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The Punjab (pronounced or ; Punjabi: ਪੰਜਾਬ, [[Shahmukhi script| , ), also spelled Panjab ( , panj-āb, "five water"), is a cultural region straddling the border between Punjab marker and Punjab marker. The so-called "five waters" are the Jhelummarker, the Chenabmarker, the Ravimarker, the Sutlejmarker, and the Indusmarker per se. All are tributaries of the Indus Rivermarker, the Jhelummarker being the largest. Punjab has a long history and rich cultural heritage. The people of the Punjab are called Punjabis and their language is also called Punjabi. The main religions of the Punjab region are Islam, Sikhism and Hinduism.

Punjab region of India and Pakistan

The area now known as the Greater Punjab comprises what were once vast territories of eastern Pakistanmarker and northern western Indiamarker. The bigger section of the Punjab is 58% within Pakistan and has the Republic of India 42%.

The region, populated by Indo-Aryan speaking peoples, has been inhabited by different religious and ethnic groups, including Sikhs, Jains, Buddhists, Greeks, Persians, Arabs, Turks, Mughals, Afghans, Balochis, Hindus and Britishmarker. In 1947, it was partitioned between British India's successor states with 4 out of the 5 rivers going to Pakistanmarker and the remaining river was allotted to India.

The Pakistani Punjabmarker now comprises the majority of the region together with the Hazara region of the North-West Frontier Provincemarker, Islamabadmarker, and Azad Jammu and Kashmirmarker. The Indian Government further sub-divided Punjab into the modern Indian states of Punjabmarker, Haryanamarker, Himachal Pradeshmarker and Delhimarker. The Pakistani part of the region West Punjab covers an area of 205,344 square kilometers (79,284 square miles), whereas the Indian State of Punjab is 50,362 square kilometers (19,445 square miles). Besides the Indian Punjab, the region also includes the areas of Jammu region and Himachalmarker and Haryanamarker states of India that were created out of East Punjab in 1966. The populations of the region are similarly divided as 86,084,000 (2005) in West Punjab (Pakistan) and 24,289,296 (2000) in the present-day State of (East) Punjab (India) and a further 30 million in the rest of the region. Punjabi is spoken by (approximately) 65% of population in Pakistani Punjab (another 25% speak Punjabi variants) and 92.2% in Indian Punjab. The capital city of undivided Punjab was Lahoremarker, which now sits close to the partition line as the capital of West Punjab. Indian Punjab has as its capital the city of Chandigarhmarker. Indian Punjab uses the Gurmukhi script, while Pakistani Punjab uses the Shahmukhi script.


The language of the region is Punjabi. The official written script of Punjabi in the state of Punjab in India is called Gurmukhi "(from the Mouth of the Guru)". The neighbouring Pakistanimarker state of Punjab still maintains the Shahmukhi script; which is based on the Perso-Arabic Script. The official language of the Punjab region up till the early twentieth century was Urdu written in the Perso-Arabic Script.


The word 'Punjab' itself is a noun and could be used without the definite article "the" preceding it. However, recently some academics have broken with this and began to call it "the Punjab" rather than simply "Punjab" whenever its a noun in all cases. The former is not completely incorrect in English because when its translated in to Punjab it literally means "the land of five rivers". Yet, in English it is very unusual to use a location in such a grammatical form.


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

As a result of numerous invasions, 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 Harappamarker civilization, was located in the Punjab.

The epic battles described in the Mahabharata were fought in Modern day Harayana 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 Kurukshetramarker. 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 Punjab from the north and incorporated it into his empire. His armies entered the region via the Hindu Kushmarker in north west Pakistan and his rule extended up to the city of Sagalamarker (modern day Sialkotmarker) in north east Pakistanmarker. At 305bc the area was divided among the Maurya Empire and the Greco-Bactrian Kingdom. In a long line of succeeding rulers of the area, Chandragupta Maurya, Asoka the great and stand out as the most renowned. The Maurya presence in the area was then consolidated in the Indo-Greek Kingdom at 180 bce. Menander I Soter "The Saviour" (known as Milinda in Indian sources) is the most renowned leader of the era. Greek ruling came to an end after several invasions by the Yuezhi and the Scythian people, at around 12bc.

The Yuezhis formed the Kushan Empire which lasted in the area until about 230ad, giving place to the Indo-Sassanid kingdom, a branch of the Sassanid Persians who established their rule in the northwestern Indian subcontinent during the 3rd and 4th centuries ad, at the expense of the declining Kushans. They were in turn displaced in 410 CE by the invasions of the Indo-Hephthalites(Huna people). They were able to re-establish some authority after the Sassanids destroyed the Hephthalites in 565 CE, but their rule collapsed under Arab attacks in the mid 600s. In a series of events, century after century, the Sultanate and then the Moghul era came in the area.

At all times during the establishment and consolidation of Mughal rule, there was conflict, chaos, and political upheaval in the Punjab. However, with the Mughals prosperity, growth and relative peace was established, particularly under the reign of Jahangir. The period was also notable for the emergence of Guru Nanak (1469-1539), the founder of a powerful popular movement which has left a lasting impression on the history and culture of Punjab. Born in the district of Sheikhupuramarker, he rejected the division of mankind into rigid compartments of orthodox religions and castes and preached the oneness of humanity, and oneness of God, thus aiming at creating a new order which embraced the all pervasive spirit in man. This new philosophy would serve as the foundation for the Sikh faith.

In 1713, Banda Singh Bahadur wanted to establish a multi-cultural state in the Punjab. For this he fought relentlessly with the Mughals. His state lasted just under a year before its collapse. A number of years afterward, he was captured and executed.

Abdali's Indian invasion weakened the Maratha influence, but he could not defeat the Sikhs. At the formation of the Dal Khalsa in 1748 at Amritsarmarker, the Punjab had been divided into 36 areas and 12 separate Sikh principalities. From this point onwards 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. Ten years after Maharaja Ranjit Singh's death, the empire broke up and the British were then able to the defeat Punjab with the help of some Dogra kings. The Sikh State of Punjab was the only state which was a not a part of British rule at that time. Hence, it was conquered last by the British.

This Sikh Empire was the last to fall against the British, and was a victim of intrigue from neighboring Kingdoms. In many ways Punjab under Maharaja Ranjit Singh was the only territory in South Asia that could have stood up against the might of the British Empire.

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 Ajit Singh Sandhu, Bhagat Singh, Udham Singh, Kartar Singh Sarabha, Bhai Parmanand, Muhammad Iqbal, Chaudhary Rehmat Ali, Ilam Din Shaheed and Lajpat Rai.

The Punjabis also play a prominent role in the mutiny against the British of 1857. The cities like Jhelummarker and Ludhianamarker served as center of rebellion against the British government.

At the time of partition in 1947, the province was split in to East and West Punjab. East Punjab became part of Indiamarker, while West Punjab became part of Pakistanmarker. The Punjab bore the brunt of the civil unrest following the end of the British Raj, with casualties estimated in the hundreds of thousands or even higher.


Ethnic ancestries of modern Punjabis include Indo-Aryan, and some Indo-Scythian and Indo-Parthian settlers of the region, including Indo-Greek . Punjabi people are generally believed to be the descendants of these people . With the advent of Islam, settlers from Persiamarker, Turkeymarker, Afghanistanmarker and Central Asia have also integrated into Punjabi society from whom many Pakistani Punjabis claim descent. However the majority of Punjab is still made up of the native Jats, Rajputs and Khatris and gujjars in north Punjab. The vast majority of Pakistani Punjabis inhabiting the fertile regions of four out of the five major rivers are Muslims by faith, but also include numerous minority faiths such as Christians, Buddhists, Zorastrianism, Ahmadi Muslims and Sikhs. Sikhism, a reformist religion of the late 15th century, is the main religion practiced in Indian Punjab - it arose in the Punjab itself. 60% of the population of Indian Punjab is Sikh, 40% is Hindu, and the rest are Jains, Christians, Muslims or Buddhists. However, due to large scale migration from Uttar Pradesh, Bihar, Bengal and Orissa demographics of Punjab have become more skewed than reported earlier. Indian Punjab contains the holy Sikh city of Amritsarmarker. The states of Haryanamarker and Himachal Pradeshmarker, formerly constituents of the British province of Punjab, are mostly Hindu-majority. Indian Punjabis speak Punjabi language written in Gurmukhi script. Islam is the religion of more than 90% of the population of the Punjab in Pakistan, followed by a small Christian minority of about 3-5%. There is also a small number of Sikh, Zorastrian and Hindu minorities among others. Pakistan uses the Shahmukhi script, that is closer to Persian script and has considerable Persian loan words. In total, Pakistan has 76 million Punjabis, and India has 29 million Punjabis.


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 Indiamarker and Pakistanmarker's food output, respectively. The agricultural output of the Punjab region in Pakistan contributes significantly to Pakistan's GDP. The region is important for wheat growing. In addition, rice, cotton, sugar cane, fruit and vegetables are also major crops. Both Indian and Pakistani Punjab are considered to have the best infrastructure of their respective countries. The Indian Punjab has been estimated to be the second richest state in India (the richest being Maharashtramarker. Haryanamarker is the fourth. The Pakistani Punjab produces 68% of Pakistan's food grain production. Its share of Pakistan's GDP has historically ranged from 51.8% to 54.7%.

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


Photo gallery

Image:Badshahi Mosque July 1 2005 pic32 by Ali Imran (1).jpg|Badshahi Masjid - The Punjabi mosque of the moghal empire built by the last mughal emperor, Aurangzeb.Image:FaizMahal.jpg|The Faiz Mahal, Khairpur PakistanImage:Bathinda_fort_fromtop.jpg|The Punjabi Fort at Bathinda.Image:Bathinda_fort_view.jpg|The Punjabi Fort at Bathinda.Image:Qila Mubarak.jpg|The main gate of the Punjabi Qila Mubarak at night. Architect Atit Kumar.Image:Amritsar-golden-temple-00.JPG|The Golden Temple at night in Amritsarmarker.Image:Lahore fort 1.JPG|The Punjabi Alamgiri Gate built in 1673, is the main entrance to the Lahore Fortmarker.Image:Faisalabad ClockTower.jpg|The Punjabi Train Station, built during the British RajImage:Fountain Chowk.jpg|The Punjabi Phuara Chowk (lit. the Fountain Crossing) is the central land mark of Patiala.Image:JallianwalaBaghmemorial1227.JPG|Jallianwala Bagh memorial to commemorate the fallen brave Punjabi protestors at the Jallianwala Bagh massacre.Image:Massacre memorial in Amritsar.jpg|Wideview of the Punjabi Jallianwala Bagh memorial.Image:Jallianwala Bagh Entrance.JPG|Entrance to the present day Punjabi Jallianwala Bagh.Image:Jallianwala Bagh Bullet Marks.JPG|Bullet marks, visible on a preserved wall, at present day Punjabi Jallianwala Bagh.Image:Patiala Phulkari.jpg|A Punjabi Phulkari from Patiala.Image:July July 034.jpg|Jalandharmarker Railway Station's reception block.Image:Plain of punjab.jpg|Irrigated land of Punjab.Image:GCU Tower P1140896.jpg|Punjabi Clock Tower at Govt College University, Lahore.Image:Shahrukne Alam.jpg|Punjabi Mausoleum of Shah Rukn-e-Alam (1320 AD).Image:Shalamar Garden July 14 2005-First pavilion on first level.jpg|The Punjabi Shalimar Gardensmarker.Image:University of Agriculture, Faisalabad.JPG|D ground of University of Agriculture Faisalabad, Punjab Pakistan.

Image:Taxila Pakistan juillet 2004.JPG|Taxila is a World Heritage Site.Image:Shalamar Garden July 14 2005-Sideview of marble enclosure on the second level.jpg|The Punjabi Shalimar Gardensmarker in Lahore.Image:Jalandhar Niku Park gopal1035.jpg|In Jalandhar Punjabi Community gets together at markets, amusement parks etc especially on weekends and annual Punjabi festivals.Image:mohindra college night.jpg|The Punjabi Mohindra College, Patiala at night.Image:Wazir Khan Mosque 1.jpg|The Wazir Khan Mosque, built by Shah Jahan inLahoremarker.Image:Hiran Minar Sheikhupura.JPG|The Hiran Minar located in Sheikhupura, was a tribute to Jahangir's favourite antelope.Image:Nur Jehan Tomb.jpg|Nur Jahan's (wife of mughal empire Shah Jahan) mausoleum in Lahore.Image:Jehangir Tomb3.jpg|Jahangir's (Father of Shah Jahan) mausoleum in Shahdara, Lahore.Image:Samadhi of Ranjit Singh July 1 2005.jpg|Samadhi of Sikh emperor, Ranjit Singh in Lahore.Image:Clk Towe Slk.jpg|Sialkot Clock Tower, built during the reign of the British rule, Sialkotmarker.Image:Bahawalpur Nur Mahal.jpeg|Noor Mahal (Palace), Bahawalpurmarker, Punjab PakistanImage:Jhelum River-Pakistan.jpg|The Jhelum River, one of many rivers of Punjab.Image:Chauburji-Lahore(|Chauburji, the Gateway to the Mughal Gardens, LahoreFile:Mankiala Stupa.JPG|Punjabi Sand IglooFile:Punjabi Home.JPG|Village Punjabi homeFile:Door in rural Punjab.JPG|A Punjabi home

See also

Further reading

  • [Quraishee 73] Punjabi Adab De Kahani, Abdul Hafeez Quaraihee, Azeez Book Depot, Lahore, 1973.
  • [Chopra 77] The 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).


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