Punjabi Hindus

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Punjabi Hindus
Regions with significant populations
Punjabi, Hindi and English
Om.svg Hinduism
Related ethnic groups
Punjabi people, North Indian people

Punjabi Hindus are a group of people that follow the Hindu religion and have their roots and origin in the Punjab region of the Indian Subcontinent. In India, most Punjabi Hindus are concentrated in the states of Punjab, Haryana, Jammu, Chandigarh, Himachal pradesh, Uttar Pradesh, Delhi and some part of Rajasthan, Gujrat.

Hinduism has been prevalent in Punjab since historical times before the arrival of Islam and birth of Sikhism in Punjab. Some of the influential Sikh figures such as Guru Nanak, Banda Singh Bahadur, Bhai Mati Das, all originated from Hindu families of Punjab. Many of Punjab's Hindus converted to Sikhism. In fact, Punjabi Hindus can trace their roots from the time of the Vedas. Many modern day cities in Indian Punjab and Pakistani Punjab are still named from that period like Lahore, Jalandhar, Chandigarh and so on. Examples of Punjabi Hindus include the former Prime ministers of India I.K. Gujral and Gulzari Lal Nanda and former Indian cricketer Kapil Dev and scientist Hargobind Khorana.

Vedic Punjab[edit]

Map of early Iron Age Vedic India after Witzel (1989). Realms or tribes are labelled black, Foreign tribes mentioned in early Vedic texts purple, Vedic shakhas in green. Rivers are labelled blue. The Thar desert is marked orange.

The original Punjab region is now divided into several units: West Punjab (now in Pakistan), portions of Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa such as the Gandhara region, the Indian states of Punjab, Haryana and Himachal Pradesh and the Indian Union territory of Chandigarh. The regions of Azad Kashmir and Jammu have also been historically associated with the Punjab.

The Punjab is the 'Sapta Sindhu' region mentioned in the Rig Veda, the seven rivers are:

  1. Saraswati (thought to be the present day Ghaggar),
  2. Satadru/Shutadri (Sutlej),
  3. Vipasa (Beas),
  4. Asikani, Chandrabhaga (Chenab),
  5. Iravati (Ravi),
  6. Vitasta/Vet (Jhelum) and
  7. Sindhu (Indus).

The modern name of the Vipasa,'Beas' is thought to be a corruption of Veda Vyasa, the author of the Mahabharata.

Among the classic books that were wholly or partly composed in this region are the following.

The world's oldest university Takshashila flourished here, even before the Buddha's birth.

The Brahmins of this region are called 'Saraswata' after the legendary Saraswati river region, once known for the ashramas of the rishis.

Punjabi Hindus decreased population (1881–1941)[edit]

Table: Religious composition of population, 1881–1941 Percentage of census

  • Year 1881 Muslims 47.6 Hindus 43.8 Sikhs 8.2 Christians 0.1 Others 0.3
  • Year 1891 Muslims 47.8 Hindus 43.6 Sikhs 8.2 Christians 0.2 Others 0.2
  • Year 1901 Muslims 49.6 Hindus 41.3 Sikhs 8.6 Christians 0.3 Others 0.2
  • Year 1911 Muslims 51.1 Hindus 35.8 Sikhs 12.1 Christians 0.8 Others 0.2
  • Year 1921 Muslims 51.1 Hindus 35.1 Sikhs 12.4 Christians 1.3 Others 0.1
  • Year 1931 Muslims 52.4 Hindus 30.2 Sikhs 14.3 Christians 1.5 Others 1.6
  • Year 1941 Muslims 53.2 Hindus 29.1 Sikhs 14.9 Christians 1.5 Others 1.3
  • Source: Census of India, 1931, Punjab, Part I, Report, p. 69 and Census of India, 1941.

Table: Religious composition of urban population, 1881–1941 Percentage of urban population census

  • Year 1881 Muslims 48.0 Hindus 45.3 Sikhs 4.9 Christians 1.0 Others 0.8
  • Year 1891 Muslims 48.9 Hindus 44.6 Sikhs 4.7 Christians 1.3 Others 0.9
  • Year 1901 Muslims 50.0 Hindus 43.3 Sikhs 4.6 Christians 1.2 Others 0.9
  • Year 1911 Muslims 51.2 Hindus 39.3 Sikhs 6.6 Christians 2.0 Others 0.9
  • Year 1921 Muslims 50.6 Hindus 40.2 Sikhs 6.3 Christians 2.1 Others 0.8
  • Year 1931 Muslims 51.9 Hindus 37.6 Sikhs 7.3 Christians 1.9 Others 1.3
  • Year 1941 Muslims 51.4 Hindus 37.9 Sikhs 8.4 Christians 1.3 Others 1.0[1]
  • Source: Census of India, 1931, Punjab, Part I, Report, Census of India, 1941.

In 1941, the Muslims were in absolute majority in Punjab, accounting for 53.2 per cent of the total population. The Hindus made 29.1 per cent of the total, the Sikhs 14.9 per cent, Christians 1.9 per cent, and others 1.3 per cent. Such a distribution was significantly different from that obtaining in 1881, when the Hindus made 43.8 per cent of the total population, the Sikhs 8.2 per cent, and Christians 0.1 per cent. The Muslims, at 47.6 per cent, were well short of an absolute majority.

Evidently, that there was a distinct fall in the percentage share of the Hindus while the Muslims and the Sikhs made a significant headway in their proportion. The Christians also recorded a noticeable increase in their numbers.

Classic cities of the Punjab region[edit]

Punjabi Hindu sects[edit]

The Sanatan Dharmis[edit]

Most Hindus in the Punjab are the Sanatan Dharmis which means the eternal religionists. Major deities worshipped include Rama, Krishna, Shiva, Vishnu and Hanuman. One of the most popular ones is Vaishno Devi of Jammu, (all known commonly as Sheraan-wali('She of the lions') in Punjabi). The worship of Hanuman is usually done on Tuesdays.

Sanatan Dharma Sabha was founded in the Punjab in late 19th century to promote traditional Hinduism. It sent scholars overseas and became a major force in some of the overseas Hindu communities. In January 1933 the session of the All-India Sanatan Dharma Sabha, presided over by Pandit Madan Mohan Malaviya.

Punjab is differentiated by the fact that it has the highest population of dalits in India at 31.9%.In some areas of Punjab like Doaba it is as high as 40-50%.[2] Half of Punjabi dalits are Ravidassias with 26.2% Chamar and 14.9% Ad Dharmi of state Scheduled Caste (Dalit) populations. Other Bulk group of is large number of Balmikis at 11.2 percent and Mazhabi Sikhs at 31.6 percent of state Scheduled Caste (Dalit) populations. These two bulk groups are 86.8 percent of total Dalits (Scheduled Castes) of Punjab.[3]

The Arya Samajis[edit]

An important sect amongst Punjabi Hindus is the Arya Samaj. It was founded by Swami Dayananda(born in modern-day Gujarat) in 1875 in Bombay and became popular amongst Hindus in the Punjab and U.P. Arya Samajists hold the Vedic religion to be the only true religion and as such, regard the Vedas as their only religious books, but also regard Upnishad, Darshan Shastras and some other books written by Rishis (Arsh Granths), on the condition that the text in these should not be contradictory to Vedas. On this basis Arya Samaj rejected some of the Hindu scriptures like Purana and some other scriptures which, according to Arya Samaj, are against the Vedas. The Arya Samaj also pleads for Shuddhi or the re-conversion into Hinduism of those Hindus who were converted to other religions. The places of worship of the Arya Samajists are different from those of the Sanatan Dharmis. Worship includes performing yajnas, reciting mantras and seeking spiritual solace by listening to religious discourses.

Prominent Indian Nationalists such as Lala Lajpat Rai belonged to Arya Samaj and were active in propagating the message of Samaj.[4] During the early part of the 20th century, the Samaj or organizations inspired by it such as Jat Pat Todak Mandal were active in campaigning against caste discrimination.[5] Other activities the samaj engaged in was that of widow remarriage and women's education.[6] When the Hindu Nationalist group, the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh started expanding in Northern India in the 1930s,they found enthusiasm among the Arya Samajist of Punjab [7]

The Samaj is also present in countries such as Guyana, Suriname, Trinidad and Tobago, Fiji, Australia,[8] South Africa,[9] Kenya,[10] Mauritius[11] and other countries where a significant Punjabi Hindu diaspora is present. Immigrants to Canada from East Africa and the Caribbean countries respectively form separate Arya Samaj communities in many Canadian cities including Toronto.[12] Most major metropolitan areas of United States have chapters of Arya Samaj.[13]

The Radhaswamis[edit]

The Radhaswami sect has its headquarters at the town of Beas and is popular amongst Punjabi Hindus. Like the Nirankaris and Namdharis, the Radhaswamis too are a transitional sect between Hinduism and Sikhism.

The Dev Samajis[edit]

Dev Samajis, an offshoot of Brahmo Samaj, are rationalists. Their headquarters is at Moga. Their activities are mostly confined to the moral fields. As such Dev Samajists have not attained much popularity. In all other respects the Dev Samajists are not different from the other Hindus.

Ecumenical Hinduism[edit]

A large segment of Punjabis who are now categorized as Hindus or who identify themselves as Punjabi Hindus, continue to live out heterogeneous religious practice that includes spiritual kinship with Sikhism. This not only includes veneration of the Sikh Gurus in private practice, but also visit to Sikh Gurdwaras as well as Hindu temples. Some Punjabi Hindus visit Jain temples and Jain munis.

This is evident from the continuing propensity to conduct important life cycle ceremonies such as on marriage or death by any of the Hindu or Sikh rites. This is especially true for the Khatri and Arora communities, and even more so among the Kukhran tribe emanating from West Punjab, an area now in Pakistan.

This predilection for heterogeneous religious affiliation has continued, in spite of decades of aggressive identity purification efforts by the forces of identity politics in the Punjab.

Punjabi language and Hindus[edit]

Many Punjabi Hindus made great contributions towards Punjabi literature, culture and cinema. Liberal Punjabi Hindus always loved their mother tongue Punjabi language but fundamentalists sacrificed Punjabi language in the neme of puedo nationalism. Many fundamentalists set progenda that Punjabi is not related with Hindus.On contrary Punjabi has been language of Punjab region since centuries.Punjabi language also traces its roots in Vedas like Hindi,Bangla,Gujrati and other Indian languages.The fundamentists spread confusion regarding mother tongue of Punjabi Hindus,whose forefathers always spoke Punjabi language,on other hand Hindi and Urdu were languages from Uttarpradesh and Bihar. Many great Hindu Punjabis poet and scholars made contributions towards Punjabi languages.[14]

Punjabi Hindus and 1947 Partition[edit]

Punjabi Hindus suffered a great deal due to partition of Punjab in 1947. They were a minority in areas of Pakistan. Many of the Hindus/Sikhs had to move to East Punjab and Muslims to West Punjab. Estimates range from 100,000 to upwards of a million people were killed in the riots following the partition and subsequent independence of Pakistan and later India from British colonial rule. Most of the Punjabi Hindus who moved from West Punjab settled in the areas which are now Indian state of Punjab, Delhi, Haryana, Western UP, and even as far as Mumbai and Calcutta.

Demand for Punjabi Suba and subsequent trifurcation of Punjab[edit]

Since partition, Sikh leaders and Sikh parties demanded a "Punjabi Suba" (Punjabi Province) in North India. The argument was to carve out a state in Northern India where Punjabi was the most predominant language. Punjab being the most prominent province in North India before partition, with the majority of the province in Pakistan now, it only made sense to carve out a Punjabi state for the Punjabis in India. Unfortunately, the creation of the new linguistic state was opposed by certain Hindu's despite the fact that Hindu's would have been a 54% majority in the new linguistic state of Punjab in 1966.

Unrest in Punjab in 1980s and 1990s[edit]

Following Operation Blue Star, in which military actions were taken against Jarnail Singh Bhindranwale who was residing in the holiest shrine of Sikhs, The Golden Temple, Indira Gandhi was assassinated (while prime minister of India) by her Sikh body guards. Soon after news of Mrs Gandhi's killing by her Sikh bodyguards spread, Hindu mobs swung into action in anti-Sikh riots. More than 3000 innocent Sikhs[15] were humiliated and burned alive.[16][17]

Distribution of population[edit]

The Hindus of Punjab have a majority population in the districts of Jalandhar, Nawanshahr, Hoshiarpur and Gurdaspur of Punjab in which they make up to 65% of population, and make up 38.5% of Punjab's overall population as of 2011. Significant number of Hindu Punjabis are found in Haryana, Himachal Pradesh, Delhi and Jammu region. Punjabi Hindus are also present in major Indian cities like Mumbai, Bangalore etc. Today Punjabis are also found in huge numbers in English speaking countries like USA, Canada, UK, Australia, New Zealand and also in European Union countries


Most Punjabi Hindus come from Brahmin, Arora, Rajput, Khatri, Agarwal, Bhatia, Chamar, Kumhar, Jat, Chhimba, Saini and Khani communities.khurana Malhotra


The popular prayer Jai Jagdish Hare was composed in Punjab by Pandit Shardha Ram Phillauri.

Notable Punjabi Hindus[edit]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ http://www.global.ucsb.edu/punjab/journal_11_1/6_krishan.pdf
  2. ^ "Powered by Google Docs" (PDF). Docs.google.com. Retrieved 2012-03-02. 
  4. ^ Rai, L. L. (1915). The Arya Samaj: An Account of its Aims, Doctrine and Activities, with a Biographical Sketch of the Founder. London: Longman. ISBN 978-81-85047-77-5. 
  5. ^ Rajivlochan, M., & Rajivlochan, M. (2014). Coping with Exclusions the Non-Political Way. Mapping Social Exclusion in India: Caste, Religion and Borderlands, 82-83.
  6. ^ Kishwar, Madhu (26 April 1986). "Arya Samaj and Women's Education: Kanya Mahavidyalaya, Jalandhar". Economic and Political Weekly. 21 (17): 9. JSTOR 4375593. doi:10.2307/4375593 (inactive 2017-02-03). 
  7. ^ Jaffrelot, Christophe (1999). The Hindu nationalist movement and Indian politics : 1925 to the 1990s ; strategies of identity-building, implantation and mobilisation (with special reference to Central India). New Delhi [u.a.]: Penguin Books. pp. 67–68. ISBN 9780140246025. 
  8. ^ "Arya Samaj Queensland". aryasamajqueensland.com. Retrieved 3 February 2017. 
  9. ^ Lal, Vinay; Goolam Vahed (2013). "Hinduism in South Africa: Caste, Ethnicity, and Invented Traditions, 1860-Present" (PDF). J Sociology Soc Anth. 4 (1–2): 1–15. 
  10. ^ Ombongi, Kenneth Samson (1993). Hindu socio-religious organizations in Kenya: a case study of Arya Samaj, 1903-1978. University of Nairobi. 
  11. ^ Eisenlohr, Patrick (2006). Little India: Diaspora, Time, and Ethnolinguistic Belonging in Hindu Mauritius. Berkeley, California: University of California Press. p. 36. ISBN 978-0-520-24879-3. 
  12. ^ Coward, Harold (1999). Hindus in Canada, The Third National Metropolis Conference (PDF). Vancouver, Canada: Vancouver Center of Excellence. p. 8. 
  13. ^ "Arya Pratinidhi Sabha America". Retrieved 30 December 2013. 
  14. ^ http://www.newsgram.com/plight-of-punjabi-and-need-of-one-script-for-all-indian-languages/
  15. ^ http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/south_asia/8306420.stm
  16. ^ http://indiatoday.intoday.in/story/1984-sikh-riot-senior-journalists-rahul-bedi-joseph-malliakan/1/158167.html
  17. ^ http://www.globaltimes.cn/content/753183.shtml
  18. ^ Bengali Cinema: 'An Other Nation' by Sharmistha Gooptu
  19. ^ https://www.theguardian.com/film/2011/feb/10/bollywood-bit-part-nirpal-dhaliwal

Further reading[edit]

External links[edit]