Punjabi Hindus

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Punjabi Hindus
Regions with significant populations
Hindi, Punjabi
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, Chandigarh and Delhi. There has also been a continuous migration of Punjabi Hindus to major world countries like the US, Canada, UK, Australia, New Zealand and Dubai.

Hinduism has been prevalent in Punjab since historical times before the arrival of Islam and birth of Sikhism in Punjab. Some of the greatest and most powerful kings, influential Sikh figures such as Guru Nanak, Banda Singh Bahadur, Bhai Mati Das, all originated from Hindu families of Punjab. Thirteen of the fifteen Sikh bhagats who had their writings included in the SGGS were Hindu. Later many of Punjab's Hindus converted to Sikhism, initially a Hindu sect found by Guru Nanak Dev, whose family hailed from a Hindu Khatri family. 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.

Punjabi Hindus have a unique culture which very closely resembles that of the Sikhs and also differs from theirs in many other ways. They usually have a very liberal lifestyle and are famous for their lavish wedding parties.

Indian Punjabi Hindus have been very dominant in business, the army, sports, and the cinema of Punjab and India.

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 eastern Afghanistan such as the Gandhara/Kandahar 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 who belonged to the Raja Bhandari or Brahmin alias Nai-Brahmin equal to the Pandithar or Pandit Maruthuvar of the South India.


An important group among the Punjabi Ravidassias are the Chamar caste of Punjab and are also known as Ad dharmis; They are a majority caste within the region. Punjab is differentiated by the fact that it has the highest population of dalits in India; the majority are Ravidassias, and there is also a large number of Valmikis and Mazhabis. Punjab has a 30% of dalit population and in some areas of Punjab like Doaba it is as high as 40-50%. Ravidassias in Punjab are wealthy and an important ethnic group of Punjab.[2]

The Arya Samajis[edit]

An important sect amongst Punjabi Hindus is the Arya Samaj. It was founded by Swami Dayananda (born in the town of Tankara near Morvi(or Morbi) in the Kathiawar region of modern-day Gujarat) in 1875 in Bombay and became popular amongst Hindus in the Punjab and U.P. The first branch of the Arya Samaj was opened in Shantakruj, Mumbai in 1875. 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.

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 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.

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 carving of the new state was taken by the Sikhs as a religious issue, to carve a state where Sikhism is majority.

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, the then prime minister of India: Indira Gandhi was assassinated her Sikh body guards. Soon after news of Mrs Gandhi's killing by her Sikh bodyguards spread, Congress mobs swung into action attacked some Sikhs. More than 3000 innocent Sikhs[3] were humiliated and burned alive.[4][5]

Distribution of population[edit]

Today Punjabis are also found in huge numbers in western countries like USA, Canada, UK, Australia, New Zealand and the EU. The Hindus of Punjab have a large population in the districts of Jalandhar, Nawanshahr, Hoshiarpur in which they make up to 50% of population, and make up around 37% of Punjab's population, and many of them are settled in Haryana, Himachal Pradesh, Delhi and Jammu region. Punjabi Hindus are also present in major cities like Mumbai, Bangalore etc.


The caste system is present among the Hindu castes of Punjab. Some prominents castes of Punjab are Jat, Brahmin, Agarwal, Rajput, Khatri, Bhatia, Arora, Chamar, Valmiki, Lohar, Saini, Gujjar etc.


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

Notable Punjabi Hindus[edit]

See also[edit]


Further reading[edit]

External links[edit]