Punjab – The Land of Five Rivers
Darbar of Maharaja Ranjit Singh showing people of all religions
Punjab the land of five rivers is a state in northern India. Forming part of the larger Punjab region, the state is bordered by the Indian states of Jammu and Kashmir to the north, Himachal Pradesh to the east, Haryana to the south and southeast, Rajasthan to the southwest, and the Pakistani province of Punjab to the west. The state covers an area of 50,362 square kilometres, 1.53% of India’s total geographical area. It is the 20th-largest Indian state by area. With 27,704,236 inhabitants at the 2011 census, Punjab is the 16th-largest state by population, comprising 22 districts. Punjabi is the most widely spoken and official language of the state. The main ethnic group are the Punjabis, with Punjabi Sikhs (57.7%) forming the demographic majority, followed by Hindus (38.5%). The state capital is Chandigarh, a Union Territory and also the capital of the neighbouring state of Haryana. The five rivers from which the region took its name were Sutlej, Ravi, Beas, Chenab and Jhelum; Sutlej, Ravi and Beas are part of the Indian Punjab.
The Punjab region was home to the Indus Valley Civilization until 1900 BCE. The Punjab was conquered by Alexander the Great in 330 BCE and was captured by Chandragupta Maurya. The Punjab was home to the Gupta Empire, the empire of the Alchon Huns, the empire of Harsha, and the Mongol Empire. Circa 1000, Punjab was invaded by Muslims and was part of the Delhi Sultanate and Mughal Empire. Sikhism originated in Punjab and resulted in the formation of the Sikh Confederacy after the fall of the Mughal Empire. The Confederacy was united into the Sikh Empire by Maharaja Ranjit Singh. The entire Punjab region was annexed by the British East India Company from the Sikh Empire in 1849. In 1947, the Punjab Province of British India was divided along religious lines into West Punjab and East Punjab. The western part was assimilated into the new country of Pakistan while the east stayed in India. The Indian Punjab, as well as PEPSU, was divided into three parts on the basis of language in 1966. Haryanvi-speaking areas (a dialect of Hindi) were carved out as Haryana, while the hilly regions and Pahari-speaking areas formed Himachal Pradesh, alongside the current state of Punjab. The diverse cultures of the various rulers of Punjab have influenced Punjabi culture. Punjab’s government has three branches – executive, judiciary and legislative. Punjab follows the parliamentary system of government with the Chief Minister as the head of the state.
Punjab is primarily agriculture-based due to the presence of abundant water sources and fertile soils. Other major industries include the manufacturing of scientific instruments, agricultural goods, electrical goods, financial services, machine tools, textiles, sewing machines, sports goods, starch, tourism, fertilisers, bicycles, garments, and the processing of pine oil and sugar. Minerals and energy resources also contribute to Punjab’s economy to a much lesser extent. Punjab has the largest number of steel rolling mill plants in India, which are in “Steel Town”—Mandi Gobindgarh in the Fatehgarh Sahib district.
In the Vedic Era, Punjab was called ‘Sapat Sindu’. Sapat Sindu means the land of seven rivers – the Sindu, Jehlum, Ravi, Chenab, Beas, Satluj and Yamuna. The Mughals Persianized its name by calling it ‘Panj – Aab’ or -the land of five rivers- excluding Sindhu and Yamuna. Punj means five and aab mean water, so Punjab means -the land of five rivers.
The historical area of Punjab was defined to the east from the basin of the river Bias (including Dehli) to the basin of River Indus in the west. To the north, it was bounded by the Himalayas of Kashmir and to the south, it stretched as far as the plains of Cholistan and Rajasthan. Over different periods of history, Punjab has seen its boundries expand and shrink. The high time for Punjab was during the reign of Mughal emperor Babur (and also during the time of Ranjit Singh more recently) when Punjab along with Babur’s empire stretched from Dehli in the east to Kabul and Ghazni to the West.Punjabi civilization is one of the oldest on earth, with its distinguished language, culture, food, attire, script, folklore, people, etc.
The history of Punjab goes back to the times of Indus Valley civilization or the arrival of the Aryans. Lord Rama is also said to have been born at a place called Gharaam, now in Patiala district. Lord Sri Krishna delivered the immortal message of the Gita at Kurukshetra, which was well within the boundary of Punjab till very recently.The oldest evidence of life in Punjab was found in the digs made in Soan river valley located in west Punjab. Surface finds from Soan valley (Rawalpindi district) between the Indus and the Jhelum and stone tools made of quartzite, pebbles, flint and flakes of the same time that were found in the Soan valley testify to the existence of man who fashioned stone implements.
According to the experts, this valley pertains to the end of the first ice age and the beginning of the second ice age indicative of the fact that it is almost five to six lakh years old. Similar evidence has also been found in the Shiwalik regions of Una and Hamirpur Districts of Himachal Pradesh. Some implements of early Soan culture have also been found in the vicinity of Pinjore and Chandigarh. These tools are a good indication of the human existence on the one hand and the area of their influence on the other. In fact it appears that age-old culture which emerged in this land was fairly wide spread in northern India.
Harrapa in West Punjab and recently at several locations at Ropar district which show evidence of what has come to be known as Indus Valley Civilization. Excavation at these places gave a new insight to our ancient past and pushed back the history of Punjab to at least 3000 to 4000 B.C., if not to still earlier period. With these finds it becomes possible to be in line with the other ancient civilizations of the world.