Uttar Pradesh is the microcosm of India, multicultural, multiracial, conglomeration of fabulous wealth of nature-hills, valleys, rivers, forests, and vast plains. Viewed as the largest tourist destination in India, Uttar Pradesh boasts of 35 million domestic tourists. Its tourism promotion budget is bigger than that of government of India and half of the states of the Indian union combined. Uttar Pradesh is studded with places of tourist attractions across a wide spectrum of interest to people of diverse interests.
The seventh most populated state of the world, Uttar Pradesh can lay claim to be the oldest seat of India's culture and civilization. It has been characterized as the cradle of Indian civilization and culture because it is around the Ganga that the ancient cities and towns sprang up.
Uttar Pradesh lies between latitude 24°-31°N and longitude 77°-84°E. Area wise, it is the fourth largest state of India. In sheer magnitude, it is half of the area of France, three times of Portugal, four times of Ireland, seven times of Switzerland, ten times of Belgium and a little bigger than England.
Uttar Pradesh has an enormous historical legacy. The renowned epics of Hinduism-the Ramayana and the Mahabharata-were written in Uttar Pradesh. Uttar Pradesh also had the glory of being home to Lord Buddha. It has now been established that Gautama Buddha spent most of his life in eastern Uttar Pradesh, wandering from place to place preaching his sermons.
The empire of Chandra Gupta Maurya extended nearly over the whole of Uttar Pradesh. Edicts of this period have been found at Allahabad, Varanasi, and Dehradun. After the fall of the Mauryas, the present state of Uttar Pradesh was divided into four parts: Surseva, North Panchal, Kosal, and Kaushambi. The western part of Uttar Pradesh saw the advent of the Shaks in the second century BC. Not much is known of the history of the state during the times of Kanishka and his successors.
The Gupta Empire ruled over nearly the whole of Uttar Pradesh, and it was during this time that culture and architecture reached its peak. The decline of the Guptas coincided with the attacks of Huns from Central Asia who succeeded establishing their influence right up to Gwalior in Madhya Pradesh. The seventh century witnessed the taking over of Kannauj by Harshavardhan.
In 1526, Babur laid the foundation of the Mughal dynasty. He defeated Ibrahim Lodi in the battle of Panipat. Babar carried out extensive campaign in various parts of Uttar Pradesh. He defeated the Rajputs near Fatehpur Sikri while his son Humayun conquered Jaunpur and Ghazipur, after having brought the whole of Awadh under his control. After Babur's death (1530), his son Humayun forfeited the empire after being defeated at the hands of Sher Shah Suri at Kannauj. After the death of Sher Shah Suri in 1545, Humayun once again regained his empire but died soon after.
His son Akbar proved to be the greatest of Mughals. His established a unified empire over nearly the whole of the India. During his period, Agra became the capital of India and became heartland of culture and arts. Akbar laid the foundation of modern Indian administration in many respects. His reign saw peace, tranquility, and progress. He constructed huge forts in Agra and Allahabad. He shifted his capital to a city called Fatehpur Sikri close to Agra that for some years became the hub of administration.
In 1605, Akbar died and was succeeded by his son Jahangir. The period of Jahangir saw arts and culture reach a new high. However, politically and administratively, the real power during this time rested with the queen Nurjahan.
In 1627, after the death of Jahangir, his son Shahjahan ascended the throne. The period of Shahjahan is known as the golden period of India in art, culture, and architecture. It was during his reign that the classical wonder Taj Mahal was built in memory of his wife Mumtaz Mahal. He also constructed the famous Red Fort in Delhi as well as the Jama Masjid and Moti Mahal.
During his later life, Shahjahan was deposed by his son Aurangzeb. Aurangzeb shifted his capital to Delhi, where he kept his father Shahjahan imprisoned until his death. The régime of Aurangzeb saw innumerable revolts and riots; the whole of Rajputana and the Deccan became restive. However, it was during his reign that the Mughal Empire reached its peak in terms of geographic expansion. But with the death of Aurangzeb in 1707, the Mughal Empire declined at an amazing pace.
Modern-day Uttar Pradesh saw the rise of important freedom fighters on the national scenario. Lal Bahadur Shastri, Jawaharlal Nehru, Smt. Indira Gandhi, and Charan Singh were only a few of the important names who played a significant role in India's freedom movement and also rose to become the prime ministers of this great nation.
Uttar Pradesh has a long list of fairs and festivals. More than 2,230 festivals are held annually. Some are organized at several places simultaneously while others have only local importance. Festivals and feasts are linked with the golden harvest-the sensuous spring, the reverence for mythology, religion or in honor of the past great men. These are zestfully celebrated with song, dance, and merriment; others with solemnity, fervor, fast, or feast. These fairs and festivals help the people keep the culture vibrant and promote artistic activities.
One important festival of Uttar Pradesh is Navratri-a nine-day festival dedicated to the Primordial Energy, known as Durga, the consort of Shiva, which begins on the first day of the bright half of the month of Ashvina. Diwali is another prominent festival devoted to Lakshmi, the Goddess of Wealth.
The largest festival-fair held in India, drawing millions of people, is the Kumbha Mela. It is held every 12 years at Prayag in Allahabad. In between, the Ardh Kumbha Mela is held every six years at Allahabad and Haridwar.
Holi is another gay and colorful occasion that marks the onset of the gathering of the harvest. The most interesting celebrations are held at Barsana, when the women of the village go out to Nandgaon, the home of Lord Krishna, and challenge the men to throw color on them. This festival is also known as Lathmar Holi.
The entire state, except for the northern region, has a tropical monsoon climate. In the plains, January temperatures range from 12.5°C-17.5°C and May records 27.5°-32.5°C, with a maximum of 45°C. Rainfall varies from 1,000-2,000 mm in the east to 600-1,000 mm in the west.
The Taj at Agra is, of course, the best place to start with. This superb specimen of Mughal architecture is a veritable poetry in stone constructed by Shahjahan in memory of his wife Mumtaz. Located 40 km away is Fatehpur Sikri built by Akbar.Almora is a visitor's delight. There is the temple of Kaushik Devi on the Kashyap Hill. According to the Puranas, Kaushik Devi appeared from the body of Goddess Parvati to kill the demons Shumbh-Nishumbh.Badrinath is situated at an altitude of about 10,500 feet above sea level at a distance of 384 km from Haridwar. Important places on the route from Rishikesh are Muni-ki-Reti, Dev Prayag, and Kirtinagar.
The Corbett National Park, situated in a region between the Himalayan and Shivalik ranges on both the banks of Ramganga in northern Uttar Pradesh, is renowned all over the world for its scenic beauty and wildlife. It is a prominent center of attraction for Indian and foreign tourists alike. It has the distinction of being the first national park in India.
Situated at a distance of 40 km from Agra, Fatehpur Sikri has the mausoleum of the famous saint Sheikh Salim Chisti. The mausoleum is in the premises of a mosque and was built during the reign of Akbar.
The Gangotri Bhagirathi temple is situated at a height of 3,140 m above sea level. It is in the vicinity of the sacred rock on which King Bhagirath used to worship Lord Shiva and where the Bhagirathi first descended on the earth from the Heavens. The Bhagirathi flows for some distance from here towards the north and, hence, this place is known as Gangotri.
Haridwar is the place where the mountainous course of the Ganga, the most holy river of the Hindus, ends to enter the plains. Haridwar is a prominent center of Hindu pilgrimage. There are several temples and shrines here and a dip in the holy Har-ki-Pauri has been described a sure way to salvation.
The Kedarnath Temple is situated at a height of about 11,500 feet above sea level under the Kedarnath Mandal. The pilgrims can use motor transport to quickly reach Phata from where it is a 27-km walk to Kedarnath temple. The entire distance between Rishikesh to Kedarnath is about 400 km.
Kushinagar is located about 30 km from Deoria, near Kasia town, Kushinagar is among the important Buddhist centers. Lord Buddha attained Nirvana here.
Lucknow shot to fame during the period of the Nawabs of Awadh. Asaf-ud-daula built the Roomi Darwaza and the Bada Imambada. The Asafi Mosque, Daulat Khana, the Residency, Bibiapur Kothi, and Chowk Market were also built by Asaf-ud-daula. Ghazi-ud-din Haider built the Shahnajaf, Moti Mahal, Mubarak Manzil, and tombs of Saadat Ali and Khurshidzadi. The Hussainabad Imambada, Bari Jama Masjid, Hussainabad Baradari, and a few other buildings were built by Mohammad Ali Shah.
Mathura it is one of the seven holy cities of Hinduism. It is regarded as the birthplace of Lord Krishna.Mussoorie is situated at an altitude of 6,500 ft above sea level, 35 km away from Dehradun, is Mussoorie. Known as the queen of hill resorts, it is the most picturesque hill station of Uttar Pradesh.
Naini Tal. The vast beautiful lake is among the many attractions of Naini Tal. It is surrounded by hills on three sides.Nanda Devi is the fourth highest mountain peak in the world. The Hindus visit the place every twelfth year during the month of Bhadra.
Pindari Glacier is this beautiful spot is at a height of 3943 m in Almora district. During the journey from Almora to Pindari, flowers of varied hues, beautiful forests and snows draw the attention of the tourists. The Pindar River also originates from this glacier.
Allahabad is situated at the confluence of Ganga and Yamuna, Allahabad or Prayag, also known as Tirtharaj, is a famous pilgrim center of India.Sarnath occupies a very important place among Buddhist shrines. After Enlightenment in Bodh Gaya, the Buddha preached his first sermon here.
Varanasi is among the most ancient cities of India. It has many beautiful temples, including the famous Vishwanath temple. Vrindavan is situated at a distance of 10 km from Mathura. There are about 4,000 temples in Vrindavan.