Himachal Pradesh

Himachal Pradesh (Hindi: [ɦɪˈmaːtʃəl pɾəˈdeːʃ] (About this sound); lit. "snow-laden province") is a state in the northern part of India. Situated in the Western Himalayas, it is bordered by union territories of Jammu and Kashmir and Ladakh on the north, Punjab state on the west, Haryana state on the southwest, Uttarakhand state on the southeast, and Tibet region on the east. At its southernmost point, it also touches the state of Uttar Pradesh.

The predominantly mountainous region comprising the present day Himachal Pradesh has been inhabited since pre-historic times having witnessed multiple waves of human migration from other areas.[10] Through its history, the region was mostly ruled by local kingdoms some of which accepted suzerainty of larger empires. Prior to India's independence from the British, Himachal comprised the hilly regions of Punjab Province of British India. After independence, many of the hilly territories were organized as the Chief Commissioner's province of Himachal Pradesh which later became a union territory. In 1966, hilly areas of neighboring Punjab state were merged into Himachal and it was ultimately granted full statehood in 1971.

Himachal Pradesh is spread across valleys with many perennial rivers flowing through them. Almost 90% of the state's population lives in rural areas. Agriculture, horticulture, hydropower and tourism are important constituents of the state's economy. The hilly state is almost universally electrified with 99.5% of the households having electricity as of 2016. The state was declared India's second open-defecation-free state in 2016.[11] According to a survey of CMS – India Corruption Study 2017, Himachal Pradesh is India's least corrupt state.[12][13]

Tribes such as the Koli, Hali, Dagi, Dhaugri, Dasa, Khasa, Kanaura, and Kirat inhabited the region from the prehistoric era.[14] The foothills of the modern state of Himachal Pradesh were inhabited by people from the Indus valley civilization which flourished between 2250 and 1750 B.C.[15] The Kols or Mundas are believed to be the original migrants to the hills of present-day Himachal Pradesh followed by the Bhotas and Kiratas.[15]

During the Vedic period, several small republics known as Janapada existed which were later conquered by the Gupta Empire. After a brief period of supremacy by King Harshavardhana, the region was divided into several local powers headed by chieftains, including some Rajput principalities. These kingdoms enjoyed a large degree of independence and were invaded by Delhi Sultanate a number of times.[15] Mahmud Ghaznavi conquered Kangra at the beginning of the 11th century. Timur and Sikander Lodi also marched through the lower hills of the state and captured a number of forts and fought many battles.[15] Several hill states acknowledged Mughal suzerainty and paid regular tribute to the Mughals.[16]

The Kingdom of Gorkha conquered many kingdoms and came to power in Nepal in 1768.[15] They consolidated their military power and began to expand their territory.[15] Gradually, the Kingdom of Nepal annexed Sirmour and Shimla. Under the leadership of Amar Singh Thapa, the Nepali army laid siege to Kangra. They managed to defeat Sansar Chand Katoch, the ruler of Kangra, in 1806 with the help of many provincial chiefs. However, the Nepali army could not capture Kangra fort which came under Maharaja Ranjeet Singh in 1809. After the defeat, they expanded towards the south of the state. However, Raja Ram Singh, Raja of Siba State, captured the fort of Siba from the remnants of Lahore Darbar in Samvat 1846,[15] during the First Anglo-Sikh War.

They came into direct conflict with the British along the tarai belt after which the British expelled them from the provinces of the Satluj.[15] The British gradually emerged as the paramount power in the region.[15] In the revolt of 1857, or first Indian war of independence, arising from a number of grievances against the British,[15] the people of the hill states were not as politically active as were those in other parts of the country.[15] They and their rulers, with the exception of Bushahr, remained more or less inactive.[15] Some, including the rulers of Chamba, Bilaspur, Bhagal and Dhami, rendered help to the British government during the revolt.

The British territories came under the British Crown after Queen Victoria's proclamation of 1858. The states of Chamba, Mandi and Bilaspur made good progress in many fields during the British rule.[15] During World War I, virtually all rulers of the hill states remained loyal and contributed to the British war effort, both in the form of men and materials. Among these were the states of Kangra, Jaswan, Datarpur, Guler, Rajgarh, Nurpur, Chamba, Suket, Mandi, and Bilaspur.[15]

After independence, the Chief Commissioner's Province of Himachal Pradesh was organized on 15 April 1948 as a result of the integration of 28 petty princely states (including feudal princes and zaildars) in the promontories of the western Himalayas. These were known as the Simla Hills States and four Punjab southern hill states under the Himachal Pradesh (Administration) Order, 1948 under Sections 3 and 4 of the Extra-Provincial Jurisdiction Act, 1947 (later renamed as the Foreign Jurisdiction Act, 1947 vide A.O. of 1950). The State of Bilaspur was merged into Himachal Pradesh on 1 July 1954 by the Himachal Pradesh and Bilaspur (New State) Act, 1954.[17]

Himachal became a Part 'C' state on 26 January 1950 with the implementation of the Constitution of India and the Lieutenant Governor was appointed. The Legislative Assembly was elected in 1952. Himachal Pradesh became a union territory on 1 November 1956.[15] Some areas of Punjab State— namely Simla, Kangra, Kullu and Lahul and Spiti Districts, Nalagarh Tehsil of Ambala District, Lohara, Amb and Una Janungo circles, some area of Santokhgarh Kanungo circle and some other specified area of Una Tehsil of Hoshiarpur District, besides some parts of Dhar Kalan Kanungo circle of Pathankot tehsil of Gurdaspur District—were merged with Himachal Pradesh on 1 November 1966 on enactment by Parliament of the Punjab Reorganisation Act, 1966.[17] On 18 December 1970, the State of Himachal Pradesh Act was passed by Parliament, and the new state came into being on 25 January 1971. Himachal became the 18th state of the Indian Union with Dr. Yashwant Singh Parmar as its first chief minister.[15]

Himachal is in the western Himalayas. Covering an area of 55,673 square kilometres (21,495 sq mi),[4] it is a mountainous state. Most of the state lies on the foothills of the Dhauladhar Range. At 6,816 m, Reo Purgyil is the highest mountain peak in the state of Himachal Pradesh.[18]

The drainage system of Himachal is composed both of rivers and glaciers. Himalayan rivers criss-cross the entire mountain chain. Himachal Pradesh provides water to both the Indus and Ganges basins.[19] The drainage systems of the region are the Chandra Bhaga or the Chenab, the Ravi, the Beas, the Sutlej, and the Yamuna. These rivers are perennial and are fed by snow and rainfall. They are protected by an extensive cover of natural vegetation.[19]

Due to extreme variation in elevation, great variation occurs in the climatic conditions of Himachal. The climate varies from hot and subhumid tropical in the southern tracts to, with more elevation, cold, alpine, and glacial in the northern and eastern mountain ranges.[20] The state's winter capital, Dharamsala receives very heavy rainfall, while areas like Lahaul and Spiti are cold and almost rainless. Broadly, Himachal experiences three seasons: summer, winter, and rainy season. Summer lasts from mid-April till the end of June and most parts become very hot (except in the alpine zone which experiences a mild summer) with the average temperature ranging from 28 to 32 °C (82 to 90 °F). Winter lasts from late November till mid-March. Snowfall is common in alpine tracts .

Himachal Pradesh is one of the states that lies in the Indian Himalayan Region (IHR), one of the richest reservoirs of biological diversity in the world. As of 2002, the IHR is undergoing large scale irrational extraction of wild, medicinal herbs, thus endangering many of its high-value gene stock. To address this, a workshop on ‘Endangered Medicinal Plant Species in Himachal Pradesh’ was held in 2002 and the conference was attended by forty experts from diverse disciplines.[21]

According to 2003 Forest Survey of India report, legally defined forest areas constitute 66.52% of the area of Himachal Pradesh.[22] Vegetation in the state is dictated by elevation and precipitation. The state is endowed with a high diversity of medicinal and aromatic plants.[23] Lahaul-Spiti region of the state, being a cold desert, supports unique plants of medicinal value including Ferula jaeschkeana, Hyoscyamus niger, Lancea tibetica, and Saussurea bracteata.[24][25]

Himachal is also said to be the fruit bowl of the country,[26] with orchards being widespread. Meadows and pastures are also seen clinging to steep slopes. After the winter season, the hillsides and orchards bloom with wild flowers, while gladiolas, carnations, marigolds,[27] roses, chrysanthemums, tulips and lilies are carefully cultivated. Himachal Pradesh Horticultural Produce Marketing and Processing Corporation Ltd. (HPMC) is a state body that markets fresh and processed fruits.[28]

Himachal Pradesh has around 463 bird[29] 77 mammalian, 44 reptile and 80 fish species.[30] Great Himalayan National Park, a UNESCO World Heritage Site and Pin Valley National Park are the national Parks located in the state.[30][31] The state also has 30 wildlife sanctuaries and 3 conservation reserves.[31]

The Legislative Assembly of Himachal Pradesh has no pre-constitution history. The State itself is a post-independence creation. It came into being as a centrally administered territory on 15 April 1948 from the integration of thirty erstwhile princely states.[32]

Himachal Pradesh is governed through a parliamentary system of representative democracy, a feature the state shares with other Indian states. Universal suffrage is granted to residents. The legislature consists of elected members and special office bearers such as the Speaker and the Deputy Speaker who are elected by the members. Assembly meetings are presided over by the Speaker or the Deputy Speaker in the Speaker's absence. The judiciary is composed of the Himachal Pradesh High Court and a system of lower courts. Executive authority is vested in the Council of Ministers headed by the Chief Minister, although the titular head of government is the Governor. The governor is the head of state appointed by the President of India. The leader of the party or coalition with a majority in the Legislative Assembly is appointed as the Chief Minister by the governor, and the Council of Ministers are appointed by the governor on the advice of the Chief Minister. The Council of Ministers reports to the Legislative Assembly. The Assembly is unicameral with 68 Members of the Legislative Assembly (MLA).[33] Terms of office run for five years, unless the Assembly is dissolved prior to the completion of the term. Auxiliary authorities known as panchayats, for which local body elections are regularly held, govern local affairs.

In the assembly elections held in November 2017, the BJP secured an absolute majority, winning 44 of the 68 seats while the Congress won only 21 of the 68 seats. Jai Ram Thakur[34] was sworn in as Himachal Pradesh's Chief Minister for the first time[35] in Shimla on 27 December 2017.

The state of Himachal Pradesh is divided into 12 districts[36] which are grouped into three divisions, Shimla, Kangra and Mandi.[37] The districts are further divided into 69 subdivisions, 78 blocks and 145 Tehsils.[36]

Shimla, the capital of Himachal Pradesh. Shimla Montage – Clockwise from top: Skyline at Shimla Southern Side, Indian Institute of Advanced Studies formerly (Viceregal Lodge, Rashtrapati Niwas), Town hall, Night view of Shimla and Christ Church.

The era of planning in Himachal Pradesh started in 1951 along with the rest of India with the implementation of the first five-year plan. The First Plan allocated 52.7 million to Himachal Pradesh.[46] More than 50% of this expenditure was incurred on transport and communication; while the power sector got a share of just 4.6%, though it had steadily increased to 7% by the Third Plan.[47] Expenditure on agriculture and allied activities increased from 14.4% in the First Plan to 32% in the Third Plan, showing a progressive decline afterwards from 24% in the Fourth Plan to less than 10% in the Tenth Plan.[47] Expenditure on energy sector was 24.2% of the total in the Tenth Plan.[47]

The total GDP for 2005-06 was estimated at 254 billion as against 230 billion in the year 2004–05, showing an increase of 10.5%.[48] The GDP for fiscal 2015–16 was estimated at 1.110 trillion,[43] which increased to 1.247 trillion in 2016–17, recording growth of 6.8%.[44] The per capita income increased from 130,067 in 2015–16 to 147,277 in 2016–17.[43][44] The state government's advance estimates for fiscal 2017–18 stated the total GDP and per capita income as 1.359 trillion and 158,462 respectively.[45] As of 2018, Himachal is the 22nd-largest state economy in India with 1.52 lakh crore (US$22 billion) in gross domestic product and has the 13th-highest per capita income (160,000 (US$2,300)) among the states and union territories of India.[49]

Himachal Pradesh also ranks as the second-best performing state in the country on human development indicators after Kerala.[50] One of the Indian government's key initiatives to tackle unemployment is the National Rural Employment Guarantee Act (NREGA). The participation of women in the NREGA has been observed to vary across different regions of the nation. As of the year 2009–2010, Himachal Pradesh joined the category of high female participation, recording a 46% share of NREGS (National Rural Employment Guarantee Scheme) work days to women. This was a drastic increase from the 13% that was recorded in 2006–2007.[51]

Agriculture accounts for 9.4% of the net state domestic product.[52] It is the main source of income and employment in Himachal. About 90% of the population in Himachal depends directly upon agriculture, which provides direct employment to 62% of total workers of state.[52] The main cereals grown include wheat, maize, rice and barley with major cropping systems being maize-wheat, rice-wheat and maize-potato-wheat.[53][54] Pulses, fruits, vegetables and oilseeds are among the other crops grown in the state.[53] Land husbandry initiatives such as the Mid-Himalayan Watershed Development Project, which includes the Himachal Pradesh Reforestation Project (HPRP), the world's largest clean development mechanism (CDM) undertaking, have improved agricultural yields and productivity, and raised rural household incomes.[55]

Apple is the principal cash crop of the state grown principally in the districts of Shimla, Kinnaur, Kullu, Mandi, Chamba and some parts of Sirmaur and Lahaul-Spiti with an average annual production of five lakh tonnes and per hectare production of 8 to 10 tonnes.[56] The apple cultivation constitute 49 per cent of the total area under fruit crops and 85% of total fruit production in the state with an estimated economy of 3500 crore.[56] Apples from Himachal are exported to other Indian states and even other countries.[57][58] In 2011-12, the total area under apple cultivation was 1.04 lakh hectares, increased from 90,347 hectares in 2000-01.[58] According to the provisional estimates of Ministry of Agriculture & Farmers Welfare, the annual apple production in Himachal for fiscal 2015–16 stood at 7.53 lakh tonnes, making it India's second-largest apple-producing state after Jammu and Kashmir.[59]

Hydropower is one of the major sources of income generation for the state.[60] The state has an abundance of hydropower resources because of the presence of various perennial rivers. Many high-capacity hydropower plants have been constructed which produce surplus electricity that is sold to other states, such as Delhi, Punjab and West Bengal.[61] The income generated from exporting the electricity to other states is being provided as subsidy to the consumers in the state.[62] The rich hydropower resources of Himachal have resulted in the state becoming almost universally electrified with around 94.8% houses receiving electricity as of 2001, as compared to the national average of 55.9%.[62] Himachal's hydro-electric power production is however yet to be fully utilized:[63] The identified hydroelectric potential for the state is 27,436 MW in five river basins[61] while the hydroelectric capacity in 2016 was 10,351 MW.[63]

Tourism in Himachal Pradesh is a major contributor to the state's economy and growth. The Himalayas attracts tourists from all over the world. Hill stations like Shimla, Manali, Dharamshala, Dalhousie, Chamba, Khajjiar, Kullu and Kasauli are popular destinations for both domestic and foreign tourists.[64] The state also has many important Hindu pilgrimage sites with prominent temples like Naina Devi Temple, Bajreshwari Mata Temple, Jwala Ji Temple, Chintpurni, Chamunda Devi Temple, Baijnath Temple, Bhimakali Temple, Bijli Mahadev and Jakhoo Temple.[65] Manimahesh Lake situated in the Bharmour region of Chamba district is the venue of an annual Hindu pilgrimage trek held in the month of August which attracts lakhs of devotees.[66] The state is also referred to as "Dev Bhoomi" (literally meaning Abode of Gods) due to its mention as such in ancient Hindu texts and occurrence of a large number of historical temples in the state.[67]

It is also called the Land of the Gods on account of the Hindu belief that deities like Lord Shiva considered the Himalayas their abode, and much of the state is located among the Himalayan mountains. Although modern pop-literature writers online have often also referred to Uttarakhand as the land of the gods because it also contains Himalayan mountains, officially it is Himachal Pradesh that has been considered the land of the gods since before the state of Uttarakhand existed (the UK as it is abbreviated on license plates for automobiles in the state, and the state was founded in the year 2000).[68] A tourism department board on the road when entering Himachal Pradesh from the state of Punjab states "Welcome to the Land of the Gods." The state is also known for its adventure tourism activities like ice skating in Shimla, paragliding in Bir Billing and Solang valley, rafting in Kullu, skiing in Manali, boating in Bilaspur and trekking, horse riding and fishing in different parts in the state.[69] Shimla, the state's capital, is home to Asia's only natural ice-skating rink.[70] Spiti Valley in Lahaul and Spiti District situated at an altitude of over 3000 metres with its picturesque landscapes is an important destination for adventure seekers. The region also has some of the oldest Buddhist Monasteries in Asia.[71]

Himachal hosted the first Paragliding World Cup in India from 24 to 31 October in 2015.[72][73] The venue for the paragliding world cup was Bir Billing, which is 70 km from the tourist town Macleod Ganj, located in the heart of Himachal in Kangra District. Bir Billing is the centre for aero sports in Himachal and considered as best for paragliding.[72] Buddhist monasteries, trekking to tribal villages and mountain biking are other local possibilities.

Himachal has three domestic airports in Kangra, Kullu and Shimla districts.[74] The air routes connect the state with Delhi and Chandigarh.

Himachal is known for its narrow-gauge railways. One is the Kalka-Shimla Railway, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, and another is the Pathankot-Jogindernagar line.[75] The total length of these two tracks is 259 kilometres (161 mi). The Kalka-Shimla Railway passes through many tunnels, while the Pathankot–Jogindernagar meanders through a maze of hills and valleys. The state also has broad-gauge railway track, connecting Amb and Una (district headquarters of Una district) to Delhi. A survey is being conducted to extend this railway line to Hamirpur.[76] The total route length of the operational railway network in the state is 296.26 kilometres (184.09 mi).[77] Other proposed railways in the state are Dharamsala-Palampur, Baddi-Chandigarh and Bilaspur-Manali-Leh.[78][79]

Roads are the major mode of transport in the hilly terrains. The state has road network of 28,208 kilometres (17,528 mi),[80] including eight National Highways (NH) that constitute 1,234 kilometres (767 mi) and 19 State Highways with a total length of 1,625 kilometres (1,010 mi).[80] Hamirpur district has the highest road density in the country.[81] Some roads are closed during winter and monsoon seasons due to snow and landslides. The state-owned Himachal Road Transport Corporation with a fleet of over 3,100,[82] operates bus services connecting important cities and towns with villages within the state and also on various interstate routes. In addition, around 3,000 private buses ply in the state.[83]

Himachal Pradesh has a total population of 6,864,602 including 3,481,873 males and 3,382,729 females according to the Census of India 2011. It has only 0.57 per cent of India's total population, recording a growth of 12.81 per cent.[5][86] The scheduled castes and scheduled tribes account for 25.19 per cent and 5.71 per cent of the population respectively.[87] The sex ratio stood at 972 females per 1,000 males, recording a marginal increase from 968 in 2001.[88] The child sex ratio increased from 896 in 2001 to 909 in 2011.[88] The total fertility rate (TFR) per woman in 2015 stood at 1.7, one of the lowest in India.[89]

In the census, the state is placed 21st on the population chart, followed by Tripura at 22nd place.[90] Kangra district was top-ranked with a population strength of 1,507,223 (21.98%), Mandi district 999,518 (14.58%), Shimla district 813,384 (11.86%), Solan district 576,670 (8.41%), Sirmaur district 530,164 (7.73%), Una district 521,057 (7.60%), Chamba district 518,844 (7.57%), Hamirpur district 454,293 (6.63%), Kullu district 437,474 (6.38%), Bilaspur district 382,056 (5.57%), Kinnaur district 84,298 (1.23%) and Lahaul Spiti 31,528 (0.46%).[91]

The life expectancy at birth in Himachal Pradesh increased significantly from 52.6 years in the period from 1970–75 (above the national average of 49.7 years) to 72.0 years for the period 2011–15 (above the national average of 68.3 years).[92] The infant mortality rate stood at 40 in 2010, and the crude birth rate has declined from 37.3 in 1971 to 16.9 in 2010, below the national average of 26.5 in 1998. The crude death rate was 6.9 in 2010.[93] Himachal Pradesh's literacy rate has almost doubled between 1981 and 2011 (see table to right). The state is one of the most literate states of India with a literacy rate of 83.78% as of 2011.[9]

Hindi is the official language of Himachal Pradesh and is spoken by the majority of the population as a lingua franca.[6] Sanskrit is the additional official language of the state.[7] Most of the population, however, speak natively one or another of the Himachali languages (locally also known as Pahari), a subgroup of the Indo-Aryan languages that includes Mandeali, Kangri, Kullu, Bilaspuri and others. Additional Indo-Aryan languages spoken in the state include Hindi, Punjabi (native to 4.4% of the population), Nepali (1.3%) and Kashmiri (0.8%). In parts of the state there are speakers of Tibeto-Burman languages like Kinnauri (1.2%), Tibetan (0.3%), Lahauli (0.16%), Pattani (0.12%), and others.[94][95]

Hinduism is the major religion in Himachal Pradesh. More than 95% of the total population adheres to the Hindu faith, the distribution of which is evenly spread throughout the state.[97] Himachal Pradesh has the highest proportion of Hindu population among all the states and union territories in India.[98]

Other religions that form a small percentage are Islam, Sikhism and Buddhism. Muslims are mainly concentrated in Sirmaur, Chamba, Una and Solan districts where they form 2.53-6.27% of the population.[97] Sikhs mostly live in towns and cities and constitute 1.16% of the state population. The Buddhists, who constitute 1.15%, are mainly natives and tribals from Lahaul and Spiti, where they form a majority of 62%, and Kinnaur, where they form 21.5%.[97]

Himachal Pradesh was one of the few states that had remained largely untouched by external customs, largely due to its difficult terrain. With remarkable economic and social advancements, the state has changed rapidly.[99] Himachal Pradesh is a multireligious, multicultural as well as a multilingual state like other Indian states. Western Pahari languages also known as Himachali languages are widely spoken in the state. Some of the most commonly spoken individual languages are Kangri, Mandeali, Kulvi, Chambeali, Bharmauri and Kinnauri.[100] The Hindu communities residing in Himachal include the Brahmins, Rajputs, Kayasthas, Sunars, Kannets, Rathis and Kolis.[101] The tribal population of the state consists mainly of Gaddis, Gujjars, Kanauras, Pangwalas, Bhots, Swanglas and Lahaulas.[101][102]

Himachal is well known for its handicrafts. The carpets, leather works, Kullu shawls, Kangra paintings, Chamba Rumals, stoles, embroidered grass footwear (Pullan chappal), silver jewelry, metal ware, knitted woolen socks, Pattoo, basketry of cane and bamboo (Wicker and Rattan) and woodwork are among the notable ones.[103][104][105] Of late, the demand for these handicrafts has increased within and outside the country.[104] Himachali caps of various colour bands are also well-known local art work, and are often treated as a symbol of the Himachali identity.[106] The colour of the Himachali caps has been an indicator of political loyalties in the hill state for a long period of time with Congress party leaders like Virbhadra Singh donning caps with green band and the rival BJP leader Prem Kumar Dhumal wearing a cap with maroon band.[107][108] The former has served six terms as the Chief Minister of the state while the latter is a two-time Chief Minister.[109] Local music and dance also reflects the cultural identity of the state. Through their dance and music, the Himachali people entreat their gods during local festivals and other special occasions.[110]

Apart from national fairs and festivals, there are regional fairs and festivals, including the temple fairs in nearly every region that are of great significance to Himachal Pradesh.[110][111] The Kullu Dussehra festival is nationally known.[112] The day-to-day cuisine of Himachalis is similar to the rest of northern India with Punjabi and Tibetan influences.[113] Lentils (Dāl), rice (Chāwal or Bhāț), vegetables (Sabzī) and chapati (wheat flatbread) form the staple food of the local population.[113] Non-vegetarian food is more preferred and accepted in Himachal Pradesh than elsewhere in India, partly due to the scarcity of fresh vegetables on the hilly terrain of the state.[114] Himachali specialities include Siddu, Babru, Khatta, Mhanee, Channa Madra, Patrode, Mah Ki Dal, Chamba-Style Fried Fish, Kullu Trout, Chha Gosht, Pahadi Chicken, Sepu Badi, Auriya Kaddu, Aloo Palda, Pateer, Makki Ki Roti and Sarson Ka Saag, Chouck, Bhagjery and Chutney of Til.[114][115]

At the time of Independence, Himachal Pradesh had a literacy rate of 8% - one of the lowest in the country.[117] By 2011, the literacy rate surged to over 82%,[118][5] making Himachal one of the most-literate states in the country. There are over 10,000 primary schools, 1,000 secondary schools and more than 1,300 high schools in the state.[119] In meeting the constitutional obligation to make primary education compulsory, Himachal became the first state in India to make elementary education accessible to every child.[120] Himachal Pradesh is an exception to the nationwide gender bias in education levels.[121] The state has a female literacy rate of around 76%.[122] In addition, school enrollment and participation rates for girls are almost universal at the primary level. While higher levels of education do reflect a gender-based disparity, Himachal is still significantly ahead of other states at bridging the gap.[123] The Hamirpur District in particular stands out for high literacy rates across all metrics of measurement.[124]

The state government has played an instrumental role in the rise of literacy in the state by spending a significant proportion of the state's GDP on education. During the first six five-year plans, most of the development expenditure in education sector was utilized in quantitative expansion, but after the seventh five-year-plan the state government switched emphasis on qualitative improvement and modernisation of education.[117] In an effort to raise the number of teaching staff at primary schools they appointed over 1000 teacher aids through the Vidya Upasak Yojna in 2001.[117] The Sarva Shiksha Abhiyan is another HP government initiative that not only aims for universal elementary education but also encourages communities to engage in the management of schools.[125] The Rashtriya Madhayamic Shiksha Abhiyan launched in 2009, is a similar scheme but focuses on improving access to quality secondary education.[125]

The standard of education in the state has reached a considerably high level as compared to other states in India[124] with several reputed educational institutes for higher studies. The , Indian Institute of Technology Mandi, Indian Institute of Management Sirmaur, Himachal Pradesh University in Shimla, Central University of Himachal Pradesh, Dharamsala, National Institute of Technology, Hamirpur, Indian Institute of Information Technology Una, Alakh Prakash Goyal University, Himachal Pradesh National Law University are some of the notable universities in the state. Indira Gandhi Medical College and Hospital in Shimla, Dr. Rajendra Prasad Government Medical College in Kangra, Rajiv Gandhi Government Post Graduate Ayurvedic College in Paprola and Homoeopathic Medical College & Hospital in Kumarhatti are the prominent medical institutes in the state. Besides these, there is a Government Dental College in Shimla which is the state's first recognised dental institute.[126] The state government has also decided to start three major nursing colleges to develop the healthcare system of the state.[127] is one of the most renowned hill agriculture institutes in the world. has earned a unique distinction in India for imparting teaching, research and extension education in horticulture, forestry and allied disciplines. Further, state-run Jawaharlal Nehru Government Engineering College was inaugurated in 2006 at Sundernagar.[127] Himachal Pradesh also hosts a campus of the prestigious fashion college, National Institute of Fashion Technology (NIFT) in Kangra.