History of Uttar Pradesh
The history of Uttar Pradesh can be dated from the Paleolithic period or the Stone Age. There are three significant sites related to the evidence of that period. The river basin of the Belan River, the Banda district sites of Nihi and Gopipur along with the sites of Chhatarpalia, Mahugarh and Parisdhia.
Then there are the Middle Stone Age sites of the earliest hunters and gatherers who populated the Sarai Nahar Rai site about ten thousand years ago. Gradually, the settlers began taking up cultivating activities and proceeded with the planting of all forms of edible crops of grains, vegetables, pulses and oil seeds. This was the period of scholarly erudition. Universities came up where scholars from various parts of India and the world studied. This land was the home ground of the Great Indus Valley Civilization
. The New Stone Age
or the Neolithic age saw Lahuradewa and Jhusi dating back to 6200 BC.
Characteristic of the early periods of history is the Ochre-coloured pottery which was formed over a larger geographical area from Jodhpur in Rajasthan to entire Uttar Pradesh fertile plains. The ochre colour was probably because of the copper deposits in the land which lent this characteristic colour to the pottery. Uttar Pradesh is also famous for its unique ‘Copper Hoard Culture’ which has been named because of the mining hoards of copper discovered at various places.
Some of these places are Auraiya, Bithoor, Saharanpur districts Bahadarabad, Badauns, Basauli and Bijnore’s Rajpur Parsu besides Baharia of Saipai and Shahjahanpur in Etawah.
The Vedic Age in Uttar Pradesh
Upto 1000 BC the representatives of the Vedic settlements could not cross into the Gangetic plains because of the thick jungles surrounding it. Then later when iron was discovered and used for the manufacture of implements like hand axes and saws as well as chiseling blades. These blades truck off all sizes from small to large. With the advent of such cutters the jungles were decimated rapidly and several kingdoms were established in the rich and fertile plains. These kingdoms were of the Yadavas in Mathura, the Panchala in Rohilkhand, the Kosala in the eastern Doab as well as the Kashi in that region which is today called Varanasi.
The Epic Ramayana
was based in Kosala which was said to be the kingdom of the Ikshvaku King, Lord Rama. Another historically significant dynasty was the Nanda Dynasty which held sway over the prominent kingdom of Magadha during the 5th and 4th centuries BC. The population was distressed totally and badly wanted a change. They were fed up with the cruelty of the Nanda King. Finally the stage was set for the fall of the Nanda Empire and rise of the Mauryans. It was the precursor of the Mauryan Empire under Chandra Gupta Maurya and his descendants. The Mauryan Empire stretched across Bihar and Bengal besides entire Uttar Pradesh. Ashoka who earned the honorific of ‘The Great’ was virtually the last such charismatic leader of the Period who made some of the greatest contributions to the country. One of the outstanding contributions of the era was the Ashoka pillar which is standing even today.
The Sanga Dynasty and the Indo-Scythians followed the Mauryans. It was a time of water fare and strife. The Golden Age of the Guptas had receded into the background. On the one hand was the perpetuation of the Buddhist institutions like stupas and other relics of the ideology and religion perpetuated by Buddha and on the other was the development of the Mathura School of Art.
The Sakas and the Satavahana Dynasty rulers held sway over the land upto the 2nd century BC. They were followed by the Kushan Empire and the Guptas Empire. Mention of various places has been made in the ancient epic, the Mahabharata
. The rulers and the administrative set up of the land has been documented by several scholars of Indian and foreign origin. The Chinese scholars like Hiuen Tsang were so frequent that Maharaja Sri Gupta had built a special temple for Chinese pilgrims. This temple was built at Mrigasikhawana.
After a spell of unrest once the downfall of the Gupta Empire had taken place there was the rise of Harshavardhana
who held sway over the large land mass stretching from the Northern Himalayas to the foot of the Vindhyachal.
Uttar Pradesh flourished under the rule of Harsha especially because his rule continental for about decades. He had been a mere sixteen years old when he ascended the throne. Harsha’s empire was followed by the Gurjara Pratiharas
. They ruled from the sixth century to the eleventh century A.D. This dynasty was followed by the Palas who ruled for a very short time comparatively and later gave in to the Delhi Sultanate.
The Delhi Sultanate
Several Muslim dynasties comprise what has come to be called the Delhi Sultanate. It is also known as the ‘Sultanat-e-Dilli
’ in Persian and Urdu records. The rich and plentiful granaries and the lush green fields attracted many a horde of invaders from the Northern heights. Some of these were of Turkish and Pashtun and Afghan origin. Others came from far off Persia as well. The dynasties of these Muslim rulers were the offshoots of the initial attackers. Some of these dynasties were like the Mamluks
who ruled from 1206 BC to 90 BC. Then there was the Khilji
or the slave dynasty that ruled from 1290 AD to 1320 AD. The Khilji Dynasty
ended with queen Razia Sultan’s tumultuous fight to keep the kingdom intact. She was followed by a few self serving rulers who were soon overthrown. The Tughlaqs
followed the Khiljis. This was one of tumultuous upheaval as Feroze Shah Tughlaq attempted to shift the capital of the kingdom to a more central location further south to Hyderabad.
The regions aniseed to the Delhi Sultanate included the larger proportion of the present day Uttar Pradesh regions. This period was to be the harbinger of the cultural highlights of the land. Several edifices stand witness to the glory and grandeur of the fusion that was brought about the Indo-Muslim combination of architectural styles as well as other art manifestations already being practiced and glorified in the land.
During and before the Sultanate era there was tremendous plundering and pillage by an entire horde of marauders led by Ghazni, Ghori and Tinnur the lame. The Awadh region, comprising Lucknow was the main cultural pulse of the population and administrative hub of the area that is today known as Uttar Pradesh. Although their rulers came and went leaving their indelible mark on the customs, cuisine and cultural manifestations apparent even today. Certain of dress forms, particular foods, specific dance, song and art forms were deeply influenced. All these collectively comprise the sum total of the cultural renaissance in India. The fag end of the Delhi Sultanate saw the advent and rule of the Lodhis
. After the Lodhis the destiny of Uttar Pradesh took on another phenomenonal turn when Babar
defeated Lodhi to ascend the throne as the first Mughal Emperor.
Mughal footprints in Uttar Pradesh
The Mughal reigned over the vast Indian sub-continent from 1526 AD to 1857 AD. Their presence instilled a stamp of the diverse Mughal culture on the otherwise Indian diversities of land and people. There were four centuries of impact producing indicators of the Mughal way of life that left their imprint on every aspect of the life of the people of Uttar Pradesh and other parts of the country.
For a large part Uttar Pradesh was at the very heart of the Mughal empire. It figured prominently in the fortunes of Sher Shah Suri
who made it the seat of administration. It is from Uttar Pradesh that the great Sher Shah Suri Marg extended his network of roads veritable like a blood line across the length and breadth of the country. Some of these earliest highways continue to live and breathe life into the country’s transportation even today. No doubt it is called the Grand Trunk Road
or the GT Road. Several branches of the National Highways are supplemented by roads planned and laid out by Sher Shah during his heyday. His successors were defeated by Akbar
, the Mughal king, who later went on to become the emperor of the country.
Uttar Pradesh has a large number of historically significant edifices and gardens besides mausoleums in many of its prominent cities. Many of these are concentrated in the region proximal to present day Delhi. Then there are the concentrations of Mughal art and architecture in the cities of Agra, Fatehpur Sikri, Ferozabad to Kanpur and Lucknow. The cities of Allahabad, Etawah and literally the entire region which was well known as the rich and stylishly royal headquarters of the Awadh principality. In itself it was the seat of much cultural flourishing and fructification as an actually progressive and rich land.
Like for the rest of the country the Mughal’s lifestyle and more left an indelible mark on these cities in the form of the Taj Mahal and Agra Fort as well as Fatehpur Sikri besides innumerable other edifices like the Buland Darwaza and a number of other maqbaras like Akbar’s tomb, sundry mosques, Idgah and several residential and administrative buildings which bore the unmistakable Mughal architectural signature.
Not only were the buildings and their construction styles typical of the Mughal art, they could be traced back to Asia minor and more effectively to the Persian form of opulence and grandeur. The fact that the prominent among these buildings like the Taj Mahal have been declared world heritage sites is a matter of great pride for Uttar Pradesh.
During the Mughal period there was tremendous progress in the other cultures as well. There were the central hubs of Vrindavan and Mathura which were literally the flourishing Hindu majority area. Both the places held tremendous religious significance for a large proportion of the population. The food traditions of Mathura and Vrindavan also were rich and had a place of their own.
Cultural History of Uttar Pradesh
While places like Gokul, Vrindavan, Mathura, Ayodhya, Varanasi and Allahabad as well as Kushinagar and Sarnath all have tremendous pilgrimage status, they are equally important for the several festivals that are held here at regular intervals and attended by a multitude of devotees, pilgrims and visitors.
One of the most significant festivals of Uttar Pradesh is the Kumbh Mela. The festivals is held every year but the special significance of the festival is observed every twelfth year. Millions of devotees throng to the banks of the Ganga. The Magh Mela is held with great gusts. Holy men from various parts of the country and especially their abode in the Himalayas tend to congregate at the confluence of the three rivers namely the Ganga, Yamuna and the Saraswati at the Prayagraj and take a holy dip this highly during auspicious occasion.
During the reign of Akbar the Great there were several reforms put into place. One of the most significant ones was the abolishing of ‘zakat
’ or toll exercised for practicing one’s own religion in the Mughal era with the abolishing of ‘zakat’ all religions could participate wholeheartedly in the many festive occasions and religious rituals of the Hindus, Buddists, Jains and Sikhs or all the other religions besides Islam.
Varanasi, at one extreme of Uttar Pradesh, geographically, has been acknowledged as one of the most ancient cities of the world equated only by Jerusalem. Several other holy cities exist in the State. Each city has some or the other attachment significant to the inherent religion – its birth and progression. Mathura and Vrindavan have been the birthplace of Lord Krishna. It is renowned for its festivals of Janamasthtami and Holi which are historical markers of the significance of Uttar Pradesh in the hearts of all lord Krishna devotees all over the world. Then there is Ayodhya the birthplace of Lord Rama and the Babri Masjid which also has great significance for Muslims all over the country.
While the significance of Mathura, Vrindavan, Allahabad, Varanasi and Ayodhya has been discussed, it is necessary to point out the fact that Lucknow, Kanpur, Jhansi, Sarnath, Kushinagar, Meerut etc, all have their specific significance.
Kanpur can be said to be the industrial capital of Uttar Pradesh while Aligarh has been designated the City of locks. Lucknow has also been famous for its typical handworked embroidered, soft and supple Muslims, organdies and cotton. Taking their origin in the harems of the Mughal emperors this delicate handcrafted chikankari garments all have a universal appeal.
Both Kushinagar and Sarnath have affiliations with Lord Budha. He is said to have given his first lecture at Sarnath and is said to have attained Nirwana at Kushinagar. Both these holy places of Uttar Pradesh are renowned seats of pilgrimage and attract pilgrims from various parts of the world especially the South East Asian countries like China, Japan and Korea. Sarnath is also associated with Jainism as being the birth place of the eleventh Tirthankara namely Shreyansnath
Thus, while the number of reasons for visiting any of these cities are multiple the Uttar Pradesh under Mughal rulers changed drastically in subsequent years.
While the Mughals gave their contribution to the buildings on the one hand, they also created several impressions on the art scenario, ranging from the elaborate and much embellished dresses, fashion accessories and draperies done up in gold and silver thread work to the succulent, aromatic and delicious dishes of vegetarian and non-vegetarian origin. The advent of the Mughals was a major turning point in the lives of the artisans of the region. Exquisite decorative work has been done under the guidance of Persian creators and designers. The attention to detail for the furniture and furnishings brought about beautiful artefacts in inlay work or ‘naqqashi’ in marble and wood with precious and semi-precious stones. There was great advancement in the area of decoration, adornment and embellishment so that any surface, be it a celling, a wall, a door, a window or even a pillar or cornice – all would bear the standardized Mughal stamp of minutely decorative detail.
Besides the tangible finer points of the art of grandeur the Mughals contributed several socio-cultural and administrative as well as legal points that have become a part of the inherent systems of the overall Indian judiary and administration but especially so form an integrate part that form the elite of Uttar Pradesh. For the measurement of land for purposes of taxes was introduced by Raja Todar Mal
There is the interesting fact that the Mughal period saw the flourishing of the other cultures as well. The Rajputs and others who worked as a part of the Mughal administration were all given ample encouragement to develop their own talents to the ultimate heights. Thus, temples of Mathura and Vrindavan as also the sites of the various temples that have become marked pilgrimage spots for Hindus and tourism places for visitors from all over the world.
Uttar Pradesh saw great peace and prosperity under the Mughals. The last Mughal Emperor, Bahadur Shah Zafar
was imprisoned by the British when the East India Company flew its flag from the ramparts of the Red Fort in Delhi. For Uttar Pardesh this signaled the era of strife, battle, social conflict and a long drawn struggle for Independence from the yoke of the British rule.
The Mughal era was also time of elaborate and extensive increments in the control of the local kings and nawabs whose reign spread over several parts of Uttar Pradesh like Bithoor, Jhansi, Lucknow and similar such principalities. It was the era of the Nawabs of Awadh
which lasted from 1719 to 1858. Starting from the founder Burhan-ul-Mulk to (1719) through Shiya-ud-Daula (1732), Asaf-ud-Daulah (1775) and Saadat Ali Khan (1798) alongwith Nasir-ud-Haidar (1827) to Wajid Ali Shah (1822) – all the Nawabs made their contribution to the fortunes of Uttar Pradesh through various situations. Some of the significant ones were the Battle of Buxar
and the Thind Battle of Panipat
but all these resulted in the gradual partition of the Awadh kingdoms and their annexation to the fast growing British Empire. Awadh lost its strategic advantage despite the best efforts of later day sovereigns.
British Era in Uttar Pradesh
The central Uttar Pradesh region was to become a cauldron of dissent and disagreement with the intolerant polices and programmes of the British. While in most other regions the British found allies among the rulers and the administrators but their hard nosed policies were seen as a personal affront by the likes of Nana Phadnavis of Kanpur and Rani Lakshmibai of Jhansi
. They were alert to the voices of revolt rising across central and northern India as also the East. Uttar Pradesh was to gain the stature of a forerunner of the Independence struggle. The first sparks were visible in the Mutiny of 1857
whereby the Muslim and Hindu soldiers refused to use the cartridges that were lubricated with pork and beef tallow. The Uttar Pradesh dissensions were to have a lasting impact upon the national struggle for Independence. Many a freedom fighter rose to prominence in this land.
Revolts in Uttar Pradesh during the British Era
The Sepoy Mutiny against the British East India Company. The British had to fight a long, tedious and opposition riddled, battle to gain a hold over Uttar Pradesh wherever they gained a foothold there were threats of rebellion and outbursts of violence and infiltration.
The rebellion of 1857 had sparked of the battle royal for Independence with the hostilities arising from the entire region from Meerut to Varanasi.
East India Company in UP
Uttar Pradesh bubbled over with the rebellion being fanned by the 19th regiment of Bengal placed around the Native Infantry as also the third battalion of the Bengal Light Cavalry. The areas of Kanpur, Jhansi, Bareilly and Agra were ensuring the clarion call for throwing off the British. Muslim leaders launched a collective offensive in the form of a ‘Jihad’.
There were undercurrents of non-cooperation palpating all over the state. Where there was no fighting there were instates of non-payment of taxes or even refusal to work for the British in their homes. Not only the men even the women participated in the Struggle to get their rights. Uttar Pradesh continued to carry the flag of dissension high where once again the Quit India Movement
of 1942 saw this state marching ahead and taking the initiative.
Uttar Pradesh was the witness to tremendous upsurgings like the ‘Kakori kand
’ and to ban or campaign resulted in the unification of what came to be called the United Provinces and later as Uttar Pradesh.
Post-Independence Uttar Pradesh
With the attainment of Independence in 1947 the first Chief Minister of Uttar Pradesh was Govind Ballabh Pant
. He was Chief Minister till 1954. Uttar Pradesh had its first woman Chief Minister in Suchetra Kriplani who held the position from 1963 to 1967.
Gradually Uttar Pradesh become a power to reckon with as it had virtually been a much coveted political bastion for all who eyed the coveted seats. Having a majority with an almost equal distribution of strongholds among the two religious majorities of Hindus and Muslims – Uttar Pradesh has been the cynosure of all eyes among those seeking power and popularity in the region.
Uttar Pradesh today houses the significant divisions of Haridwar, Allahabad, Agra and Lucknow as major tourist attraction. They have a multitude of attractions in terms of historical, religion, political and socio-cultural besides economic significance.Click Here for Information History of Lucknow | Kanpur | Prayagraj | Varanasi | Aligarh | Mathura | Bahraich | Meerut | Noida | Ghaziabad | Raebareli | Muzaffarnagar