhi, Himachal Pradesh and Haryana in the west and Nepal together with Uttaranchal, bifurcated from UP in 2000, in the north. It is the fourth largest State in India.

Area 236,286
Population 199,581,477 (2011 census)
Languages Hindi, Urdu, English
Climate Tropical
Summer - March to June (Max. Temp. 45 degree Celcius)
Winter - Nov. to Feb. (Min. Temp 5 degree Celcius)
Mansoon - Jun. to Oct.
Best Time to Visit October through March
Capital City Lucknow
Airports Agra, Allahabad, Gorakhpur, Kanpur, Lucknow, Varanasi
Major Cities Agra, Allahabad, Aligarh, Gorakhpur, Kanpur, Lucknow, Moradabad, Meerut, Varanasi


Uttar Pradesh has a very ancient and colourful history. Being part of the rich fertile plain between Delhi and Patna, its history is closely linked to the history of North India.

Panchmahal, Fatepur Sikri

It is only from the Rig Vedic age that some clear historical account is found. The Aryan colonization from Punjab gradually extended to the east. Expansion of territory saw the creation of new States (Janpadas) and emergence of new people and the centre of culture was shifted to the plains between Saraswati and Ganga ruled by the kingdoms of Kuru, Panchal, Kashi and Kosal. The entire region extending up to Prayag in the east that bore the name of Madhya Desh is the Modern Uttar Pradesh.

Subsequent history got mingled with the Puranas and Hindu scriptures, without much historical records until sixth century BC. In the 6th Century BC, 16 Mahajanpadas engaged in serious skirmishes for supremacy. Out of the above 16 States, eight were in present Uttar Pradesh. Magadha annexed all these Mahajanpadas one by one and became powerful in the entire region. Haryank, Shishunag and Nand dynasties ruled Magadha in succession. The Nandas ruled from 343 BC to 321 BC The Nand Empire extended almost to the whole of India.

In 326 B.C Alexander invaded India. The dissatisfaction against foreign rulers started appearing in 320 BC. The early uprisings were crushed by the successors of Alexander. After raising an army and persuading Indians to support his sovereignty, Chandragupta founded Maurya Empire. As a result the Nand rulers had to give reins of power to Chandragupta. The whole of North India enjoyed peace and prosperity during the reigns of Chandragupta, his son Bindusara and grandson Ashoka. The Mauryan Empire started to break up after the death of Ashoka in 232 BC.

In 182 BC the invading Greeks occupied Kathiwad, Sagal, Mathura and lay a siege on Saket (Ayodhya) but were defeated by Pushyamitra and his grandson Vasumitra. Mathura remained a prominent city in Meander's empire that reigned until 145 BC.

Ghat, Varanasi

During this period Magadha had seen a number of dynasties like Shung dynasty, Kanva dynasty and Satavahanas rise and fall. It was at this time invaders like Sakas, Parthians and Kushanas were drawn towards India. By 60 BC they had set up their Kashatraps in Mathura. The Kushanas mounted an attack on north India around 40 AD. and gradually occupied the whole of north India. Dhamek Stupa, Sarnath

Kanishk was the greatest Kushan ruler of Kushan dynasty that was established by Kujul Kadphises I. His capital was Purushpur of Peshawar and other capital was in Mathura. Uttar Pradesh was part of the Kushan Empire. By third century AD, the Kushan rule in Madhya Desh had collapsed and a number of smaller states emerged, the most powerful being the Nagas.

During the reign of Guptas from 4th century AD, political unity was restored in India and for two centuries Madhya Desh shared general peace and prosperity with other regions. After the decline of the Gupta Empire in 6th century AD, the power was once again decentralised and north India was once again thrown into turmoil. From the first quarter of 8th century till beginning of the 13th century, the history is a bit unclear that has seen anarchy, turmoil and skirmishes.

The founding of the slave dynasty in 1206 AD and the sultanates those succeeded gradually extended their frontiers and the present Uttar Pradesh was part of their empires. When Mohammed Tughlaq died in 1412, the Sayeds and Lodies followed. Sikander Lodi made Agra his second capital.

Defeating Ebrahim Lodi, Babur founded the Mughal Empire. Akbar ascended the throne in 1556 AD ushering in a new era of peace and prosperity with liberalism and integration of Hindu and Muslim cultures that continued during the periods of Jahangir and Shahjahan. Agra continued to be the capital of the Mughal Empire till Shahjahan shifted the capital to Delhi. Within a few decades of Aurangaseb's death, Mughal Empire started to disintegrate.

Zari work, Uttat Pradesh

In Avadh the local governor, Saadat Ali Khan declared independence in 1732 AD and his successors continued to rule up to 1850 AD. Almost simultaneously the Rohillas also established an independent State in Rohilkhand and continued to rule up to 1774 AD, when the then Nawab of Avadh defeated them with the help of East India Company. The Marathas tried for sometime to establish themselves in the Ganga-Yamuna region, but their defeat at Panipat in 1761 AD put an end to their expansionist ambitions.

The third Nawab of Avadh, Shuja-ud-daula (1754-1775 AD) had entered into an alliance with Mir Qasim, the fugitive Nawab of Bengal, against the Company, In 1784. Mir Qasim was defeated. The British pursued a policy to usurp large territories by coercing and cajoling the Indian rulers and were named as Conquered and Ceded Provinces.

In 1816 AD, the districts of present Kumaon, Garhwal and Dehra Dun were taken from the Gurkha invaders under the Treaty of Sanguli and annexed to British territories forming the North-Western Provinces in 1836 AD. Pursuing a policy of annexing States, Lord Dalhousie ultimately annexed Avadh in 1856 AD. At the same time Jhansi was also annexed.

In 1877 AD, this large territory was called North Western Provinces of Agra and Avadh. The name was again changed in 1902 AD to United Provinces of Agra and Avadh. In 1937 AD it was renamed as United Provinces. After independence, in January 12, 1950, it got its present name of Uttar Pradesh. When India became a republic on January 26, 1950, Uttar Pradesh became a state of the Republic of India. The borders of Uttar Pradesh was modified in 2000 AD after bifurcating Uttarkhand from UP to form Uttaranchal, a new state in the Republic of India.