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14 May,2012

 

By A Correspondent

 

Uttar Pradesh, or UP as it is commonly called, is the land of culture and creative excellence, of historical and religious importance, of music and dance, and of vast cities and developing villages – a state that assimilates outsiders without any grudges. And to top it all, the state seems to have changed gears as far as economic growth is concerned and is moving ahead full throttle.

 

With an area of 93,933 sq mi, it is a little bigger than England. This despite the Himalayan portion of the state, being formed into a new state ‘Uttaranchal’ (now Uttarakhand) in the year 2000. It, also, is the most populous state in India, with a population of 199,581,477 million people as of 1 March 2011. Though a large part of this population, still resides in villages, the urban population of the state is 44.4 million – the second largest (11.8%), after Maharashtra. And as for the economic potential, it is the second largest state-economy in India, contributing 8.34 percent of India’s total GDP in the year 2010. During the 11th fiveyear plan the state registered a 7.28 percent GDP growth rate against a target of 6.10 percent – it was one of five states exceeding their targets. (As per September 2011 data) And this is not a flash in the pond – but a definite sign of times to come.

 

Another interesting paradigm shift is in the shopping pattern. The number of shopping malls mushrooming in the state are a clear indication that consumer here is evolved, and comfortable shopping in malls. Interestingly, it is not only Lucknow, Kanpur and Noida that is seeing mall culture – malls are present in the cities like Moradabad, Bareilly, Meerut, Mathura Varanasi, Bijnour and Ghaziabad as well. Though Hindi and Urdu are the official languages of the state, it has a vast linguistic diversity in terms of dialects used – Awadhi, Bundeli, Braj Bhasha, Kannauji Bhojpuri and Bagheli are the major native languages.

 

A Brief History:

 

From the prehistoric times it has been at the forefront of the Indian history, and imprints of the same can be witnessed in its culture and heritage.

 

A few highlights from its glorious history include:

 

  • As per mythology, the setting of the Mahabharata is around Hastinapur, now in Western UP; Ramayana is set in and around Ayodhya, the birthplace of Rama and Krishna is said to be born in Mathura and brought up in nearby Vrindavan.
  • Sometime between the 6th and 4th centuries bc, Gautam Buddha delivered his first sermon at Sarnath, near Varanasi. He is said to have attained nirvana at Kushinagar in eastern Uttar Pradesh.
  • Moving to the Mogul period, Akbar constructed a grand new capital, Fatehpur Sikri, near Agra. And later, Shah Jahan built Taj Mahal at Agra.
  • Interestingly the state has been called UP (United Provinces of Agra and Oudh (later shortened to the United Provinces)) since 1902, when British captured the area.
  • The Indian Mutiny 1857, was sparked by a mutiny of soldiers at Meerut.
  • The state gave India many of the most important nationalist political leaders, such as Motilal Nehru, Pandit Madan Mohan Malaviya, Jawaharlal Nehru, and Purushottam Das Tandon.
  • Since independence, the state has given the country several prime ministers, including Jawaharlal Nehru, Indira Gandhi, and Atal Bihari Vajpayee.

 

Culture:

Uttar Pradesh has always been one of the cultural hubs of India. Indo-Islamic syncretised culture of the medieval period also blossomed here. The tehzeeb of Lucknow is attributed to Muslim Nawabs of Awadh. Music, dance, literature, poetry, arts and crafts flourished under royal patronage.

 

Many a well known writers, poets, ghazal singers were born and flourished here. To name just a few: Munshi Premchand, Mahadevi Verma, Suryakant Tripathi ‘Nirala’, Harivanshrai Bacchan, Sumitra Nandan Pant, Mahavir Prasad Dwiwedi Ustad Bismillah Khan, Birju Maharaj, Pt. Ravi Shankar Begum Akhtar and Rasoolan Bai,

 

Dance and music:

The rich cultural heritage of the state has translated itself into an amazing variety of dance and music – a variety of classical, semi classical and folk genres.

 

Classical:

Kathak, a beautiful classical dance genre originated here. It was traditionally performed in temple confines. However, it was later given patronage by the rulers of Awadh and blossomed. Today it is one of the most popular classical dance formats in the country. Khayal is a semi-classical genre of singing that originated from the royal Awadh courts. Khayal got this name as it is based on a lover’s imagination of his/her beloved. Ghazal is the music of choice in Awadh. The melody of ghazal and the abundance of feelings and emotions in them – have made the genre popular across the country now.

 

Thumari, another popular genre of semi classical Indian music, was confined to royal courts for many years. However, when it reached the masses it became extremely popular. The themes of Thumri usually revolve around a girl’s love for Lord Krishna. Qauwwali, or the poems of Sufis, has a pan-world presence. It is mostly sung on the tombs of Sufi saints and has a loud vocal that culminates to Trance at its crescendo.

 

Folk:

Rasiya, especially popular in Braj-Mathura, Nandgaon, Barsane, Vrindavan and Govardhan), celebrates the divine love of Radha and Shri Krishna. Rasiya is the folk music of choice in this region on Holi. Birha, with its origins in eastern Uttar Pradesh is a mood-based genre, origins of which possibly lie in incidents where men from small villages used to migrate to cities in search of livelihood often leaving their new brides behind in the village.

 

Chaiti, meanwhile is a month specific genre that is primarily sung in the month of Chait (the season of harvest) according to the Hindu calendar. The core theme of these songs is the amorous fight of a beloved with his lover. Kajari is also a season specific song genre, mostly sung in monsoon. Theme, here too, is pain of separation but less sensuous as compared to Birha. Marsiya, popular among the Shia Muslims in Uttar Pradesh, are the poetic description of the martyrdom of Imam Hussein, the grandson of Prophet Muhammad, and his comrades.

 

Naqal is a play performed through crispy conservation – and is usually satirical in nature. The Naqal group comprises of dancers, singers, clowns and musicians, led by an Ustad. Nautanki has a simple language with mass appeal. It consists of folklore, mythological and historical stories presented through folk songs and dances. Rasa lila is a popular dance form of Brij region – it depicts Krishna’s dance with Radha and her sakhis. This dance form is usually performed on Janmashtmi and Holi. Ramlila is enactment of entire Ramayana – which usually takes place on nine days of navratra, culminating in Ravan’s end of the day of Dussera. Ramlila of Varanasi is very famous and draws tourists from far and near.

 

Art & Craft:

The heavy and elaborate embroidery work of Zardozi comes in a number of attractive varieties. Use of gold threads, spangles and beads makes this art form even more attractive. The delicate Chikankari Embroidery of Lucknow is today world famous. It received great impetus during the Nawabi period – when it became an intrinsic part of Nawabi culture. The Chikankari tradition gradually filtered down the masses and has become an important part of Lucknow’s economy.

 

Uttar Pradesh is the largest Brass and Copper products making state – Moradabad is famous for art metalware – Coloured enamelling and intricate engravings being its hallmarks. This craft too got a shot in the arm during Mughal rule. Varanasi besides being a holy place also has the distinction of being a world famous center of hand-made textiles. Exquisite Banarasi sarees woven here find a place of pride in many a rich wardrobes. The design motifs of these brocades are mostly intricate floral and foliage patterns.

 

Carpet weaving is an intricate craft – and today 90 per cent of the carpets are created in Uttar Pradesh. The main centers are Mirzapur, Bhadohi, Khamaria and the villages around them. Basket and other articles are made from bamboo, cane and raffia in many places in Uttar Pradesh. Allahabad, Bareilly, and Varanasi have concentration of specialised raffia products both in variety and artistic merit. In addition to these, Agra is well known for Pietra Dura, (inlay technique of using cut and fitted, highly-polished coloured stones to create images), Aligarh for its locks and Firozabad for beautiful bangles and glass accessories.

 

Architecture:

Unlike most other states, architectural legacy of the state is not indicative of one specific era, but tells the story from across the centuries. Religious places are mostly very old structures – rebuilt and touched up many a time. Striking monuments constructed by medieval rulers likes forts, palaces, temples, mosques and mausoleums still tell the story of those years. Many official buildings and railway stations, even today, are an excellent display of British architecture.

 

Cuisine:

UP’ites are proud of their culinary skills as well as are the connoisseurs of good food. Though, most people in the state prefer a meal of daal chawal, roti and sabji on a daily basis – many of the specialities of the state are non-vegetarian. In Awadh, Kababs, Nihari and Biryani are extremely popular dishes. Outstanding feature of Awadhi tradition of cooking is the the ‘Dum Pukht’ process – food is sealed in large pots called handi and cooked over slow fire, allowing the ingredients to be cooked in their own juices for nearly three days. These dishes are not only delicious to it, but their aroma too is rich and inviting.

 

Western Uttar Pradesh is famous for its Rampuri Rohu and Zamindoz, two fish dishes. Pasanda kabab Shab Deg, and Paneer Pasanda too are much relished. Tahri (a delicious rice preparation), Murg Musallam and Reshmi Kababs come from eastern Uttar Pradesh. Alu Pooris and Daal kachoris are all time vegetarian favourites and relished on special occasions. To top it all, the state offer endless variety of sweets – with their exquisite tastes – ‘Malai Ki Gilori’ from Lucknow, Khurchan and Peda of Mathura, Gajjak and rewadi of Meerut. Petha of Agra, Gujia, Sheer Qorma are just some of the sweet delicacies. Two things without which the cuisine of UP would be incomplete is sumptuous chaat (from Lucknow and Faizabad – best in the country) and Banarasi Paan.

 

Fairs & Festivals:

The state boasts of people from vivid caste, creed, culture and religious backgrounds. Therefore it is but natural that the state is home to a number of fairs and festivals. Though quite a few of festivals are celebrated nationally like Holi, Diwali, Dussere and Iid, there are some that are unique to the state. An otherwise sleepy town, Bateshwar (about 70 km from Agra), comes to life in the month of November (Kartik month of Hindu calendar) courtesy massive annual cattle fair held at the banks of Yamuna.

 

 

The Ganga Mahotasava is a five day festival held on the banks of river Ganges in Varanasi and centres around classical music and dance. It coincides with the Dev-Deepavali, the famous festival of lights of Varanasi and seeks to promote Varanasi as the Culture capital of India. Janmashtmi is celebrated all over Uttar Pradesh, and across the country, but it’s celebrations in the Mathura and Vrindavan has a special significance as these are believed to be Krishna’s birth place and the place where he grew up. The Kumbh Mela is generally held every three years in rotation at Allahabad, Haridwar, Ujjain and Nasik. It is organized in the month of Magh according to the traditional calendar (Feb-March). The most important among these is the one celebrated at Allahabad. Due to the rotation system, the Kumbha Mela comes to Allahabad every 12 Years.

 

Sardhana Christian Fair, Meerut is held every year on the 1st Sunday of November – it is a large feast held in honour of Mother Mary – a Carnival in fact. Hundreds of devotees gather to participate and admire the beauty of the shrine and the palaces built around the church by Begum Samru. Latthmar Holi of Mathura is named so because women beat the men with a bamboo stick and men try to save themselves from them. The Rang Gulal Festival is celebrated for a week with exuberant processions, songs and music. Taj Mahotsava, organised by UP tourism is a spell binding display of the Arts, Crafts, Culture and Cuisine of the region.

 

Lucknow Mahotsava too is organized by UP tourism between 25th November and 5th December. It is a beautiful event that show cases the state’s legacy, its cultural heritage and finesse in performing arts. Another festival organized by UP tourism, is the Ganga water rally in Allahabad – a water sports festival with adventure sports like canoeing, kayaking and other water sports.

 

Places to see:

Uttar Pradesh is one of the top tourist destinations in India. Agra circuit and the Hindu pilgrimage circuit are the most popular tourist destinations. Three World Heritage Sites: Taj Mahal, Agra Fort, and the nearby Fatehpur Sikri are part of Agra circuit. Akbar’s mausoleum and Dayal Bagh are two other major attractions. Taj Mahal mausoleum built by Mughal Emperor Shah Jahan in memory of his wife, Mumtaz Mahal, is cited as ‘one of the universally admired masterpieces of the world’s heritage’.

 

The pilgrimage circuit includes holy cities largely on the banks of holy rivers Ganges and the Yamuna: Varanasi (widely considered to be one of the oldest cities in the world), Ayodhya (birth place of Lord Rama), Mathura (Lord Krishna’s birth place), Vrindavan (the village where Lord Krishna spent his childhood), and Allahabad (the confluence or ‘holysangam’ of Ganges-Yamuna. The historically important towns of Sarnath (where Gautam Buddha gave his first sermon) and Kushinagar (where he attained Nirvana) are located not far from Varanasi. Also at Sarnath are the Pillars of Ashoka and the Lion Capital of Ashoka, both important archaeological artefacts with national significance.

 

Lucknow, the capital of Uttar Pradesh, has several beautiful historical monuments such as Bara Imambara, Chhota Imambara and Residency. The city is envied for its beautiful evenings, excellent cuisine and Its hospitality. Bithoor, Chitrakoot and Jhansi are other historically significant destinations that attract tourists. There are a number of wild life sanctuaries in the state – among them – Dudhwa National Park is one of the best tiger reserves in the country. With more than 50 feet tall Sal trees, it is one of the tallest and thickest forests in India. Tigers, elephants, bear and deer are the main habitants of Dudhwa. Barasingha (swamp deer) can be spotted in herds of hundreds here.

 

Pilibhit Tiger Reserve has nearly 36 tigers. It is a part of Terai forests and it is said that together with grasslands it is the habitat of over 127 animals, 556 bird species and 2,100 flowering plants. Sandi Bird Sanctuary in Hardoi district of Uttar Pradesh houses about 20,000 migratory birds annually. Katarniaghat Wildlife Sanctuary is spread over an area of 400 sq. kms near the Nepal border in Bahraich district. Habitants of the sanctuary include tiger, leopard, swamp deer, blackbuck, chital, barking deer, sambar, nilgai and bear.

 

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