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The Punjab (pronounced Punjab.ogg /ˈpʌndʒɑːb/ or /ˈpʌndʒæb/; Punjabi: پنجاب, ਪੰਜਾਬ, Urdu: پنجاب, Hindi: पंजाब), also spelled Panjab (Persian: پنجاب, panj-āb, "five waters"),[1] is a cultural region straddling the border between Punjab (Pakistan) and Punjab (India).[2] The so-called "five waters" are the Jhelum, the Chenab, the Ravi, the Sutlej, and the Beas. All are tributaries of the Indus River, the Jhelum being the largest. Punjab has a long history and rich cultural heritage. The people of the Punjab are called Punjabis and their language is also called Punjabi. The main religions of the Punjab region are Islam, Sikhism and Hinduism.

Punjabi-language area of India and Pakistan

The area now known as the Greater Punjab comprises what were once vast territories of eastern Pakistan and northern western India. The bigger section of the Punjab is 70% within Pakistan and 30% within Republic of India although the region has been divided into three states. The Punjabi population is distributed proportionately to the land mass between the two Republics.

The region is populated mostly by Indo-Aryan speaking peoples. Of these people there are different religious groups such as Hindus, Sikhs, Jains, and Buddhists. It has also been inhabited by Greeks, Persians, Arabs, Turks, Mughals, Afghans, Balochis, and British. In 1947, it was partitioned between British India's successor states with three out of the five rivers going to Pakistan and the remaining two rivers were allotted to India.

The Pakistani Punjab now comprises the majority of the region together with the Hazara region of the North-West Frontier Province, Islamabad, and Azad Jammu and Kashmir. The Indian Government further sub-divided Punjab into the modern Indian states of Punjab, Haryana, Himachal Pradesh and Delhi. The Pakistani part of the region West Punjab covers an area of 205,344 square kilometers (79,284 square miles), whereas the Indian State of Punjab is 50,362 square kilometers (19,445 square miles). Besides the Indian Punjab, the region also includes the areas of Jammu region and Himachal and Haryana states of India that were created out of East Punjab in 1966. 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) and a further 30 million in the rest of the region. Punjabi is spoken by (approximately) 65% of population in Pakistani Punjab (another 25% speak Punjabi variants) and 92.2% in Indian Punjab.[3] 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 language of the region is Punjabi. The official written script of Punjabi in the state of Punjab in India is called Gurmukhi "(from the Mouth of the Guru)". The neighbouring Pakistani state of Punjab still maintains the Shahmukhi script; which is based on the Perso-Arabic Script.[4] The official language of the Punjab region up till the early twentieth century was Urdu written in the Perso-Arabic Script.[5]


The word 'Punjab' itself is a noun and could be used without the definite article "the" preceding it. However, recently some academics have broken with this and began to call it "the Punjab" rather than simply "Punjab" whenever its a noun in all cases.[citation needed]


Taxila is a World Heritage Site
A section of the Lahore Fort built by the Mughal emperor Akbar.
The Bardari of Ranjit Singh, built in the Hazuri Bagh.
Government College in Lahore

The Punjabi region, much like most of North India, Iran, Afghanistan, and Pakistan, have a historical and cultural link to Indo-Aryan heritiage identity. 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 epic battles described in the Mahabharata were fought in Modern day Harayana and historic 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.[6] 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" [7].

In 326 BCE, Alexander the Great invaded the Punjab from the north and incorporated it into his empire. His armies entered the region via the Hindu Kush in north west Pakistan and his rule extended up to the city of Sagala (modern day Sialkot) in north east Pakistan. At 305 BC the area was divided among the Maurya Empire and the Greco-Bactrian Kingdom. In a long line of succeeding rulers of the area, Chandragupta Maurya, Asoka the great and stand out as the most renowned. The Maurya presence in the area was then consolidated in the Indo-Greek Kingdom at 180 bce. Menander I Soter "The Saviour" (known as Milinda in Indian sources) is the most renowned leader of the era. Greek ruling came to an end after several invasions by the Yuezhi and the Scythian people, at around 12 BC.

The Yuezhis formed the Kushan Empire which lasted in the area until about 230 CE, giving place to the Indo-Sassanid kingdom, a branch of the Sassanid Persians who established their rule in the northwestern Indian subcontinent during the 3rd and 4th centuries ad, at the expense of the declining Kushans. They were in turn displaced in 410 CE by the invasions of the Indo-Hephthalites(Huna people). They were able to re-establish some authority after the Sassanids destroyed the Hephthalites in 565 CE, but their rule collapsed under Arab attacks in the mid 600s. In a series of events, century after century, the Sultanate and then the Moghul era came in the area.

At all 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 (1469–1539), 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 Singh Bahadur wanted to establish a multi-cultural 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 afterward, he was captured and executed.

Abdali's Indian invasion weakened the Maratha influence, but he could not defeat the Sikhs. At the formation of the Dal Khalsa in 1748 at Amritsar, the Punjab had been divided into 36 areas and 12 separate Sikh principalities. From this point onwards the beginnings of a Punjabi Sikh Empire emerged. 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 were then able to the defeat Punjab with the help of some Dogra kings. The Sikh State of Punjab was the only state which was a not a part of British rule at that time. Hence, it was conquered last by the British.

This Sikh Empire was the last to fall against the British, and was a victim of intrigue from neighboring Kingdoms. In many ways Punjab under Maharaja Ranjit Singh was the only territory in South Asia that could have stood up against the might of the British Empire.

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 Ajit Singh Sandhu, Bhagat Singh, Udham Singh, Kartar Singh Sarabha, Bhai Parmanand, Muhammad Iqbal, Chaudhary Rehmat Ali, Ilam Din Shaheed and Lajpat Rai.

The Punjabis also play a prominent role in the mutiny against the British of 1857. The cities like Jhelum and Ludhiana served as center of rebellion against the British government.

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[citation needed]. Punjabi people are generally believed to be the descendants of these people[citation needed]. With the advent of Islam, settlers from Persia, Turkey, Afghanistan and Central Asia have also integrated into Punjabi society from whom many Pakistani Punjabis claim descent. However the majority of Punjab is still made up of the native Jats, Rajputs and Khatris and gujjars in north Punjab. The vast majority of Pakistani Punjabis inhabiting the fertile regions of four out of the five major rivers are Muslims by faith, but also include numerous minority faiths such as Christians, Buddhists, Zorastrianism, Ahmadi Muslims and Sikhs. Sikhism, a reformist religion of the late 15th century, is the main religion practiced in Indian Punjab - it arose in the Punjab itself. About 60% of the population of Indian Punjab is Sikh, 40% is 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. Indian Punjabis speak Punjabi language written in Gurmukhi script. Islam is the religion of more than 90% of the population of the Punjab in Pakistan, followed by a small Christian minority of about 3–5%. There is also a small number of Sikh, Zorastrian and Hindu minorities among others. Pakistan uses the Shahmukhi script, that is closer to Persian script and has considerable Persian loan words. In total, Pakistan has 76 million Punjabis, and India has 29 million Punjabis.


Phulkari embroidery from Patiala

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.[8] The Indian Punjab has been estimated to be the richest state in India.[9] The Pakistani Punjab produces 68% of Pakistan's food grain production.[10] Its share of Pakistan's GDP has historically ranged from 51.8% to 54.7%.[11]

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.[12] In 2001, it was recorded that farmers made up 39% of Indian Punjab's workforce.[13]


Photo gallery

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. ^ Singh, Pritam (2008). Federalism, Nationalism and Development: India and the Punjab Economy. London; New York: Routledge. pp. 3. ISBN 0415456665. 
  2. ^ Pritam Singh and Shinder S. Thandi, ed (1996). Globalisation and the region: explorations in Punjabi identity. Coventry Association for Punjab Studies, Coventry University. p. 361. 
  3. ^ Indian Census
  4. ^ "Gurmukhi Lipi." Khoj Patrika. p.110, vol.36, Professor Pritam Singh, 1992. Patiala: Punjabi University.
  5. ^ Language and literacy in social practice By Janet Maybin, Open University, page 102,+Open+University&source=bl&ots=93PVqCKhrd&sig=gF0z6avAMBHHQcH2mdfckm_L_a4&hl=en&ei=Gg1_SpPgC4msjAezr-nwAQ&sa=X&oi=book_result&ct=result&resnum=1#v=onepage&q=urdu%2Fperso&f=false
  6. ^ Buddha Parkash, Evolution of Heroic Tradition in Ancient Panjab, p 36.
  7. ^ See: History of Panjab, Vol I, p 4, Dr L. M. Joshi, Dr Fauja Singh.
  8. ^ Welcome to Official Web site of Punjab, India
  9. ^ "Punjab second richest state in country: CII", Times of India, 8 April 2004.
  10. ^ Pakistani government statistics, retrieved 14 April 2007.
  11. ^ Provincial Accounts of Pakistan: Methodology and Estimates 1973-2000
  12. ^ Welcome to Official Web site of Punjab, India
  13. ^ Punjabi government statistics, retrieved 14 April 2007.

External links


Simple English

File:Punjab 1903.gif
The Punjab region in 1903
File:Dialects Of
Dialects of Punjabi

Punjab is a region in Asia. It is divided by Radcliffe Line: Some parts of it are in Pakistan, and others are in the Republic of India. It is located in a plain, with the river Indus flowing through Pakistan. The soil is very fertile. The Indian part of it has the highest income in India, per population. It lives from agriculture. Main religions in the region are Sikhism, Hinduism and Islam. Sikh's have been fighting against Indian rule and are seeking freedom for Khalistan.

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