Located in northern India, Uttar Pradesh is both the spiritual heartland of Hinduism and the cultural heartland of Indian Islam.
Located in northern India, bordering Rajasthan and Delhi, Uttar Pradesh is one of India’s largest and most populous states. It is watered by the country’s greatest rivers, the Yamuna and the Ganges, which has shaped much of the history and culture of this state. On its fertile banks, civilizations, cities and empires have grown and flourished, from 1500 BC onwards. Today, the river continues to play a crucial role in the economy, culture, religion as well as imagination of the million of people who live in the surrounding Gangetic plains.
Uttar Pradesh is both the spiritual heartland of Hinduism and the cultural heartland of Indian Islam – the former symbolised by Varanasi, the holiest of Indian cities, and the latter by the Taj Mahal, the country’s greatest Islamic monument. While the former is the world’s greatest architectural gesture to a single instance of inconsolable grief, the latter is a riverbank that has for centuries born witness to a constant stream of death at its funeral pyres. Many – from the most seasoned Indophile to the first-time traveller – count these shrines as the high-water marks of any trip to the subcontinent.
Uttar Pradesh’s reputation is less enviable domestically: the state’s position as both cradle of Hinduism, bisected by the Hindu spiritual life-force River Ganga, and cultural heartland of Indian Islam has spawned one of the most febrile frontlines in the contemporary conflict between India’s two largest religions. The contested sacred ground at Ayodhya has been the site of bloody conflict since the Babri Mosque was razed by militant Hindus in 1992.
What’s more, many of India’s elected political leaders have ‘colourful’ histories, but the level of political corruption in the state is exceptional, and casual criminality and violence are so high that some question the rule of law here.
Nevertheless, tourists flock to Uttar Pradesh not just to witness its architectural wonders but to immerse themselves in the unmistakable spirituality of this innately religious state. It is these experiences and more that will create truly unforgettable moments of a trip to this part of India.
Click on one of the sections on the right for more information about Uttar Pradesh or select one of the cities on the map below.