Nearly every history book we’ve been taught has a line loosely formed somewhat like this: “India is a vast land of diversity” or “India is a perfect example of ‘Unity in Diversity’”.
Of course, growing up, we’ve always assumed that these lines are meant to talk about our vast treasures of culture, and just how beautifully different we all are- bound together in solidarity with the nation. That is the truth, yes, but there is another different layer buried underneath- one that not many manage to notice. It is not just the people of the country, but also, its very states that are diverse entities in themselves.
Ever wondered why we have exactly 29 number of states? Has that always been the case? No. Then, how did we reach here? Let’s find out. The history of India: a journey through 29 states.
1947: India won its Independence from British rule
At the time of independence, India comprised of more than 500 provinces and princely states. With independence also came partition. Under the British supervision, several Indian provinces were divided.
Bengal was one of the most crucial provinces to be divided- ‘sliced’ into two. Eastern Bengal became East Pakistan, while Western Bengal remained within the Indian territory.
On the West, Punjab was divided into East Punjab and West Punjab. West Punjab was given to newly-formed Pakistan, eastern Punjab stayed with India. Bombay province was divided into two- Bombay and Sind province. The latter became a part of Pakistan, the former retained in India.
Central provinces and Berar were merged to form the province of Madhya Pradesh, while United Provinces was formed by merging Rampur, Banaras, and Tehri Garhwal.
The boundary line dividing Bengal and Punjab provinces between India and Pakistan is known as the Radcliffe line.
The dispute of Jammu & Kashmir
Shortly after the partition, some Pakistani soldiers disguised as Razzakars invaded Jammu and Kashmir in October 1947, attempting to annex Kashmir. However, they were forced to retreat upon being intercepted by the Indian Army at Patan. Meanwhile, the existing monarch signed an Instrument of Accession with India, officially becoming a part of the Indian Union. The areas held by Pakistan remained under their control, known as Pakistan occupied Kashmir today- a disputed territory.
By November 1947, Junagadh and Manavadar, two states that had initially acceded to be part of newly formed Pakistan, were successfully annexed by India. By 1950, most states were part of the Indian Union, and the reorganization of states was completed by 1956.
Timeline of the formation of 29 Indian states, National Capital Territory of Delhi and 6 Union Territories
29 Indian states
Uttar Pradesh (1947): The state has been a confluence of culture, religions, and art. Initially, the Oudh and Agra regions were united by the British government, calling it the United Provinces. In 1950, it was renamed Uttar Pradesh.
West Bengal (1947): The victory of the Battle of Plassey (1757) acted as the gateway into India for Britishers. The battle also secured their entry into Bengal, which was their administrative capital for a long time. In 1905, Bengal was partitioned into East and West Bengal. However, by 1911, it was reunited. The infamous Hindu-Muslim riots in the run-up to partition ended up hastening the final division of Bengal.
Rajasthan (1948): Known as the Rajputana under British India, the princely states in the area came together to form the United State of Rajasthan, in 1948. In May 1949, it was renamed United state of Greater Rajasthan and finally, in 1956, the state of Rajasthan was born.
Jammu and Kashmir (1948): In October 1947, the Dogra King Maharaja Hari Singh signed the Instrument of Accession to India. It was in 1956 that J&K completed the process of merging with the Indian Union.
Assam (1950): Ruled by the Ahoms for over six hundred years, Assam became a British protectorate in 1826 when the Burmese handed the territory to the British. Assam was separated from Bengal in 1874. In 1912, it was reformed as Assam province under British rule. Greater Assam included Meghalaya, Nagaland, and Mizoram, amongst other areas, before they ultimately became independent states in the later years.
Odisha (1950): Orissa was made a separate province in 1936 by the British and in 1950 became a state. It was renamed Odisha in 2011.
Bihar (1950): Officially formed as a state in 1950, Bihar has remained a politically important state.
Tamil Nadu (1950): Erstwhile the Madras Presidency, was reorganized as a state in 1950 and renamed Tamil Nadu in 1969.
Tripura (1972): Surrounded by Bangladesh on three sides, Tripura remained a Union Territory till 1972, when it became an independent state.
Madhya Pradesh (1956): What was Central Provinces and Berar under British India, merged with Madhya Bharat, Vindhya Pradesh, and Bhopal to form India’s second largest state in 1956.
Kerala (1956): Former states of Travancore, Cochin, and Malabar were merged together to form the state of Kerala in 1956.
Karnataka (1956): Mysore state was created by bringing together all Kannada speaking regions together in 1956. The state was renamed Karnataka in 1973.
Andhra Pradesh (1956): Post-independence, in 1953, all Telugu speaking regions were separated from the erstwhile Madras Presidency and unified as Andhra Pradesh. In 1956, at the time of reorganization of states, Hyderabad state was merged with Andhra Pradesh and the state officially came into existence. The formation of Andhra Pradesh acted akin to the opening of the Pandora’s box, leading to consequent creation of other states based on linguistic lines. Post formation of Telangana in 2014, Amravati is the new capital of Andhra Pradesh.
Maharashtra (1960): At the time of independence, Bombay Province covered a large part of western India. In 1960, the states of Maharashtra and Gujarat were formed as independent states. Some southern districts of the Bombay state were also transferred to the then existing Mysore.
Gujarat (1960): Part of Bombay Presidency in British India, Gujarat was separated and formed as an independent state in 1960.
Nagaland (1963): In 1957, the Naga Hills Tuensang Area was brought under central control, with its administration from Assam. Following increasing calls and protests for a separate identity to preserve its unique culture, the region was separated from Assam and the state of Nagaland was formed in 1963 with Kohima as its capital.
Punjab (1966): Post independence, the princely state of Patiala was merged with eight other similar states to form Patiala and East Punjab States Union (PEPSU). In 1956, this region was merged with the rest of Punjab and in 1966, Haryana was separated as an independent state. Both Punjab and Haryana continue to share Chandigarh as their capital, which is a Union Territory.
Haryana (1966): Created from Punjab in 1966.
Himachal Pradesh (1971): Himachal Pradesh was created with the merger of 30 princely states in 1950, and in 1956, was declared a Union Territory. It became an independent state in 1971 with Shimla as its capital.
Manipur (1972): While Manipur gained independence along with India in 1947, it joined the Indian Union as a C state in 1950. In 1956, it became a Union Territory and became an independent state in 1972, with Imphal as its capital.
Meghalaya (1972): The northeastern state of Meghalaya was formed as an autonomous state within Assam in 1970. It became a separate state in 1972 with Shillong as its capital.
Sikkim (1975): This peaceful state was an Indian protectorate until it merged with the Indian Union as an independent state in 1975 with Gangtok as its capital.
Goa (1987): This Portuguese colony was liberated in 1961 by the Indian Army and taken in as a Union Territory, along with Daman and Diu. The state of Goa was formed in 1987, while Daman and Diu continue to remain as Union Territories.
Arunachal Pradesh (1987): The strategically important state of Arunachal Pradesh was part of the North East Frontier Agency (NEFA) and controlled by the Central government but was part of the Assam region. In 1972, it became a Union Territory and in 1987 became an independent state of India with Itanagar as its capital.
Mizoram (1987): Initially a district of Assam, it was declared a Union Territory in 1972. After the peace accord was signed with the Mizo National Front in 1986, Mizoram was declared an independent state in 1987 with Aizawl as its capital.
Chhattisgarh (2000): The central Indian state of Chhattisgarh was carved out of Madhya Pradesh and formed as an independent state in 2000 with Raipur as its capital.
Jharkhand (2000): This tribal dominated state was carved out of Bihar and made an independent state in 2000 with Ranchi as its capital.
Uttarakhand (2000): The hilly state of Uttaranchal was carved out of Uttar Pradesh as an independent state in 2000 with Dehradun as its capital. In 2007, the state was renamed Uttarakhand.
Telangana (2014): The state was carved out of Andhra Pradesh as an independent state in 2014 with Hyderabad as its capital. The demand for an independent Telangana dates back to the time of reorganization of Indian states in the post-independence period.
National Capital Territory of Delhi (1991): Delhi is neither a full-fledged State nor a full-fledged Union Territory. It has a special status.
6 Union Territories
1956: Andaman and Nicobar Islands
1961: Dadar and Nagar Haveli
1963: Puducherry (original name Pondicherry – under Indian control since 1954; renamed Puducherry in 2006)
1987: Daman and Diu (earlier part of Goa, Daman & Diu)