Punjab Province (British India)

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This article is about a historical region in British India. For other uses of the name, see Punjab (disambiguation).

2 April 1849–1947

Flag Coat of arms
Flag Coat of arms
Location of Punjab
Map of British Punjab 1909
Capital Lahore
* Murree 1873-1875 (Summer)
* Shimla 1876-1947 (Summer)
Historical era New Imperialism
 •  Established 2 April 1849
 •  Partition of India 14–15 August 1947
Today part of  India

Punjab, also spelled Panjab, was a province of British India. Most of the Punjab region was annexed by the East India Company in 1849, and was one of the last areas of the Indian subcontinent to fall under British control. It comprised five administrative divisions — Delhi, Jullunder, Lahore, Multan and Rawalpindi — and a number of princely states.

The partition of India led to the province being divided into East Punjab and West Punjab, belonging to the newly created Union of India and Dominion of Pakistan respectively.


The Punjab is named for the five rivers by which it is watered, from the Persian words "Punj" (Panch in Hindi) (five) and "Ab" (water). The rivers are Jhelum, Chenab, Ravi, Beas and Sutlej, all tributaries of the Indus.


Geographically, the province was a triangular tract of country of which the Indus River and its tributary the Sutlej formed the two sides up to their confluence, the base of the triangle in the north being the Lower Himalayan Range between those two rivers. Moreover, the province as constituted under British rule also included a large tract outside these boundaries. Along the northern border, Himalayan ranges divided it from Kashmir and Tibet. On the west it was separated from the North-West Frontier Province by the Indus, until it reached the border of Dera Ghazi Khan District, which was divided from Baluchistan by the Sulaiman Range. To the south lay Sindh and Rajputana, while on the east the rivers Jumna and Tons separated it from the United Provinces.[1]

In present-day India, it included the regions of Punjab, Haryana, Chandigarh, Delhi, and Himachal Pradesh (but excluding the former princely states which were later combined into the Patiala and East Punjab States Union)

In present-day Pakistan, it included the regions of Punjab, Islamabad Capital Territory and Khyber Pakhtunkhwa (until 1901)


The Punjab in 1880

On 21 February 1849, the Sikhs were defeated at the Battle of Gujrat by the British. Following the victory the British East India Company (EIC) annexed Punjab on 2 April 1849 when it became part of the British Raj, at that time administered by the EIC. Lord Dalhousie constituted the Board of Administration by inducting into it the most experienced and seasoned British officers. The members include Sir Henry Lawrence, who had previously worked as British Resident at the Lahore Durbar. Henceforth the Punjab would provide Sikh and Punjabi sepoy regiments to the EIC's armies in India. These soldiers would later help the British to put down the Indian Rebellion of 1857.

Delhi was transferred from the North-Western Provinces (later the United Provinces) to Punjab in 1859. The British colonial government took this action partly to punish the city for the important role that the last Mughal Emperor, Bahadur Shah II and the city as a whole played in the 1857 Rebellion.[2] Sir John Lawrence, then Chief Commissioner, was appointed the first Lieutenant-Governor on 1 January 1859. The territory under the Lieutenant consisted of 29 Districts, grouped under 5 Divisions, and 43 Princely States. Each District was under a Deputy-Commissioner, who reported to the Commissioner of the Division. Each District was subdivided into between three and seven tehsils, each under a tahsildar, assisted by a naib (deputy) tahsildar.[3]

In 1866, the Judicial Commissioner was replaced by a Chief Court. The direct administrative functions of the Government were carried out through the Lieutinent-Governor through the Secretariat, comprising a Chief Secretary, a Secretary and two Under-Secretaries. They were usually members of the Indian Civil Service.[4]

By the late 19th century, however, the Indian nationalist movement took hold in the province. One of the most significant events associated with the movement was the Jallianwala Bagh massacre in 1919, which resulted from an order given by British colonel Reginald Dyer to fire on a group of some 10,000 unarmed Indians who had convened to protest new anti-subversion regulations.[5]

In 1901 the frontier districts beyond the Indus were separated from Punjab and made into a new province - the North-West Frontier Province.

The Punjab was home to several Sufi saints.[6] Sufism is a concept in Islam. Also, Kirpal Singh revered the Sikh Gurus as saints.[7]


Population trends for major religious groups in the Punjab Province of the British Raj (1881–1941)[8]
% 1881
% 1891
% 1901
% 1911[a]
% 1921
% 1931
% 1941
Islam 47.6% 47.8% 49.6% 51.1% 51.1% 52.4% 53.2%
Hinduism 43.8% 43.6% 41.3% 35.8% 35.1% 30.2% 29.1%
Sikhism 8.2% 8.2% 8.6% 12.1% 12.4% 14.3% 14.9%
Christianity 0.1% 0.2% 0.3% 0.8% 1.3% 1.5% 1.5%
Other religions / No religion 0.3% 0.2% 0.2% 0.2% 0.1% 1.6% 1.3%
The Durbar, or assembly of native princes and nobles, convened by Sir John Lawrence at Lahore

Administrative divisions[edit]

Punjab (British India): British Territory and Princely States
Division Districts in British Territory / Princely States
Delhi Division
Jullunder Division
Lahore Division
Rawalpindi Division
Multan Division
Total area, British Territory 97,209 square miles
Native States
Total area, Native States 36,532 square miles
Total area, Punjab 133,741 square miles


The following is a chronological list of Lieutenant-Governors of Punjab Province under British rule.[4]

Incumbent Date appointed
Sir John Lawrence January 1, 1859
Sir Robert Montgomery 1859
Sir Donald McLeod 1865
Sir Henry Durand 1870
Sir Henry Davies 1871
Sir Robert Egerton 1877
Sir Charles Aitchison 1882
Sir James Lyall 1887
Sir Dennis Fitzpatrick 1892
Sir Macworth Young 1897
Sir Charles Rivaz 1902
Sir Denzil Ibbetson 1907
Sir Louis Dane 1908

Coat of arms[edit]

Arms of British Punjab.jpg

Crescat e Fluviis was the motto used in the Coat of arms for Punjab Province, British India. The language used is Latin.


As per the book History of the Sikhs written by Khushwant Singh, it means Strength from the Rivers. As per the English translation from Google Translate, it means Grow out of the river.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Encyclopædia Britannica article on Punjab
  2. ^ Gupta, Narayani. 1981. Delhi Between Two Empires, 1803-1931. Oxford University Press, p.26
  3. ^ "Imperial Gazetteer2 of India, Volume 20, page 333 -- Imperial Gazetteer of India -- Digital South Asia Library". uchicago.edu. 
  4. ^ a b "Imperial Gazetteer2 of India, Volume 20, page 331 -- Imperial Gazetteer of India -- Digital South Asia Library". uchicago.edu. 
  5. ^ "Punjab". Encyclopedia Britannica. 
  6. ^ "Sufi Saints of the Punjab". Punjabics.com. Retrieved January 2015. 
  7. ^ Kirpal Singh, Sant. "The Punjab - Home of Master Saints". Retrieved January 2015. 
  8. ^ Gopal Krishan. "Demography of the Punjab (1849-1947)" (PDF). Retrieved 15 October 2015. 
  1. ^ Delhi district is made into a separate territory

External links[edit]