The history of Himachal Pradesh dates back to the time when human civilization began. It has rich and varied history which can be divided into several distinct eras. The state was the prominent traderoute for numerous travelers due to the presence of many passes in mountains. Large parts of northern regions of the state were under Tibet during the tenth century. This has made the Buddhist culture to develop in the state, which is still found in areas like Lahaul, Mcleodganj and Spiti. The other areas in southern region were dominated by Ranas, Thakurs and Raja clans. This made the state to be divided into smaller regions under different rulers. The divisions resulted in different regions like Chamba, Kangra and Kullu.
However, in early 19th century, the state was conquered by Sikh kings after a treaty was signed with the British rulers. The state is inhabited by several Aryan tribes till date; the best example is the Kinnauris of eastern Himachal who follow mixed traditions of both Buddhism and Hinduism.
Pre-Independence History of the Hill State
Prehistory of the Hill State:
Archaeological evidences have brought to light the presence of primitive men in the foothills of the Himachal Pradesh. They are believed to have inhabited in regions of Bangana valley of Kangra, Markanda valley of Sirmour and Sirsa valley of Nalagarh. The Indus valley civilization is believed to have flourished in the valley during the period of 2250 and 1750 BC and Aryans used to live in these hilly regions.
Medieval History of the Hill State :
Shankar Verma was the ruler of Kashmir region during the year 883 AD. He was interested in Himachal region and started exercising control over the state. The Hill region was also invaded by the Muslim ruler Mahmud Ghazni in the year 1009 AD. He was responsible for creating havoc and looting the wealth of almost all north Indian temples. Further in the year 1043 AD the region came under Rajput rulers. Sansar Chand was the most prominent Rajput ruler who ruled over the territory.
Rajputs under the rule of Katoch Maharaja Sansar Chand-II annexed vast regions of the state in 1773 AD. Rajputs ruled the region peacefully until they were over thrown by Maharaja Ranjit Singh in the year 1804.
The small regions of the state enjoyed Independence and progressed before the invasion of Muslim kings. The Hilly region witnessed the worst devastation under Muslim invaders regime; they did not pay any attention to the progress of the region. They were only interested in accumulation of wealth and hence looted all the prominent temples. Mahmud Ghaznavi conquered the entire Kangra region in 10th century. The feat of Mahmud Ghaznavi was followed by Timur and Sikander Lodi who also captured several forts and regions under their power.
British Rule in the Hill State :
The British rule commenced in the state after Anglo-Gorkha war. The Gorkha’s were out powered by the British and they established their supremacy in the state after the Anglo-Gorkha war along the provinces of Satluj. Thus British started annexing the area one by one and emerged as dominant powers in the hill state. The early 19th century witnessed the annexing of Shimla by British. However, Himachal Pradesh became a centrally administered territory after India’s Independence in the year 1948 by integration of 31 hill provinces.
The first war of Indian Independence popularly called as the revolt of 1857 was the result of political unrest and grievance against British rule which involved social, religious and economical reasons. However, the freedom movement was not very active in hilly region unlike other parts of the country. They displayed their inactiveness when the first war of independence broke out, similar was the attitude of their rulers. However, Bushahr was the only ruler who was an exception and was hostile to British administration. It is believed that some people even offered helping hand for the British during the revolt period. Some of the rulers who helped the British included rulers from Bilaspur, Chamba, Dhami and Bhagal.
The hilly region of Himachal was annexed to British territory after a declaration was made by the queen in year 1858. However, the British rule did not hamper the progress of the state, some of the districts like Mandi, Bilaspur and Chamba made excellent progress during British rule. The British rule got excellent support from the Hill districts during the First World War. The people of the state remained loyal and extended all possible help to British administration both in the form of men and goods. Some of the places like Bilaspur, Chamba, Nurpur, Mandi, Kangra, Siba and Suket were of great aid to the British rule.
The Ancient Period in the State Till the Commencement of Harsha’s Kingdom :
The great epic of Mahabharata has a reference of Himachal Pradesh. As per the epic, the place where the present day Himachal stands were divided into small regions called as Janpadas. The Janpadas were believed to be an independent state and cultural unit in itself.
Some of the references about the state during ancient times:
- Audumbras: The Audumbras are believed to be the most ancient tribes that lived in lower regions of the state. Their main areas of habitat were along the hills between Pathankot and Jwalamukhi. They are believed to have formed a separate state during the 2nd century B.C.
- Trigarta: The Trigarta region is believed to have remained near foothills of the three river drains, Ravi, Sutlej and Beas. The historians believe that it was an independent region.
- Kuluta: The region of Kuluta is believed to have remained in the upper Beas valley also known as Kullu valley. The capital of Kuluta was Naggar.
- Kulindas: Kulindas region located at the basin was formed by three rivers Yamuna, Beas and Satluj. The region had an extensive administration which was well developed considering the ancient time.
- Gupta Empire: Chandragupta Maurya displayed enormous valor and suppressed the isolated rulers’ of the hill state. He did not rule the state directly, he appointed his caretakers to look after the state. However, it was during the regime of Ashoka the Great the territory of his kingdom extended till Himalayan region. After Ashoka embraced Buddhism he built several stupas in the Hill state. The stupa built by him in Kullu valley is very famous.
- Harsha: The
time between the collapse of Gupta Empire and the rise of Harshavardhan,
the state again fell into the hands of petty chiefs like Ranas and
Thakurs. The rise of Harsha in 7th century made many of the petty chiefs
to surrender in front of his extreme valor. However, some rulers did not
accept his supremacy.
The Rule of Rajput Kings :
The Rajput kings took over the control of the Hill state after the death of King Harsha in 647 A.D. The Rajput had quarreled among them and brought their own destruction, the few who were left behind and defeated migrated to the hills along with their supporters. They divided the regions among themselves and started ruling the areas. The main region during this period was Kunihar, Sirmour, Bushahar, dhami, Keonthal, Nalgarh, Bilaspur, Baghal, Kutlehar, Mandi, and Suket etc.
Mughal Period :
The Mughal rulers invaded the hill state after the devastation carried out by users like Sikandar Lodhi, Timur and Muhammad Ghaznavi. However, the Mughal rule started disintegrating and this period was well utilized by kings of the hill to exhibit their supremacy. The Katoch kings who belonged to Kangra region took full advantage of lean period and Kangra gained independence during the regime of Maharaja Sansar Chand. He ruled the hill region for approximately 50 years. He was considered as the best administrator and during his regime there was all-round progress in the region. He took possession of Kangra Fort and started annexing nearby kingdoms. He had direct and indirect control of numerous regions like Bilaspur, Mandi, Chamba, Guler, Suket, Datarpur, Siwan and Jaswan.
The Two Main Wars Which Affected the State: The Anglo-Sikh and The Anglo-Gorkha War :
In the year 1768, martial tribe Gorkhas rose to control in Nepal. Effective planning and consolidation of military power helped them to enlarge their territory. They annexed various regions and finally conquered Shimla and Sirmour regions in the Hill state. Under the effective management of Amar Singh Thapa, the Gorkhas aimed at targeting Kangra. They also succeeded in defeating Sansar Chand, who was the ruler of Kangra, after a fierce battle in 1806 by taking the help from local hill chiefs. But Gorkhas did not succeed in conquering Kangra fort. The fort came under the control of Maharaja Ranjeet Singh in 1809. This defeat made the Gorkhas to move towards south. Finally the Gorkhas came into direct battle with British which is termed as Anglo-Gorkha war. The Gorkhas could not stand in the battle field against the British. The Gorkhas were driven out of the Hill state to east of Satluj. Thus it commenced the supremacy of British in the hill state.
The completion of Anglo-Gorkha war resulted in tension along the boundary of British field and Punjab region. Sikhs and the British did not want to indulge in a direct quarrel. However, following the demise of Maharaja Ranjit Singh, the strong Khalsa (Sikh) army fought numerous battles against British. In the year 1845, the Sikhs entered the British regions of the Hill state by moving across Satluj River. The monarchs of the Hills who had enmities with the Sikh rulers joined hand with British to take revenge against Sikhs. Many rulers served the British secretly. However, after the completion of Anglo-Sikh war the territories vacated by Sikhs were not restored to original owners of the region. The British kept them under their own rule.
First War of Indian Independence 1857 :
The first war of Indian Independence popularly called Revolt of 1857 was the result of political unrest and grievance in contradiction of British rule which involved social, religious and economical reasons. However, the freedom movement was not very active in the hill region unlike other portions of the country. They displayed their inactiveness when the first war of independence broke out; similar was the attitude of their rulers. However, Bushahr was the only ruler who was an exception and was hostile to British administration. It is believed that some people even offered helping hand for the British during the rebellion period. Some of the rulers who helped British included the rulers from Bilaspur, Chamba, Dhami and Bhagal.
The Rule of from 1858 to 1914 in the Hill State :
The hill region of Himachal was annexed to British territory after a declaration was made by the queen in the year 1858. However, the British rule did not hamper progress of the state, some of the districts like Mandi, Bilaspur and Chamba made excellent progress throughout the British rule. British rule got excellent support from the Hill districts during the 1st World War. People of the state remained trustworthy and extended all possible help to British administration both in the form of manpower and goods. Some of the places like Bilaspur, Chamba, Nurpur, Mandi, Kangra, Siba and Suket were of great aid to British rule.
Participation of Himachal Region in the Indian Freedom Struggle from 1914 to 1947 :
The people of Himachal region participated actively in Indian freedom fight. The highpoints of incidences in which the hill people participated are listed below:
- Praja Mandal in the Himachal region instigated its first revolt in contradiction of British rule in districts which was directly controlled by British.
- The agitation also broke out against the Princes in many of the Princely states for bringing about political and social reforms. These were not against British. However, they can be considered as part of the ongoing freedom struggle.
- One of the important incidences that occurred in Himachal region is the Mandi scheme of 1914-15. This was organized by Gadhar party. Several conferences were held at Suket and Mandi states in December 1914 as well as January 1915 by extremist leaders who decided to assassinate the Manager and Wazir of Mandi as well as Suket. The motto was to rob government treasury, blow the bridge on Beas River to disturb British administration. However, the leaders could not succeed and the people involved in the conspiracy were held and condemned to log jail terms.
- When the Quit India Movement commenced in the year 1942, its spark was felt in the hilly region with the Pajhota agitation in which people of a part of Sirmour state revolted against British rule.
- Some of the prominent freedom fighters who hailed from the hill regions of Himachal Pradesh were Daulat Ram, Sada Ram chandal, Satya Dev, Purnanada, Prahari Gandiu Baba Khansi Ram, Shivnanda Ramaul, Padma Dev, Dr. Y.S Parmar.
- Kangra was considered as the active congress hub during the freedom struggle in the hill state.
Post Independence Period :
The history of Himachal Pradesh post-Independence era is listed below in chronological order:
- 15th April 1948 - Establishment of Principal Commissioner's province of Himachal Pradesh
- 26th January 1950 – Constitution of India comes into existence, India becomes Republic and H.P. becomes part C.
- 1st July 1954 - Bilaspur becomes part of Himachal Pradesh after its merger.
- 1st November 1956 - Himachal Pradesh declared a Union Territory.
- 1st November 1966 – Majority of the Hill regions including Kangra merged with Himachal Pradesh. However, its status remains that of a Union Territory.
- 18th December 1970 - The Act for formation of Himachal Pradesh State passes by the Parliament.
January 1971 – Himachal Pradesh becomes the 18th state of the
Himachal Pradesh has come all the way long way since those times. It has certainly seen a quantity of full-grown governments. After India attained Independence in the year 1947, Himachal Pradesh was formed as a Chief Commissioner's Province in Indian Union in the year 1948. The province was formed by the several Hill districts situated around Shimla and some of the Hilly regions of Punjab State. Then it was converted into a part C state on 26 January 1950, with the formation of Indian constitution and emerging as a Sovereign, Socialist Republic on 26th Jan 1950. The region was further converted into a Union Territory on 1st November 1956. This was followed by passing of an Act for the formation of Himachal Pradesh as a state in Indian Union on 18th December 1970. Finally on 25 January 1971 it emerged as the 18th state in the Indian Union with Shimla as its capital.