Hinduism in Punjab: The Land of Vedas
Durgiana Temple, Amritsar
The original Punjab region is now divided into several units: West Punjab (now in Pakistan) including the Gandhara and Multan regions, the Indian states of Punjab, Haryana and Himachal Pradesh and the Indian Union territories of Delhi and Chandigarh. Jammu, Kashmir and Sindh have been historically associated with Punjab.
Punjab is the ‘Sapta Sindhu’ region mentioned in the in the Rig Veda, the seven rivers are: Saraswati (thought to be the present day Ghaggar),
Vitasta/Vet (Jhelum) and
The modern name of the Vipasa,’Beas’ is thought to be a corruption of Veda Vyasa, the author of the Mahabharata.
The region came to be known as Punjab only in the Mughal period.It was one of the cradles of Indian civilization and Hinduism.
Among the classic books that wholly or partly composed in this region are the following.
Grammar of Sakatayana
Ashtadhyayi of Panini
Nirukta of Yaska
Mahabharata along with the Bhagavad Gita
Brihatkatha of Gunadya
The Bakhshali Manuscript
The world’s oldest university Takshashila flourished here, even before the Buddha’s birth.
The descendants of the Rishis, form the Brahmins of Hindu society. The Brahmins of this region are called ‘Saraswata’ after the legendary Saraswati river region, once known for the ashramas of the rishis.
Classic Cities of the Punjab Region
Peshawar(Purushapur) , North West Frontier Province: Capital of Kanishka, the Kushan ruler and the site of the tallest stupa in Jambudvipa.
Kandahar, Afghanistan: capital of the ancient kingdom of Gandhara. In the Mahabharata, its ruler was the evil and scheming Sakuni, brother of Gandhari, wife of Dhritarashtra and mother of the Kauravas.
Pushkalavati (Charsadda), North West Frontier Province: Founded by a son of Bharata, brother of Sri Rama, according to the Ramayana
Takshashila (Taxila), Punjab(Pakistan): Also founded by a son of Bharata.
Multan(Mulasthan), Punjab(Pakistan): Pilgrimage site of the legendary Sun temple.
Rawalpindi, Punjab(Pakistan): city founded by Bappa Rawal, from the Sisodiya clan of Mewar Rajputs and ancestor of Rana Pratap Singh.
Sialkot, Punjab(Pakistan): city founded by Sul (Shalya), emperor of Madradesa and brother of Madri, second wife of emperor Pandu and mother to Nakul and Sahadeva
Kasur, Punjab(Pakistan): city founded by Kusha, son of Sri Rama according to the Bichitra Natak written by Guru Gobind Singh.
Lahore,Punjab(Pakistan): city founded by Lava(Loh), son of Sri Rama according to the Bichitra Natak. Amritsar, Punjab(India): It is believed that the hermitage of Sage Valmiki, author of the Ramayana was located in the vicinity of the area that forms the modern city of Amritsar today. Valmiki is said to have composed the great epic at this very spot. Also, Sita gave birth to the twins, Lava and Kusha in this hermitage.
Delhi, India: founded as Indraprastha by the Pandavas to serve as their capital. Part of the ancient Punjab region
Jalandhar, Punjab(India): A historic city mentioned in the Puranas.
Kurukshetra,Haryana: The site of the Mahabharata war.
Karnal, Haryana:city founded by Karna.
Rohtak, Haryana: mentioned in the Mahabharata.
Katasraj temple, Punjab(Pakistan): Classic temple complex in the Chakwal district, site of the ‘enchanted pool’ episode in the Mahabharata, where Yudhishtira is tested by his father Lord Yama/Dharma.
Punjabi Hindu Sects
The Sanatan Dharmis
An important group amongst Hindus in the Punjab are the Sanatan Dharmis. For meditation they keep idols of Hindu deities before them. Major deities worshipped include Rama, Krishna, Shiva, Vishnu , Hanuman and various forms of the mother goddess including minor ones like Sitla i.e. (goddess of small pox) and major ones like Vaishno Devi of Jammu, Chintpurni Devi, Jwala Mukhi and Kali/Durga(all known commonly as Sheraan-wali(‘She of the lions’) in Punjabi .The worship of Hanuman is usually done on Tuesdays. Sanatanists also worship the five elements: the sun, fire, water, sky and the wind.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 passed a resolution to that Dalits were as much entitled to temple entry as other Hindus.
The Arya Samajis
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 Ludhiana in 1882. Arya Samajists do not believe in idol worship and in incarnations. They hold the Vedic religion to be the only true religion and as such, regard the Vedas as their only religious books. 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 Radhaswami sect has its headquarters at the town of Beas and is popular amongst Punjabi Hindus and Sikhs. Like the Nirankaris and Namdharis , the Radhaswamis too are a transitional sect between Hinduism and Sikhism.
The Dev Samajis
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.
The Nanak Panthis
The term Nanak Panthi is sometimes incorrectly applied to Sikhs who are followers of Sikh religion which is independent, and disparate to the beliefs of the Hindu religion. This is much attributed to the fact that Guru Nanak – the founder of the Sikh faith, was the son of a Khatri. Guru Nanak laid the foundation of Sikhism and preached equality among all men, contrary to the hierarchical Hindu caste system. The Nanak Panth was the sect founded by Guru Nanak’s elder son, Sri Chand and was regarded by Guru Nanak as being incompatible with the Sikh religion since it reflected Hindu beliefs. The Khalsa represent Sikhism today.
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 .
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 Hindu Castes
The principal castes among Hindus of the Punjab are Aroras, Banias, Bhatias, Brahmins, Dalits, Gujjars, Jaats, Kalals, Khatris, Labanas, Rajputs, Sainis, Sansis, Soods and Tarkhans. (Though denounced by Sikh Gurus, the Sikhs continue to adhere to the decadent Hindu caste system of Varnashram.)