Knowledge Corner

The Punjab is a geographical and cultural region in the northern part of South Asia, comprising areas of eastern Pakistan and northern India. Not being a political unit, the extent of the region is the subject of debate and focuses on historical events to determine its boundaries.

The Punjab region has been inhabited by Indus Valley Civilisation, Indo-Aryan peoples and has seen numerous invasions by the Achaemenid Empire, Greeks, Kushan Empire, Ghaznavids,Timurids, Mughals, Afghans, British and others. The foreign invaders mainly targeted the most productive region of Punjab known as the Majha region, located in central part of Punjab, which is also the bedrock of Panjabi culture and traditions. The people of the Punjab today are called Punjabis and their principal language is called Punjabi. The main religions of the Punjab region areIslam, Hinduism, and Sikhism. Other religious groups are Christianity, Jainism and Buddhism.

History

The name of the region is a compound of two Persian words Panj (five) and ab (water) and was introduced to the region by the Turko-Persian conquerors of India and more formally popularised during the Mughal Empire. Punjab literally means “(The Land of) Five Waters” referring to the following rivers: the Jhelum, Chenab, Ravi, Sutlej, and Beas. All are tributaries of the Indus River, the Chenab being the largest.

The Punjab region of India and Pakistan has a historical and cultural link to Indo-Aryan peoples as well as partially to various indigenous communities. As a result of several invasions from Central Asia and the Middle East, 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 Indus Valley Civilisation was located in the region.

The epic battles described in the Mahabharata are described as being fought in what is now the present-day State of Haryana and historic Punjab. The Gandharas, Kambojas, Trigartas, Andhra, Pauravas, Bahlikas (Bactrian settlers of the Punjab), Yaudheyas and others sided with the Kauravas in the great battle fought at Kurukshetra. 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”.

In 326 BCE, Alexander the Great invaded the tip of the Punjab from the north (present-day Khyber Pakhtunkhwa in Pakistan) and defeated King Porus. His armies entered the region via the Hindu Kush in northwest Pakistan and his rule extended up to the city of Sagala (present-day Sialkot in northeast Pakistan). In 305 BCE the area was ruled by the Maurya Empire. In a long line of succeeding rulers of the area, Chandragupta Maurya and Ashoka stand out as the most renowned. The Maurya presence in the area was then consolidated in the Indo-Greek Kingdom in 180 BCE.Menander I Soter “The Saviour” (known as Milinda in Indian sources) is the most renowned leader of the era, he conquered the Punjab and made Sagala the capital of his Empire. Menander carved out a Greek kingdom in the Punjab and ruled the region till his death in 130 B.C. The neighbouring Seleucid Empire rule came to an end around 12 BCE, after several invasions by the Yuezhi and the Scythian people.

In 711–713 CE, 18-year-old Arab Sultan Muhammad bin Qasim of Taif, a city in Saudi Arabia, came by way of the Arabian Sea with Arab troops to defeat Raja Dahir. The Sultan then led his troops to conquer the Sindh and Punjab regions for the Islamic Umayyad Caliphate. Qasim was the first to bring Islam to the region.

During the establishment and consolidation of the Muslim Turkic Mughal Empire prosperity, growth, and relative peace were established. Particularly under the reign of Jahangir. Muslim empires ruled the Punjab for approximately 1000 years. The period was also notable for the emergence of Guru Nanak (1469–1539), the founder of Sikhism.

In 1758, Punjab came under the rule of Marathas who captured the region by defeating Afghan forces of Ahmad Shah Abdali. Abdali’s Indian invasion weakened the Maratha influence, but he could not defeat the Sikhs. After the death of Ahmad Shah, the Punjab was freed from the Afghan yoke by Sikhs between 1773 and 1818. At the time of the formation of the Dal Khalsa in 1748 at Amritsar, the Punjab had been divided into 36 areas and 12 separate Sikh principalities, called misl. From this point onward, 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. After Ranjit Singh’s death, assassinations and internal divisions severely weakened the empire. Six years later the BritishEast India Company was given an excuse to declare war and in 1849, after two Anglo-Sikh wars, the Punjab was annexed by the British.

In the Indian Rebellion of 1857 the Sikh rulers backed the East India Company, providing troops and support, but in Jhelum 35 British soldiers of HM XXIV regiment were killed by the local resistance and in Ludhiana a rebellion was crushed with the assistance of the Punjab chiefs of Nabha and Malerkotla.

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 Madan Lal Dhingra, Sukhdev Thapar, Ajit Singh Sandhu, Bhagat Singh, Udham Singh, Kartar Singh Sarabha, Bhai Parmanand, Muhammad Iqbal,Chaudhary Rehmat Ali, and Lala Lajpat Rai.

At the time of partition in 1947, the province was split into East and West Punjab. East Punjab (48%) became part of India, while West Punjab (52%) became part of Pakistan. The Punjab bore the brunt of the civil unrest following the British Raj, with casualties estimated to be in millions.

Languages

The major language spoken in the Punjab is Punjabi. In the Indian Punjab this is written in the Gurmukhi script. Pakistan uses the Shahmukhi script, that is closer to Urdu script. Hindi, written in theDevanagri script, is used widely in the Indian states of Himanchal Pradesh and Haryana. Several dialects of Punjabi are spoken in the different regions. The Majhi dialect is considered to be textbook Punjabi and is shared by both countries.

Religions

The vast majority of Pakistani Punjabis are Sunni Muslim by faith, but also include large minority faiths mostly Shia Muslim, Ahmadi Muslim and Christians.

The Indian states of Haryana and Himachal Pradesh are mostly Hindu-majority. Sikhism, founded in the late 15th century, is the main religion practised in the post-1966 Indian Punjab state. About 60% of the population of Punjab state is Sikh, 37% is Hindu, and the rest are Muslims, Christians, and Jains. However, due to large scale migration from Uttar Pradesh, Rajasthan, Bihar, Bengaland Odisha the demographics have become more skewed than reported earlier. Punjab state contains the holy Sikh city of Amritsar.The Punjab was home to several Sufi saints. Sufism is a concept in Islam. Also, Kirpal Singh revered the Sikh Gurus as saints.

Skill Test

1. Which is the state bird of Punjab?
2. Which river is the largest river among the following?
3. Name the largest city of Punjab?
4. Who was the chief minister of Punjab in the year 1956-1964?
5. Punjab gets winter rains due to
6. Name the state which was separated in the year 1966?
7. What is the official language of Punjab?
8. What is the capital of Punjab?
9. Which amongst the following is not a district of Punjab?
10. Name the country that lies to the west of Punjab?
11. State the year when Punjab was formed?
12. Before Chandigarh was built which city was the capital of Punjab?
13. Punjab means the land of what?
14. Name the dance form that is associated with Punjab?
15. State the total number of districts in Punjab?
16. Which year was the operation Blue star implemented?
17. On which date was the operation blue star implemented?
18. Which state lies to the north of Punjab?
19. The Sikh empire was formed by?
20. What is the rank of Punjab according to area?
21. Which President of India was from Punjab?
22. What is the area of Punjab?