We analyzed retrospectively the characteristics of 87 patients with ulcerative colitis seen in a tertiary care center in north India. Ulcerative colitis was diagnosed on the basis of clinical features, sigmoidoscopy, rectal biopsy, and exclusion of microbiological causes of colitis. Severe clinical disease was seen in 53 (60%) patients that correlated with extensive colonic involvement (p < 0.001), severe changes on sigmoidoscopy (p < 0.001) and histology (p < 0.001), erythrocyte sedimentation rate (ESR) of > 30 mm for the first hour, and serum albumin of < 3 g/dl (p < 0.001). Remission of the disease was maintained on sulfasalazine in 18 (20.7%) patients, whereas 47 (54%) required steroids. Proctocolectomy with il- eoanal anastomosis was done in 22 (25.3%) patients in whom there was poor response to medical treatment. Postoperative complications were seen in seven (31.8%) patients, and death occurred in four (18.1%) patients. Ulcerative colitis thus commonly presents as severe disease, with the majority of patients requiring surgery due to poor response to medical therapy. This pattern of disease as seen in an academic referral hospital in north India is virtually indistinguishable from that seen in similar centers in the West. However, in our setting, proctocolectomy nd ileoanal anastomosis is cost-effective in patients unresponsive to, or unable to afford, drug treatment.