Punjab (region)

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This article is about the geographical region in South Asia. "Punjab" redirects here. For other uses of the name, see Punjab (disambiguation).
Punjab Region
Punjab map (topographic) with cities.png
Largest Cities Delhi
Official languages
Area 445,007 km2 (171,818 sq mi)
Population (2011) 200 million[1]
Density 449/km2
Demonym Punjabi

The Punjab (Listeni/ˈpʌnɑːb/ or /ˈpʌnæb/), also spelled Panjab, panj-āb, "five rivers"[2] (Punjabi: پنجاب (Shahmukhi), ਪੰਜਾਬ (Gurumukhi), Hindi: पंजाब (Devanagari)), is a geographical region in the northernmost part of the Indian subcontinent or South Asia, comprising areas of eastern Pakistan and northern India.

The name of the region is a compound of two Persian words[2][3] and was introduced to the region by the Turko-Persian conquerors[4] of India and more formally popularised during the Mughal Empire.[5][6] Punjab literally means "(The Land of) Five Waters" referring to the following rivers: the Jhelum, Chenab, Ravi, Sutlej, and Beas.[7] All are tributaries of the Indus River, the Chenab being the largest.

It 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 people of the Punjab today are called Punjabis and their principal language is called Punjabi. The main religions of the Punjab region are Islam, Hinduism, and Sikhism. Other religious groups are Christianity, Jainism and Buddhism.

In 1947, with the dissolution of British India, the region was partitioned between India and Pakistan.
In Pakistan, it includes the Punjab province, Islamabad, parts of Azad Kashmir[8] (namely Bhimber and Mirpur) and parts of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa (namely Peshawar[9] known in the Punjab region as Pishore).[10]

In India, it includes Punjab state and Chandigarh union territory, Haryana, Himachal Pradesh, Jammu Division, Delhi and parts of Rajasthan[11][12][13][14] in particular the Sri Ganganagar[15] and Hanumangarh districts.


Main article: History of the Punjab
Taxila in Pakistan is a World Heritage Site

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 Punjab.

In prehistoric times, one of the earliest known cultures of South Asia, the Indus Valley Civilisation was located in Punjab.

The epic battles described in the Mahabharata are described as being fought in what is now the modern-day State of Haryana 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.[16] 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".[17]

Menander I Soter (165/155 –130 BC) conqueror of the Punjab, he carved out a Greek kingdom in the Punjab and ruled the Punjab till his death in 130 B.C.[18][19]

In 326 BCE, Alexander the Great invaded the tip of Punjab from the north (modern-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 (modern-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.[18] Menander carved out a Greek kingdom in the Punjab and ruled the Punjab till his death in 130 B.C.[19] 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 Sindh and Punjab regions for the Islamic Umayyad Caliphate. Qasim was the first to bring Islam to the region.

A section of the Lahore Fort built by the Mughal emperor Akbar.

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 Punjab for approximately 1000 years. The period was also notable for the emergence of Guru Nanak (1469–1539), the founder of Sikhism.

The Panjab 1880

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 death of Ahmad Shah, Punjab freed from Afghan yoke by Sikhs between 1773 and 1818. At 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 British East 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,[20] 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 (about 35%) became part of India, while West Punjab (65%) became part of Pakistan.[21] The Punjab bore the brunt of the civil unrest following the British Raj, with casualties estimated to be in millions.

Physical geography[edit]

At the time of the Sikh Empire Punjab covered a large territory – the entire Indus basin and the watershed between the Indus and Gangetic plains. It could be divided into four natural areas:[2]

  • the eastern mountainous region including Jammu Division;
  • the central plain with its five rivers;
  • the north-western region, separated from the central plain by the Salt Range between the Jhelum and the Indus rivers;
  • the semi-desert to the south of the Sutlej river.

The formation of the Himalayan Range of mountains to the east and north-east of the Punjab is the result of a collision between the north-moving Indo-Australian Plate and the Eurasian Plate. The plates are still moving together, and the Himalayas are rising by about 5mm per year.

The upper regions are snow-covered the whole year. Lower ranges of hills run parallel to the mountains. The Lower Himalayan Range runs from north of Rawalpindi though Jammu and Kashmir, Himachal Pradesh and further south. The mountains are relatively young, and are eroding rapidly. The Indus and the five rivers of the Punjab have their sources in the mountain range and carry loam, minerals and silt down to the rich alluvial plains, which consequently are very fertile.[22]


The snow-covered Himalayas

The climate is a factor contributing to the economy of the Punjab. It is not uniform over the whole region, the sections adjacent to the Himalayas receiving heavier rainfall than those at a distance.[23]

There are three main seasons and two transitional periods. During the Hot Season, from about mid April to the end of June, the temperature may reach 49˚C. The Monsoon Season, from July to September, is a period of heavy rainfall, providing water for crops in addition to the supply from canals and irrigation systems. The transitional period after the monsoon is cool and mild, leading to the Winter Season, when the temperature in January falls to 5˚C at night and 12˚C by day. During the transitional period from Winter to the Hot Season sudden hailstorms and heavy showers may occur, causing damage to crops.[24]

People of the Punjab[edit]

Main article: Punjabi people

Ethnic background[edit]

Ethnic ancestries of modern Punjabis include a mixture of Indo-Aryan and Indo-Scythian, Semitic ancestries can also be found in lesser numbers. With the advent of Islam, settlers from Turkestan, Afghanistan, and Kashmir have also integrated into the Muslim Punjabi society. However the majority of Punjab is still made up of the Ahirs, Arains, Dalits (mostly Chamars), Gujjars, Jatts, Khatris, Tarkhans, Maliks, Brahmins, Bhats and Rajputs.


Dialects of Punjabi
Main article: Punjabi language

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 the Devanagri 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.


The vast majority of Pakistani Punjabis are Sunni Muslim by faith, but also include large minority faiths mostly Shia Muslim, Ahmadi Muslim and Christians. Sikhism, a religion founded in the late 15th century, is the main religion practised in Indian Punjab. About 60% of the population of the post-1966 Indian Punjab is Sikh, 37% is Hindu, and the rest are Muslims, Christians, and Jains.[25] However, due to large scale migration from Uttar Pradesh, Rajasthan, Bihar, Bengal and Odisha demographics of Indian Punjab state 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.

The Punjab was home to several Sufi saints.[26] Sufism is a concept in Islam. Also, Kirpal Singh revered the Sikh Gurus as saints.[27]

Population trends for major religious groups in the Punjab Province of British India (1881–1941)[28]
% 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%

Punjabi Festivals[edit]

Punjabis celebrate the following cultural, seasonal and religious festivals:

Punjabi Clothing[edit]

Traditional Punjabi clothing includes the following:

Major cities[edit]

Red Fort, Delhi
Badshahi Mosque, Lahore
Clock Tower, Faisalabad
Golden Temple, Amritsar
List of major cities in the Punjab
Rank City State/Province/Territory Country Population
1 Delhi National Capital Territory of Delhi India 11,034,555[29]
2 Lahore Punjab Pakistan 10,052,000
3 Faisalabad Punjab Pakistan 7,480,675
4 Peshawar Khyber Pakhtunkhwa Pakistan 4,201,659
5 Islamabad Islamabad Capital Territory Pakistan 1,900,000
6 Ludhiana Punjab India 1,618,879
7 Gurgaon Haryana India 1,514,432
8 Abbottabad Khyber Pakhtunkhwa Pakistan 1,430,238
9 Faridabad Haryana India 1,414,050
10 Rawalpindi Punjab Pakistan 1,406,214
11 Multan Punjab Pakistan 1,202,595
12 Amritsar Punjab India 1,132,761
13 Gujranwala Punjab Pakistan 1,132,509
14 Chandigarh Union Territory of Chandigarh India 961,587
15 Jalandhar Punjab India 862,196
16 Patiala Punjab India 850,987
17 Gujrat Punjab Pakistan 738,558
18 Sargodha Punjab Pakistan 710,000
19 Jammu Jammu and Kashmir India 657,314
20 Panipat Haryana India 442,277


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 region has been used for extensive wheat farming, in addition rice, cotton, sugarcane, fruit and vegetables are also grown.

The agricultural output of the Punjab region in Pakistan contributes significantly to Pakistan's GDP. Both Indian and Pakistani Punjab are considered to have the best infrastructure of their respective countries. Indian Punjab has been estimated to be the second richest state in India.[30] Pakistani Punjab produces 68% of Pakistan's food grain production.[31] Its share of Pakistan's GDP has historically ranged from 51.8% to 54.7%.[32]

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


Photo gallery[edit]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Delhi district is made into a separate territory


  1. ^ "Pak population increased by 46.9% between 1998 and 2011". The Times of India. Press Trust of India. 29 March 2012. Retrieved 13 September 2015. 
  2. ^ a b c H K Manmohan Siṅgh. "The Punjab". The Encyclopedia of Sikhism, Editor-in-Chief Harbans Singh. Punjabi University, Patiala. Retrieved 18 August 2015. 
  3. ^ Ghandi, Rajmohan (2013). Punjab: A History from Aurangzeb to Mountbatten. New Delhi, India, Urbana, Illinois: Aleph Book Company. p. 1 ("Introduction"). ISBN 978-93-83064-41-0. 
  4. ^ Canfield, Robert L. (1991). Turko-Persia in Historical Perspective. Cambridge, United Kingdom: Cambridge University Press. p. 1 ("Origins"). ISBN 978-0-521-52291-5. 
  5. ^ Ghandi, Rajmohan (2013). Punjab: A History from Aurangzeb to Mountbatten. New Delhi, India, Urbana, Illinois: Aleph Book Company. ISBN 978-93-83064-41-0. 
  6. ^ Shimmel, Annemarie (2004). The Empire of the Great Mughals: History, Art and Culture. London, United Kingdom: Reaktion Books Ltd. ISBN 1-86189-1857. 
  7. ^ Encyclopaedia Britannica, 9th ed., vol.20, Punjab, p.107
  8. ^ History of Panjab Hill States, Hutchison, Vogel 1933 Mirpur was made a part of Jammu and Kashmir in 1846
  9. ^ Changes in the Socio-economic Structures in Rural North-West Pakistan By Mohammad Asif Khan [1] Peshawar was separated from Punjab Province in 1901.
  10. ^ Nadiem, Ihsan H. (2007). Peshawar: heritage, history, monuments. Sang-e-Meel Publications. Retrieved 13 September 2015. 
  11. ^ The Times Atlas of the World, Concise Edition. London: Times Books. 1995. p. 36. ISBN 0 7230 0718 7. 
  12. ^ Grewal, J S (2004). Historical Geography of the Punjab (PDF). Punjab Research Group, Volume 11, No 1. Journal of Punjab Studies. pp. 4, 7, 11. 
  13. ^ see the Punjab Doabs
  14. ^ 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. 
  15. ^ Balder Raj Nayat (1966). Minority Politcs in the Punjab. Retrieved 13 September 2015. 
  16. ^ Buddha Parkash, Evolution of Heroic Tradition in Ancient Panjab, p 36.
  17. ^ History of Panjab, Vol I, p 4, Dr L. M. Joshi, Dr Fauja Singh.
  18. ^ a b Hazel, John (2013). Who's Who in the Greek World. Routledge. p. 155. ISBN 9781134802241. Menander king in India, known locally as Milinda, born at a village named Kalasi near Alasanda (Alexandria-in-the-Caucasus), and who was himself the son of a king. After conquering the Punjab, where he made Sagala his capital, he made an expedition across northern India and visited Patna, the capital of the Mauraya empire, though he did not succeed in conquering this land as he appears to have been overtaken by wars on the north-west frontier with Eucratides. 
  19. ^ a b Ahir, D. C. (1971). Buddhism in the Punjab, Haryana, and Himachal Pradesh. Maha Bodhi Society of India. p. 31. OCLC 1288206. Demetrius died in 166 B.C., and Apollodotus, who was a near relation of the King died in 161 B.C. After his death, Menander carved out a kingdom in the Punjab. Thus from 161 B.C. onward Menander was the ruler of Punjab till his death in 145 B.C. or 130 B.C.. 
  20. ^ Ganda Singh (August 2004). "The Truth about the Indian Mutiny". Sikh Spectrum. Retrieved 13 March 2013. 
  21. ^ Leading News Resource of Pakistan. Daily Times (10 May 2012). Retrieved on 2013-07-12.
  22. ^ G. S. Gosal. "Physical Geography of the Punjab" (PDF). University of California, Santa Barbara. Retrieved 3 November 2012. 
  23. ^ Maps of India, Climate of Punjab
  24. ^ Royal Geographical Society Climate and Landscape of the Punjab
  25. ^ "Census Reference Tables, C-Series Population by religious communities". Census of India. 2001. Retrieved 25 July 2010. 
  26. ^ "Sufi Saints of the Punjab". Punjabics.com. Retrieved January 2015. 
  27. ^ Kirpal Singh, Sant. "The Punjab - Home of Master Saints". Retrieved January 2015. 
  28. ^ Gopal Krishan. "Demography of the Punjab (1849-1947)" (PDF). Retrieved 15 October 2015. 
  29. ^ http://www.census2011.co.in/city.php
  30. ^ "Punjab second richest state in country: CII", Times of India, 8 April 2004.
  31. ^ Pakistani government statistics, retrieved 14 April 2007.
  32. ^ Provincial Accounts of Pakistan: Methodology and Estimates 1973-2000[dead link]
  33. ^ Yadav, Kiran (11 February 2013). "Punjab". Agropedia. Retrieved 15 March 2013. 

Further reading[edit]

  • Narang, K.S.; Gupta, Dr H.R. (1969). History of the Punjab 1500-1858 (PDF). U. C. Kapur & Sons, Delhi. Retrieved 22 January 2014. 
  • [Quraishee 73] Punjabi Adab De Kahani, Abdul Hafeez Quaraihee, Azeez Book Depot, Lahore, 1973.
  • [Chopra 77] 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).
  • The Legacy of the Punjab, 1997, R M Chopra.
  • The Rise Growth and Decline of Indo-Persian Literature, R M Chopra, 2012, Iran Culture House, New Delhi. 2nd revised edition published in 2013.
  • Sims, Holly. "The State and Agricultural Productivity: Continuity versus Change in the Indian and Pakistani Punjabs." Asian Survey, 1 April 1986, Vol.26(4), pp. 483–500

External links[edit]

Coordinates: 31°N 74°E / 31°N 74°E / 31; 74