Punjab region

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For more information, see: Punjab (India) and Punjab (Pakistan)

Punjab ਪੰਜਾਬ in Gurmukhi, (ਪੰਜਾਬ, पंजाब, پنجاب, meaning "The Land of the five Rivers") (c.f. ap-); also Panjab (پنجاب in Shahmukhi}, پنجاب)

The Punjab region is the old land which includes Haryana, Himachal Pradesh, Delhi, Punjab State and Pakistan Punjab province
Taxila is a World Heritage Site

is a region straddling the border between India and Pakistan. The "Five Rivers" are the Indus, Ravi, Sutlej, Chenab and Jhelum; the last four rivers being the tributaries of the Indus river. Punjab has a long history and rich cultural heritage. The people of the Punjab are called Punjabis and speak a language named Punjabi. The main religions in Indian Punjab are Sikhism and Hinduism, while Islam is the majority in Pakistani Punjab.

The area that is now known as the Greater Punjab comprised vast territories of northern India and eastern Pakistan. It was bounded by the Indus in the west and the Yamuna river in the east. It was a centre of the prehistoric Indus Valley civilization and after c. 1500 BCE the site of early Aryan settlements Template:Fact. In ancient times, the area was inhabited by Vahikas or Arattas. Tribes included the Gandharas, Prasthalas, Khasas, Vasatis, Trigartas, Pauravas, Malavas, Yaudheyas, Saindhavas, Sauviras; the Iranian and transfrontier peoples such as the Kambojas, Pahlavas; and the Persianised Ionians (Yavanas) as well as the nomadic Scythians, also called Shakas.[1]

The region, populated by Indo-Scythians & Indo-Aryans, has been ruled by many different empires and ethnic groups, including the ancient Macedonians, Persians, Scythians, Arabs, Turks, Mughals, Afghans, Balochis, Sikhs and British. In 1947, it was partitioned between British India's successor states, India and Pakistan.

The Pakistani Punjab now comprises the majority of the region. The Indian Punjab has been further sub-divided into the modern Indian states of Punjab, Haryana, Himachal Pradesh and Delhi. The Pakistani part of the region covers an area of 205,344 square kilometres (79,284 square miles), whereas the Indian State of Punjab is 50,362 square kilometres (19,445 square miles). The populations of the region are similarly divided as 86,084,000 (2005) in West Punjab (Pakistan) and 24,289,296 (2000) in the present-day State of (East) Punjab (India). Punjabi is spoken by (approximately) 90% of population in Pakistani Punjab and 92.2% in Indian Punjab.[2] The capital city of undivided Punjab was Lahore, which now sits close to the partition line as the capital of West Punjab. Indian Punjab has as its capital the city of Chandigarh. Indian Punjab uses the Gurmukhi script, while Pakistani Punjab uses the Shahmukhi script.


The name Punjab means "the land of five rivers", and literally translates from Persian into the words Panj (پنج), cognate with Sanskrit Pañca, meaning "five", and Āb (آب), cognate with Sanskrit Āp, meaning "water" respectively. The rivers, tributaries of the Indus River, are the Jhelum, Chenab, Ravi, Sutlej and Beas. The five rivers, now divided between India and Pakistan, merge to form the Panjnad, which joins the Indus.

The Punjabi Language

The language of the region is Punjabi. The official written script of Punjabi in the state of Punjab in India is holy and called Gurmukhi "(from the Mouth of the Guru)". All holy sacred Sikh texts are written in the Punjabi Script.[3]. Due to this holy element, it is common for people to believe it is inauspicious for any piece of paper that has been written on in Punjabi to touch the ground.


Most of the Punjab is an alluvial plain, bounded by mountains to the North. Despite its dry conditions, it is a rich agricultural area due to the extensive irrigation made possible by the great river system traversing it. Punjab region temperature range from -20° to 40°C (MIN/MAX), but can reach 47°C (117°F) in summer.


As a result of numerous invasions, many ethnic groups and religions make up the cultural heritage of the Punjab.

In prehistoric times, one of the earliest known cultures of South Asia, the Harappa civilization, was located in the Punjab.

The Vedic and Epic period was socially and culturally prolific in the Punjab. During this period, the Hindu scriptures, the Rig Veda and the Upanishads, were composed in the Punjab. Tradition maintains that the sage Valmiki composed the Ramayana near the present location of Amritsar. In legend, Krishna delivered the divine message of the Bhagavad Gita at Kurukshetra. Eighteen principal Puranas were written in the region. The authors of Vishnu Purana and the Shiva Purana belonged to Central Punjab.

The epic battles described in the Mahabharata were fought in the Punjab. The Gandharas, Kambojas, Trigartas, Andhra, Pauravas, Bahlikas (Bactrian settlers of Punjab), Yaudheyas and others sided with the Kauravas in the great battle fought at Kurukshetra.[4] According to Dr Fauja Singh and Dr L. M. Joshi: "There is no doubt that the Kambojas, Daradas, Kaikayas, Andhra, Pauravas, Yaudheyas, Malavas, Saindhavas and Kurus had jointly contributed to the heroic tradition and composite culture of ancient Punjab" [5].

In 326 BCE, Alexander the Great attempted to invade the Punjab from the north. His armies entered the region via the Hindu Kush.

At times during the establishment and consolidation of Mughal rule, there was conflict, chaos, and political upheaval in the Punjab. However, with the Mughals prosperity, growth and relative peace was established, particularly under the reign of Jahangir. The period was also notable for the emergence of Guru Nanak (1469-1538), the founder of a powerful popular movement which has left a lasting impression on the history and culture of Punjab. Born in the district of Sheikhupura, he rejected the division of mankind into rigid compartments of orthodox religions and castes and preached the oneness of humanity, and oneness of God, thus aiming at creating a new order which embraced the all pervasive spirit in man. This new philosophy would serve as the foundation for the Sikh faith.

In 1713, Banda Bahadur wanted to establish a Sikh state in the Punjab. For this he fought relentlessly with the Mughals. His state lasted just under a year before its collapse. A number of years afterwards, he was captured and executed.

In 1756, the Marathas under Raghunath Rao defeated the Afghan Ahmed Shah Abdali on his first attempt at conquering India. The Marathas chased the retreating Afghans back to Attock. The Sikhs and Khatris (the dominant groups of Punjab) were co-operative to the Marathas for having successfully removed the Muslims from their land and signed formal treaties of friendship. At the formation of the Dal Khalsa in 1748 at Amritsar, the Punjab was divided into 36 areas and 12 separate Sikh principalities. From this point onwards the beginnings of a Punjabi Sikh Empire emerged.

File:July 9 2005 - The Lahore Fort-Pavillion adjacent to the Shish Mahal.jpg
A section of the Lahore Fort built by the Sikh Maharaja Ranjit Singh.

Out of the 36 areas, 22 were united by Maharaja Ranjit Singh. The other 14 accepted British sovereignty. Ten years after Maharaja Ranjit Singh's death, the empire broke up and the British seized the Punjab.

The British raj had political, cultural, philosophical and literary consequences in the Punjab, including the establishment of a new system of education. During the independence movement, many Punjabis played a significant role, including Lajpat Rai, Ajit Singh Sindhu, Bhagat Singh, Udham Singh, Bhai Parmanand, Muhammad Iqbal, Chaudhary Rehmat Ali, and Ilam Din Shaheed.

The Punjabis also play a prominent role in the independence war of 1857. The cities like Jhelum and Ludhiana served as centre of resistance against the British forces in that war.

At the time of partition in 1947, the province was split in to East and West Punjab. East Punjab became part of India, while West Punjab became part of Pakistan. The Punjab bore the brunt of the civil unrest following the end of the British raj, with casualties estimated in the hundreds of thousands or even higher.


Ethnic ancestries of modern Punjabis include Indo-Aryan, and some Indo-Scythian and Indo-Parthian settlers of the region, including Indo-Greek Template:Fact. Punjabi people are generally believed to be the descendants of these people Template:Fact. With the advent of Islam, settlers from Persia, Afghanistan and Central Asia have also integrated into Punjabi society. Sikhism is the main religion of the Indian Punjab - it arose in the Punjab itself. About 52% of the population are Sikh, 45% are Hindu, and the rest are Jains, Christians, Muslims or Buddhists. However, due to large scale migration from Uttar Pradesh, Bihar, Bengal and Orissa demographics of Punjab have become more skewed than reported earlier. Indian Punjab contains the holy Sikh city of Amritsar. The states of Haryana and Himachal Pradesh, formerly constituents of the British province of Punjab, are mostly Hindu-majority. Most Pakistani & Indian Punjabis largely have Jat ancestry. Indian Punjabis speak Punjabi language written in Gurmukhi script. Islam is the religion of more than 98% of the population of the Punjab in Pakistan. There are small Hindu and Sikh minorities among others. Pakistan uses the Shahmukhi script, that is closer to Persian script. In total Pakistan has 70 million Punjabis, and India has 39 million Punjabis.


The historical region of Punjab is considered to be one of the most fertile regions on Earth. Both east and west Punjab produce a relatively high proportion of India and Pakistan's food output, respectively. The agricultural output of the Punjab region in Pakistan contributes significantly to Pakistan's GDP. The region is important for wheat growing. In addition, rice, cotton, sugar cane, fruit and vegetables are also major crops. Both Indian and Pakistani Punjab are considered to have the best infrastructure of their respective countries. [6] The Indian Punjab has been estimated to be the second richest state in India (the richest being Chandigarh (Punjab's Capital city); Haryana is the fourth.[7] The Pakistani Punjab produces 68% of Pakistan's food grain production.[8]

Called "The Granary of India" or "The Bread Basket of India", Indian Punjab produces 1% of the world's rice, 2% of its wheat, and 2% of its cotton. [9] In 2001, it was recorded that farmers made up 39% of Indian Punjab's workforce.[10]


See also

Further reading

  • [Quraishee 73] Punjabi Adab De Kahani, Abdul Hafeez Quaraihee, Azeez Book Depot, Lahore, 1973.
  • [Chopra 77] The Punjab as a sovereign state, Gulshan Lal Chopra, Al-Biruni , Lahore, 1977.
  • Patwant Singh. 1999. The Sikhs. New York: Doubleday. ISBN 0-385-50206-0.
  • The evolution of Heroic Tradition in Ancient Panjab, 1971, Buddha Parkash.
  • Social and Political Movements in ancient Panjab, Delhi, 1962, Buddha Parkash.
  • History of Porus, Patiala, Buddha Parkash.
  • History of the Panjab, Patiala, 1976, Fauja Singh, L. M. Joshi (Ed).


  1. Buddha Parkash, Evolution of Heroic Tradition in Ancient Panjab, 1971, p 53.
  2. [1]
  3. "Gurmukhi Lipi." Khoj Patrika. p.110, vol.36, Professor Pritam Singh, 1992. Patiala: Punjabi University.
  4. Buddha Parkash, Evolution of Heroic Tradition in Ancient Panjab, p 36.
  5. See: History of Panjab, Vol I, p 4, Dr L. M. Joshi, Dr Fauja Singh.
  6. http://punjabgovt.nic.in/ECONOMY/Transport.htm
  7. "Punjab second richest state in country: CII", Times of India, 8 April 2004.
  8. Pakistani government statistics, retrieved 14 April 2007.
  9. http://punjabgovt.nic.in/punjabataglance/LeadingbyExample.htm
  10. Punjabi government statistics, retrieved 14 April 2007.

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