Kumaon History

The word ‘Kumaon’ is derived from ‘Kurmanchal’. Kurmanchal means, the land of Kurma (kurma-anchal), the tortoise incarnation of Lord Vishnu.

The paintings discovered at the rock shelter at Lake Udyar points towards the existence of Mesolithic period (middle stone age) settlements in the region.

It is believed that the “Kols” were the original inhabitants of Kumaon. They were the people with astro-Asiatic physical type. After loosing the battle with Dravids, some of the Kols sections relocated and settled at Kumaon. Later on they were joined by Indo-Aryan Khas / Khasas tribes.

From 500 BCE – 600 ACE, Kunindas (refered to as Kulinda in ancient literature) ruled the entire Northern India including the Kumaon region.  The documented history of Kunindas is from 2nd century BCE and are mentioned in the Indian epics, Puranas and Mahabharata.

The Kumaon region was ruled by Katyuri Kings from around 7th century ACE to 11th Century ACE. The Katyuri dynasty was formed by the King Vashudev Katyuri, who was originally from Joshimath. They ruled the ‘Katyur valley’ with the capital in Kartikyapura (modern day Baijnath town). During its heydays, the empire spread from Nepal to Afganistan and is even mentioned in the travelogues of Chinese traveller Hieun Tsang.

The Katyuri kings have been known to construct hundreds of temples and were among the first to use the hew stones instead of bricks for construction. One of the famous temples constructed by them is the Sun temple of Katarmal (near Almora).

The 11th century saw the decline of the Katyuri dynasty due to internal rivalry and lack of strong leadership. Somewhere during 1191 ACE – 1223 ACE, Ashok Malla and Kruchalla Dev of Malla dynasty of Doti attacked the Katyuri kings. During this period the Katyuri kingdom disintegrated into eight princely states –

  1. Baijnath Katyuri
  2. Dwarahat
  3. Doti (Far west Nepal)
  4. Baramandal
  5. Askot
  6. Sira
  7. Sora
  8. Sui (Kali Kumaon)

The Chand Dynasty, established by Raja Som Chand, who came in the 10th century from Kannauj (near Allahabad). The capital of Kumaon was shifted to Almora by Raja Kalyan Chand.

In 1581, Raja Rudra Chand (1565 ACE – 1591 ACE ) defeated Raika Hari Mall (his own maternal uncle) of Sira. The Chand kings attacked the Garhwal region many times but their attacks were repulsed successfully every time. In 1665 the Chand kings and the Mughal army under Shahjahan attacked Garhwal and successfully captured the Terai region including Dehradun. Again somewhere towards the end of 17th century, the Chand kings attacked the Garhwal kingdom and successfully conquered the Garhwal and Doti regions. However, Garhwal King Pradip Shah regained control of the Garhwal.

This was the period when the Rohillas and Mughal intervention in the region started. Except for a seven month short period, when the Rohillas controlled Almora, no Mughal or Rohilla leader succeeded in invading the Kumaon region. Later on, reconciliations began between Chand rulers and Rohillas, and King Dip Chand fought side-by-side with Rohillas in the third battle of Panipat.

For a short period, the Kumaon region was ruled by Garhwal King Lalit Shah and his son Parduman Shah till 1790, when the Gurkha’s from Nepal invaded the Kumaon region under their king Prithvi Narayan.

The Gurkha rule lasted twenty four ruthless years and ended when the British troops along with 4000 kumaoni troops under Harak Deo Joshi (minister of the last Chand ruler) defeated them.

On 4th March 1816, the Kumaon and Garhwal region formally became a part of British India.

During this battle the British realized the military expertise of these hillmen and granted the title of Martial Race to the people of Kumaon. Later they heavily recruited from them and the result was Kumaon regiment (earlier the Hyderabad regiment consisting of mostly Kumaonis).

Raja Karan Chand Singh Baba (Born 29th March 1947 at Lucknow) is the descendent of the Chand dynasty. He was the elected for the 14th Lok Sabha in 2004 from the Nainital constituency. He has won the Uttar Pradesh powerlifting championship five times and National powerlifting championship two times. He holds the national record in bench press and has won two silver and two bronze medals in the Asian championship held at Indonesia in 1984. He is married to Rani Mani Mala Devi and has two sons and one daughter. He is presently living in Kashipur.

4 thoughts on “Kumaon History

  1. Gandhi’s advent sounded a death knell for the British in Kumaon. After becoming aware of the excesses of the British Raj, the people became defiant and played an active part in the Indian movement for independence.

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