History of Garhwal

Garhwal is smack in the middle of the Himalayas, with Himachal Pradesh in the West and North-West; Tibet in the North; the plains of Western Uttar Pradesh in the South and Kumaon in the East. Historically, it has been described in the ancient text of Kedarkhand to extend from Gangadwar (modern day Hardwar) in the South to the high mountains in the North, and from the Tamsa (Tons) river in the in the West to Buddhachal (probably the Nanda Devi group of peaks between Garhwal and Kumaon) in the East. Today it is an administrative division of the raising state of Uttaranchal, comprising the districts of Chamoli, Dehradun, Pauri, Tehri and Uttarkashi. The history of Garhwal is older than that of the Ramayan and Maha- bharata. It is a land of popular myths, like that of Lord Shiva appearing as Kirat, of Urvashi, Shakuntala and the Kauravas and Pandavas. Worship of Lord Shiva is pre-dominant in this region. In earliest times, Garhwal was known as Kedarkhand, or the region of Kedarnath. Scriptural texts mention a number of tribes that inhabited the region, such as the Sakas, the Nagas, Khasas, Hunas and Kiratas. The Nagas were a mysterious race whose traces are still to be found in the Hills. The hooded snake was sacred to them, hence their name. (Naga-Snake).
The Khasas were the dominant race in the Garhwal and Kumaon Himalayas till the coming of the Rajputs and Brahmins from the plains. According to one version, Garhwal derives its name from the fifty two forts, ?garhs,? that had come together to form a loose confederacy. The first recorded name of this region was Kartipur. Later on, according to another tradition, since it was surrounded on all sides by mountains - it came to be known us "Giri - avil", which, by passage of time, got trans- formed into Garhwal.
Bhanupratapa was the first known king and, later on, his son-in-law, Kanakpal took over. Their kingdom was known as Chandpur Garhi. King Kanakpal came to Garhwal from Rajasthan (Gujardesh) of the region Bagarh. He brought with him the Bagerhi language, therefore Garhwali and Bagerhi language, written and spoken, are very similar to each other.
Early History
Garhwal has been held in high esteem by the Hindus. The Vishnu Purana, Mahabharata and Varahasamhita scriptures mention a number of tribes dwelling on the borders of the Bharat of that time and amongst them the Sakas, Nagas, Khasas, Hunas and Kiratas probably lived in the Garhwal- Kumaon region of today. The Sakas were perhaps the earliest ruling races of the Kumaon hills. They have also been referred to as the Sacae by classical writers of history and as the Indo-Scythians by modern ethnographers. The royal house of, both, the Kumaon and Garhwal hills are probably descendants of the famous Salivahana. There are many traces of the mysterious race known as the Nagas. They were evidently a race for whom the hooded snake was sacred and later legends have identified the members of the tribe with their emblem. Writing the history of India, Wheeler (as cited by Walton 1910) describes them in the following words, "In Garhwal we have the traces of the Nagas in the names of pattis Nagpur and Urgam and the universal tradition of their residence in the valley of the Alaknanda. At the present day, Sheshnag is honoured at Pandukeshwar, Bhakal Nag at Ratgaon, Sangal Nag at Talor, Banpur Nag at Margaon, Lohandea Nag at Jelam in the Niti valley and Pushkara Nag at Nagnath in Nagpur."
The name Khasa has a very wide significance. The Khasas were the dominant race in the Garhwal and Kumaon hills till the advent of the Rajputs and Brahmins from the plains. Some authors are of the opinion that the Khasas, like the Nagas, were once a very powerful race and came to settle down in Garhwal from central Asia. Today's Khasas profess to be Rajputs, who have fallen from their once honourable position by the necessity of living under conditions where the strict observance of the ceremonial usages of their religion was difficult. They are, perhaps, numerically the most dominant race in the Garhwal hills, though the line of division between them and later immigrants from the plains has now become faint. 
In the early ages, Garhwal was ruled by a number of petty princes who at a later date assumed the form of a loose federation or Baoni of about fifty two states. It is not very clear whether these chiefs owned the suzerainty of the more powerful kings of the plains. On the basis of local traditions and ancient inscriptions, it can be assumed that two or three chiefdoms or principalities were more important.
These are, first, Brahmapura described by Huein Tsang, the famous Chinese traveller in 629 A.D. Though the exact borders of this kingdom are not known, it must have been somewhere in central Garhwal, probably Barahat in Tehri; and second, Jyotirdham or Joshimath, which was the capital of another important ancient kingdom that covered parts of present day Garhwal and Kumaon. It was ruled by the Katyuris.
Rajas of Garhwal (1000 to 1790) 
The period from 1000 (approx.) to 1790 can be described as the medieval period in the history of Garhwal. This period also saw the rise and fall of the Muslim and Mughal rule in the rest of India. These developments also had a bearing on the history of Garhwal. In the early years of this period, Garhwal was ruled by numerous small chiefs or rulers amongst whom the Pala dynasty was one of the most prominent. There are a few indications of the nature of the rise to suzerainty of the Pala dynasty which in later days ruled a large part of what is now Uttarkashi, Tehri, Chamoli and Pauri districts. It was not until the reign of Ajai Pal (1358 to 1370) that the Palas acquired the hegemony over a large part of Garhwal by subjugating the Khasa rajas. Before this time, there were very small chiefdoms under a federation which had the protection of the powerful kings of the plains, whose capital was near Indraprastha (Delhi).
Son Pal was the first of the rajas of Garhwal about whom there exist precise records. His headquarters were in the Bhilangana valley. Many Khasa rajas owned allegiance to him and he had sway over western Garhwal, which included the pilgrim route to Gangotri. A prince of the Panwar house of Dharanagar came on a pilgrimage to holy places in the hills and visited Raja Som Pal on his way. The raja had no son and was so pleased with the young prince that he gave his daughter in marriage and a part of Chandpur pargana as dowry. This young prince was Kadil Pal.Ajai Pal, a descendant of Kadil Pal, brought the capital from Chandpur to Devalgarh in the 14th century and is considered to be the king who attempted to bring the scattered states of Garhwal under one power or authority.
Bahadur or Balbahadra Sah was the first king who dropped the surname 'Pal' and adopted the title of 'Sah', which is still borne by the descendants of the erstwhile state of Tehri. According to the legend, Emperor Bahadur Khan Lodi of Delhi came to Garhwal for a holiday. He was so pleased with the reception accorded to him by the Raja of Tehri that he conferred the title 'Sah' upon the Raja. This visit may have taken place in the year 1353. Man Sah, one of the descendants of Bahadur Sah attained prominence around 1537. He was succeeded by Sama Sah and then by Dularam Sah, who was the first raja to come in direct contact with the Chand kings who were gaining power in Kumaon during that period.
There was a brief but decisive war with the Chands of Kumaon during the reign of Dularam Sah in Garhwal and Rudra Chand (1565 - 1597) in Kumaon. The latter was supreme in Kumaon and wanted to add Badhan in the Pindar valley (part of Garhwal state) to his dominion. The route to the Pindar valley lay through Someshwar and Katyur valley, which was then held by Sukhal Deo, the last reigning king of the ancient Katyuri family. Dularam Sah promised his protection if Sukhal Deo would aid him, and sending a force towards Gwaldam and one towards Ganai, occupied the passes towards Badhangarhi. Porkhu, who was Rudra Chand?s general, proceeded with a small band of veteran warriors through Katyur to the Pindar valley. However, his supply lines were cut off by the Katyuri raja. Soon after, a Padyar Rajput killed general Porkhu near Gwaldam. The Raja of Garhwal had promised a land grant of a day's march to anyone who would bring him the head of the Kumaoni general. The Padyar Kajput carried the head of the dead general to Srinagar and received his promised reward. After this the Kumaoni soldiers fled to Kumaon. 
However, Rudra Chand continued to harass the frontiers of Garhwal. He even overran the Katyur valley. Rudra Chand died in 1597 and was succeeded by his son, Lakshmi Chand. The latter, too, raided the frontier tracts of Garhwal several times but was repulsed with considerable loss. Mahipati Sah was the ruler of Garhwal when Lakshmi Chand was at the throne in Kumaon. He changed the capital from Dewalgarh to Srinagar. He consolidated his rule over most parts of Garhwal. This hilly region became very prosperous during this period. There existed mines of copper and lead, while gold was obtained by washing the riverine sediments in the Alaknanda and Bhagirathi valleys and along the Sona river in the Patli dun valley. In 1654-55, during the reign of Pirthi Sah, the Muslim rulers of Delhi invaded Garhwal. A force was sent under Khalil Ullah Khan, who speedily overran the Dehradun valley, but did not penetrate deep into the hills lying further north. After this, Pirthi Sah made peace with the rulers of Delhi. The conflict with Kumaon continued even during and after the region of Pirthi Sah. The ruler of Kumaon was Baz Bahadur, who fought on the side of Khalil Ullah, when the Muslim force invaded Garhwal. He made two simultaneous attacks on Badhan in the Pindar valley and on Lohba. The frontier fort of Juniyagarh was seized in the process. He then attacked the Tibetans in the north and during this campaign, the Raja of Garhwal took advantage of his absence and attacked the Kumaoni garrisons to recover his territory. At this Baz Bahadur reacted very quickly and drove the Garhwalis back. A hasty peace was then signed at Srinagar. The conflict with the Kumaonis continued even after the death of Pirthi Sah and Baz Bahadur. In fact, this continued for more than two hundred years. This was primarily in the form of raids and counter raids into each other's territory.
Pradip Sah, one of the most important rulers of Garhwal, came to the throne in 1717. He was able to make temporary peace with the kings of Kumaon. This period brought prosperity to both these regions. This prosperity attracted the attention of Nazib Khan, the Rohilla chief of Saharanpur, who invaded and took control of Dehradun in 1757 after feeble resistance from the Raja of Garhwal. This control continued till Khan?s death in 1770. In 1745, the RohiIlas under Hafiz Rahmat invaded Kumaon with a large force and occupied Almora. Kalyan Chand, the ruler of Kumaon at that time, asked for assistance from the ruler of Garhwal, who after some hesitation decided to help. The forces of Garhwal and Kumaon grouped near Dwarahat but suffered a humiliating defeat at the hands of the Rohillas. The latter even threatened Srinagar and the ruler of Garhwal was forced to pay one lakh rupees on behalf of Kalyan Chand, after which the Rohillas withdrew completely from Kumaon. After this, the Chand dynasty in Kumaon became very weak and the rulers of Garhwal often interfered in the affairs of the state of Kumaon.
Gurkha Invasion to British Rule (1790 to 1815)
In 1710, the Gurkhas of Nepal (ruled by Ran Bahadur) invaded Kumaon and occupied Almora. They attacked Garhwal the next year and penetrated as far as Langurgarhi, a strong fortress near the present township of Lansdowne. However, the three year long siege of Langurgarhi had to be lifted when the news of the Chinese invasion of Nepal reached them. All the Gurkha troops were withdrawn. The Raja of Garhwal agreed to pay an annual tribute of twenty five thousand rupees and keep an agent at the court in Kathmandu. In 1803, a remarkable and highly successful effort was made to conquer Garhwal by the Thapas from Nepal. Ever since the siege of Langurgarhi in 1792, which had to be lifted, small groups or parties of Gurkhas had time and again plundered the border parganas (old districts) of Garhwal. They took hundreds of prisoners in these raids and sold them into slavery. Most villages were burnt and the countryside devastated. On the other hand, the people of Garhwal, too, made bloody reprisals and there ensued border warfare. These wars were constant deeds of wanton cruelty and ferocious revenge. Many fresh attempts were made to finally capture Langurgarhi. In 1803, taking advantage of a devastating earthquake that hit Garhwal and Kumaon, that killed almost one third of the population, the Gurkhas assembled a large force under Amar Singh Thapa, Hastidal Chautariya, Bam Sah Chautariya and invaded Garhwal. At that time, Pradhaman Sah was the ruler of Garhwal. 
He was very feeble and weak willed. He made no serious attempt to fight and the major passes were left unguarded. He fled through the Dehradun valley, which was occupied by the invaders in the winter of 1803. Later, the Raja of Garhwal assembled a force at Landhaura near Hardwar and attempted to recover the Dehradun valley. He was killed in action at Khurbura in Dehradun. His son, Sudarshan Sah escaped to British territory and Pritam Sah, the deceased raja's brother was taken to Nepal as prisoner. Amar Chand Thapa, and his son Ranjor Thapa, began to rule both Garhwal and Kumaon. Preparations were made to expand their conquests towards the west in the year 1804. From the records of the temples and the old revenue records it is evident that Hastidal Sah and Sardar Bhakti Thapa were two able administrators of Garhwal between 1803 and 1815. During the tenure of the former, there was a high level of prosperity in the Dehradun valley. His foreign policy was also vigorous. He speedily put an end to the raids into the Dehradun valley from Punjab and Saharanpur by making a terrible example of a band of marauding Sikhs. In Garhwal itself, Kazi Amar Singh Thapa was for sometime the governor. Here the principal aim of the Gurkha rule was to extract the maximum amount of tribute or revenue. As a result, he adopted the administrative system of the rajas on which they grafted a military autocracy. Srinagar was the capital and main town of Garhwal. The state was divided into three commands whose headquarters were at Srinagar, Chandpurgarhi and Langurgarhi. Minor civil magistracies were filled by officers having the military title of faujdar. The government was ruthless but weak. The civil magistrates and officers were corrupt and there was a tendency to keep the fines and revenue collected by them for their personal gain. 'The central administration gave the local officers a free hand and as long as they met the revenue target allotted to them, no questions were asked. By and large, there was exploitation of the people. 'Their condition became very miserable. Defaulters, who had no means of paying the heavy fines and other demands made by the Gurkhali officials were sold as slaves.
In 1814, Raper (as cited by Walton, 1910) wrote, ''The people are most vehement in their complaints against the Gurkhalis, of whom they stand in the utmost dread, but from the slavish habits and ideas they have contracted, it is doubtful if a spirit of resistance or independence could be excited amongst them. The villagers in Garhwal afford a striking proof of the destruction caused by the Gurkhalis; uncultivated fields, ruined and deserted huts, present themselves in every direction. The temple lands, alone, are well tilled. The Dun was ruined; under the Gurkhalis, it produced about one-fourth of the revenue realized by the Garhwali Rajas."  It is evident that the Gurkha rule in Garhwal was very harmful, both, for the people and the land. The most negative features of their rule were that the villages were deserted, agriculture was ruined and the population was forced to migrate to the adjoining kingdoms as refugees. Over two lakh people were sold as slaves and taken to Nepal or other kingdoms. Bam Sah and Hastidal, the governors of Garhwal were disposed to indulgence. The officials were corrupt and treated the people very mercilessly, thus the morale of the people became very low and they were rendered inefficient.
Nepal-British War, British invasion & British Rule
After the Gurkhas had established their hold over Garhwal and Kumaon, their borders came directly in touch with those of the British territory in Gorakhpur and elsewhere. They began to raid territory controlled by the British and this forced Lord Hastings to take the decision to declare war. It was decided to attack Nepal simultaneously from as many points a possible. As a result, Maj. Gen. Merley was sent with a force of eight thousand men to Bihar with orders to directly march to Kathmandu, while Maj. Gen. Wood was sent at the head of a four thousand strong force to Gorakhpur. These campaigns do not directly have a bearing on the history of Garhwal. Gen. Gillespie was sent with three thousand five hundred men to enter Garhwal through the Dun valley and dislodge Amar Singh Thapa from Srinagar. He found the Gurkhas firmly entrenched at Fort Kalanga, to the east of Dehradun. After an attempt to storm the fort failed, siege was laid to the fort on 26th October, 1813. Many unsuccessful assaults were launched. These were gallantly resisted by the Gurkhas. The General himself brought up the reserves but was killed. At last, it was discovered that there was no water in the fort and the garrison was compelled to resort to a spring at some distance. This was cut off and the fire from the batteries resumed the next day, doing great damage to the fort and its gallant defenders. On the night of 30th November, Balbhadra Thapa, with the surviving seventy men, evacuated the fort and escaped to a neighbouring hill where he was joined by about 300 other Gurkhas who were waiting to find their way into the besieged fort. This regrouped force was confronted by Maj. Ludlow but they escaped to the Jauntgarh fort, where it successfully withstood a siege by a British force. In the meanwhile, after razing Kalanga to the ground, Col. Carpenter joined the forces under Gen. Martindell and they occupied Nahan. A third Gurkha force led by Amar Singh Thapa opposed Gen. Ochterlony on the banks of the Satluj river. He skillfully forced them to evacuate their strong posts and concentrate at Malaun. Thus, the present campaign remained inconclusive and this made Lord Hastings more anxious to gain a foothold in the Kumaon hills.
In 1815, an expedition to Kumaon was sent under Lt. Col. Gardiner. The hills of Garhwal and Kumaon had been drained of soldiers to supply the urgent calls of the Gurkhas both in the east and the west. This further complicated matters for the Gurkhas. The British force captured Almora on 27th April and the Gurkhas under Bam Sah evacuated Kumaon. Amar Singh resisted Gen. Ochterlony at Malaun but his force slowly deserted him and fled into the hills in an attempt to reach Nepal. When only 200 men remained he gave up the forts of Malaun and Jaithak. The local Garhwalis overran the fort of Lobha and mercilessly killed the Gurkha soldiers there. Thus, when the Gurkha power was broken due to the invasion by the British force, the Garhwalis exactcd full payment of the debt of blood and cruelty. Isolated bands were massacred or driven away to die of exposure and starvation in the rugged mountains. Everywhere, the people of Garhwal took revenge and meted out to their oppressors a savage punishment for their deeds of cruelty in the past decades of Gurkha rule.
In 1811, Sudarshan Sah, the deposed ruler of Garhwal, had promised to give the British the Dehradun valley and Chandi should they drive the Gurkhas out of Garhwal. When the Gurkhas moved out of the region, Sudarshan Sah was living in great poverty in Dehradun. In the year 1815, W. Fraser was authorised to hand over to the Raja the parts of Garhwal situated to the west of the Alaknanda river, except Dehradun valley and Rawain pargana lying between the rivers Alaknanda and Bhagirathi. As a result, in July that year, Fraser directed the inhabitants of the area lying to the east of the Mandakini river as far as Rudraparyag, and to the east of the Mandakini river above that point, to consider themselves under the authority of the commissioner of Kumaon. G.W. Traill, an assistant commissioner, was sent to Garhwal to introduce British authority in that province and to conclude a settlement of the land revenue. In 1818, Traill complained of the disorderly state of the Rawain pargana, the inhabitants having been relieved of their fear of both the Gurkhas and the British being accused of having taken to their old occupation of plundering the pilgrims to Gangotri and Kedarnath. The area was formally annexed to Tehri in 1824, though attempts to control the inhabitants were not very successful till a later period. In the meanwhile, there arose a boundary dispute between the states of Bushahr and Tehri-Garhwal over the claim to Undra Kunwar taluka which had been included in the grant made to the Raja of Garhwal by Fraser. On the other hand, Pritam Sah, the uncle of the Raja, after his release from prison in Nepal through the good offices of Gardiner, claimed the zamindari rights in the parganas of Garhwal and Dehradun ceded to the British by the Gurkhas.
Traills' administration of Garhwal came to an end in 1835. His tenure was acknowledged by the English historians to have been marked by a just and progressive administration though many decisions were taken on an arbitrary basis.There were also charges of misuse of power by the officials. On the whole, this period was one during which the foundations of the present style of development in Garhwal were laid. After Traill's departure from the scene, there came a brief pcriod of wavering uncertainty and comparative misrule. According to Bird (as cited by Walton, 1910), "The system of government had been framed to suit the particular character and scope of one individual. Traill left the province orderly, prosperous and comparatively civilized but his machinery was not easily worked by another hand. There was no law and the law giver had been withdrawn. The Board of Commissioners and the Government, who had remained quiescent while the province was in the hands of an administrator of tried ability and equal to all emergencies found it necessary to reassert their control and to lay down specified rules."
Batten succeeded Traill in 1836 and remained in charge till 1856. In the year 1839, the province of Kumaon was divided into two districts of (British)Garhwal and Kumaon, each under a senior assistant commissioner having the same powers as the collector has in the plains. Beckett was in charge of Garhwal district when the Great Revolt broke out in 1857. However, it did not have a significant impact on this peaceful region. The passes into the hills and entrances to the valleys were carefully guarded. Forces were sent wherever there was likelihood of any disturbance. Some freedom fighters tried to take over Srinagar but were quickly overpowered by a company of Gurkhas sent from the garrison at Almora.
Independence Struggle & Post-independence
The people of Garhwal were gradually sucked into the struggle for freedom that had gained considerable momentum in most parts of India, particularly at the beginning of the 20th century. Garhwal produced patriots like Sridev Suman, H.N. Bahuguna and Chander Singh Garhwali. The Congress party gained a strong foothold in the hills. As the climax of the freedom movement approached, more and more Garhwalis came forward to make sacrifices for throwing off the British yoke. The struggle for independence was more marked in places like Dehradun, Rishikesh, Srinagar, Tehri, Uttarkashi and Pauri. Pandit Nehru and other national stalwarts used to visit Dehradun to provide leadership and guidance to the people of Garhwal in this movement.
The country gained independence in 1947. British Garhwal directly became a part of the Indian Union while Tehri Garhwal state acceded to it. At present, this tract consists of the districts of Dehradun, Pauri, Tehri, Uttarkashi and Chamoli which are a part of the to be constituted state of Uttaranchal. This region has embarked on the path of development. The people elect representatives to the state assembly and to the Lok Sabha. Garhwal is also famous for its peasant movements, both, against the oppressions of the monarchy, the high-handedness of the British, and also against the depredation of its forests carried out by forest contractors. The last gave rise to the famous Chipko movement against the felling of trees, which became famous throughout the world for its non-violent character and people?s involvement. A long standing demand since Independence had been for the formation of a separate hill state called Uttarakhand. This demand reached a climax in the nineties, and, once again, the people resorted to a successful non-violent campaign for their due rights. The demand was finally met by the Indian Parliament in the monsoon session of 2000. The act has received the assent of the President of India and by November, 2000, the new state of Uttarakhand will have been constituted.

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