Punjab is an Indo-Iranian word meaning "the land of five
rivers". Punjab lies at the cross-roads of the great civilizations of the world. The historical area of Punjab was defined
to the east from the basin of the river Bias (including Delhi) 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 boundaries 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
Delhi in the east to Kabul and Ghazni to the West. But never in the history, did the boundaries of Punjab shrink so much as
they did after the division of Punjab in 1947. Today, on the world map Punjab can be seen as divided into the Indian state
of Punjab and the Pakistani province of Punjab. Some facts about Punjab:
('000s in 1991)
per 1000 males (1991)
Urban Population (1991)
Product (Rs. million at current prices in 1992-93)
Income (Rs. at current prices in 1992-93)
Blessed with extremely fertile soil, Punjab is watered
by the rivers Beas, Sutlej, Ravi and Ghaggar. Ancient Punjab formed a part of the vast Indo-Iranian region. It was subjected
to repeated onslaughts from the Persians, Mauryans, Seithians, Parthians, Kushans and the Muslims.
The 15th and 16th centuries marked a watershed in the
history of Punjab. In this period, the Bhakti movement received a great impetus with the advent of Sikhism on the scene. This
was a socio-religious movement, which was directed at fighting the evils in religion, and society of the times. However, over
a period of time, Sikhism acquired a militant flavour and challenged Mughal rule in northern India. Sikh Gurus like Guru Nanak,
the founder of the faith, Guru Arjan Dev, Guru Harkrishan and Guru Gobind Singh, the last Sikh Guru played important roles
in the evolution of Sikhism, and also in the history of Punjab.
With the death of Guru Gobind Singh, the political influence
of the Sikhs started dwindling. It was only after the weakening of the Mughal stronghold in Delhi, that the Sikhs reorganised
themselves, and formed confederacies to present a united front. The name of Ranjit Singh is prominent among the heads of these
Sikh confederacies. He united all the Sikhs, and built a mighty kingdom, which remained invincible for many years. However,
his death led to a collapse of this edifice, and after two abortive Anglo-Sikh wars, Punjab was finally annexed to the British
empire in 1849.
India's independence from British rule in 1947, also
saw the partitioning of the country and the division of Punjab. Consequently, the state was reorganised twice, and it was
only in 1966, that the present Indian state of Punjab came into being in its present form.
Punjab witnessed heavy destruction and damage during
partition, yet it is one of the most affluent states in the country today. The per-capita income of the state is nearly twice
the all-India average. The mainstay of Punjab's economy, and the source of its affluence, is agriculture. Nearly 84 percent
of the total geographical area of the state is under cultivation. Punjab alone contributed about 62 per cent of wheat, and
50 per cent of rice, to the central pool in the 1994-95 seasons, despite the fact, that it comprises only 1.53 per cent of
the area in the country. Besides wheat and rice, the other crops grown in the state are maize, gram, pulses, cotton, oilseeds,
sugarcane, potato, onion, mustard and sunflower.
Punjab's contribution to the industrial development of
the country is mainly through its 1,88,000 small scale units which have a capital investment of Rs. 19,730 million. These
units produce bicycle parts, sewing machines, hand tools, machine tools, auto parts, electronic items, sports goods, hosiery,
knitwear, textiles, sugar, surgical and leather goods. Besides these, there are 475 large and medium scale units with an investment
of Rs. 64,200 million. Attracted by the improved investment climate in the state, a number of foreign investors have come
forward to set up industries, and to collaborate with the existing units.
The major city in Punjab is Amritsar, the holy town of
the Sikhs. The famous Golden Temple stands in the middle of this city, which is visited by people from all over the world.
Other places of tourist interest in Punjab are the Durgiana Mandir and Jallianwala Bagh in Amritsar, Takhat Kesgarh Sahib
in Anandpur Sahib, the Bhakra Dam complex and the Sodal temple at Jalandhar.
Punjabi festivals are celebrated with great gusto. Vaisakhi
(in April) is the most famous of Punjabi festivals. It is of special significance for the Sikhs, for it is on this day in
1699, that Guru Gobind Singh organised the Sikhs into the 'Khalsa'. During Basant (January/February), Punjabis welcome spring,
when the mustard fields turn golden and winter is practically over. Punjabis in yellow garments hold feasts and kite-flying
competitions, and take part in community singing and dancing. Another great festive occasion is the Jor Mela, when thousands
of people gather at Sirhind, in remembrance and devotion to Guru Gobind Singh. Hymns and recitations of the holy epics by
folk minstrels and poets come together with the joyous cadences of folk music and the earthy, invigorating rhythms of the
popular dances: the exuberant Bhangra and Giddha. Besides the Guru-ke-Langar (free meals) which cater to the throngs of devotees,
one can also enjoy scrumptious regional dishes while browsing through a variety of exotic handicrafts, jewellery, traditional
weapons and costumes.