In the early 7th century the Chand Kingdom was established by Raja Som Chand. He continued to call his state Kurmanchal and established its capital in Champawat. The Baleshwar and Nagnath temples were built in this former capital city during the 11th and 12th centuries. Later in 1563 the capital was shifted to Almora by Raja Kalyan Chand and he laid the foundation of a town called Rajapur (A name that is still used and is found inscribed on a number of copper plates of that time.
The Chand rule is seen as the most prominent empire of Kumaon and it coincided with a period of cultural resurgence. Archeological surveys point towards the development of culture and art forms during this period.
From 7th to 18th centuries, Kumaon prospered under the Chand Monarchs and during this period , learning and new forms of painting (The Pahari school of art) developed.
One of the most powerful ruler of Chand dynasty was Raja Baz Bahadur Chand (1638 – 78) AD. In 1655 he attacked Garhwal and captured the Terai region, including Dehradun. Raja Baz Bahadur Chand built the Golu Devta Temple at Gorakhal, near Bhimtal and also built the Bhimeshwara Mahadev Temple at Bhimtal.
Towards the end of 17th century Raja Udyot Chand erected several temples in Almora, including the Tripur Sundari, Udyot Chandeshwar and Parbateshwar, to mark the victory over Garhwal and Doti. Raja Gyan Chand ascended the throne in 1698 and in 1699 he attacked Garhwal, defeating the remaining Garhwali forces in the battle of Daduli (near Melchauri in Garhwal) In 1707 the Kumaon forces annexed Juniyagarh in Bichla Chaukot (Syalde), and razed the old fort at Chandpur. Later Raja Jagat Chand (1708 – 1720) defeated the Raja of Garhwal and extended his rule in entire Garhwal.
The Chand Kings also defeated the Rajwars of Askot, though the latter were allowed to hold their land on payment of a tribute. The hill station of Binsar, 30 km from Almora was the Summer retreat of the Chand Kings.
Chand Kingdom of Kumaon was originally inhabited by a large number of Hindu clans, each controlling a small area and protecting it with a fortress. These fortresses were scattered across the western portion of Kumaon where fertile cropland was more readily available, because of these fortresses western Kumaon was referred to as Garhwal. “The country of fortresses”
Because of its crucial strategic position and religious significance Chand Kingdom of Kumaon was attacked a number of times. In the sixteenth century the sultans of Bahmani launched several expeditions in to Kumaon. In 1635 the moghal emperor Shah Jahan I (r. 1628 – 1658) launched a massive invasion of Kumaon and in that war, Kumaon successfully repulsed the moghals. Shah Jahan increased the size of the force and attacked again, without any success against the brave Kumaonis.
The Chand Kingdom at its peak included Kumaon, Garhwal, Himachal, J&K, Mahakali Anchal, Seti Anchal, Bheri Anchal, Karnali Anchal, Rapti Anchal, Dhawalagiri Anchal, Gandaki Anchal, Lumbini Anchal and the Transhimalaya region of Tibet, which included the holy Mount Kailash also known as Gang Rinpoche or as Kangri Rinpoche in the local language.
The Kumaon Kingdom stretched up to Afghanistan at the far end, Nepal and Tibet at the other end and plains of UP on one end. Very few kingdoms in the world can lay claim of having influence in such a vast area.
Even today the attire worn by people and practices being followed in the entire stretch from Afghanistan, Kashmir, Himachal, Uttarakhand, Tibet and Nepal is similar.
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