Uttar Pradesh is the most populous state in India. In the early 21st century it had an overall population density of more than twice the national average. The Gangetic Plain supports the overwhelming majority of the state’s population.
Some one-fifth of the state’s people are classified officially as Scheduled Castes (formerly called “untouchables”; groups that officially occupy a low position within the caste system). A much tinier proportion of the people are officially classified as Scheduled Tribes (generally applied to indigenous peoples who fall outside the predominant Indian social hierarchy). The vast majority of the people, including members of all levels of the caste hierarchy, are Hindus. Muslims are the largest religious minority. There also are relatively small groups of Sikhs, Christians, Jains, and Buddhists. Hindi is an official language of the state and the mother tongue of most of the people. Urdu, additionally an official state language, is primarily spoken by Muslims. The vernacularHindustani is widely understood.
The majority of the state’s population lives in rural areas. The rural settlements are characterized by compact villages in the western part of the state, groupings of hamlets in the eastern part, and a combination of the two in the central part. A traditional village in Uttar Pradesh is a cluster of mud huts with roofs made of thatch (such as straw) or clay tiles and few amenities of modern living. Villages near the cities, however, are likely to have cement-plastered homes, paved roads, and electricity.
Most urban inhabitants live in cities with populations of more than 100,000. Among the largest cities of Uttar Pradesh are Kanpur, Lucknow, Agra, Varanasi, Meerut, and Allahabad. Kanpur, located in the central portion of the state, is the premier industrial city of Uttar Pradesh. Lucknow, the state capital, is about 30 miles (48 km) northeast of Kanpur. Agra, in the western part of the state, is the site of the Taj Mahal, a mausoleum built by the Mughal emperor Shah Jahān (ruled 1628–58) in memory of his wife; it is the most famous tourist attraction in India. Varanasi, the city most sacred to Hindus, is one of the world’s oldest continuously inhabited cities. Meerut, northeast of Delhi, is an important centre of transportation, trade, and industry. Allahabad (on the site of the ancient holy city of Prayag), located at the confluence of the Ganges and Yamuna rivers, is another city sacred to Hindus.
The population of Uttar Pradesh continues to grow at a high rate. Because of that high growth rate and a substantial reduction in infant mortality in the 20th century, there has been a significant increase in the proportion of young adults and children. The sex ratio also has improved and since the early 21st century has exceeded 900 females per 1,000 males. Toward the end of the 19th century, dire poverty and the promise of better opportunities forced many people of the region to emigrate to distant lands, such as South Africa, Mauritius, Fiji, and the West Indies. More recently, however, out-migration from Uttar Pradesh has been mainly to other parts of India, particularly to large cities such as Kolkata (Calcutta), Mumbai (Bombay), and Delhi.
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