Punjab (पंजाब, پنجاب), also Panjab (پنجاب, meaning "Land of the Five Rivers") (c.f. ap-), is a region straddling the border between India and Pakistan. The "Five Rivers" are Beas, Ravi, Sutlej, Chenab and Jhelum; all these are tributaries of the Indus river. Punjab has a long history and rich cultural heritage. The people of the Punjab are called Punjabis and speak a language named Punjabi. The main religions of the Punjab region are Sikhism, Hinduism, Islam.
The area that is now known as the Greater Punjab comprises what were once vast territories of eastern Pakistan and northern western India. It comprised, in its original sense, regions extending from Swat/Kabul in the west to Delhi in the east i.e the area including parts of Afghanistan and the plains up to the Ganges. It was a centre of the prehistoric Indus Valley civilization and after c. 1500 BCE the site of early Aryan settlements . In ancient times, the area was inhabited by people called Vahikas or Arattas . The Vahikas or Arattas were divided into many tribes or clans like the Gandharas, Prasthalas, Khasas, Vasatis, Trigartas, Pauravas, Malavas, Yaudheyas, Saindhavas, and Sauviras. There were also Iranian and transfrontier peoples such as the Kambojas and Pahlavas, as well as Ionians (Yavanas) and nomadic Scythians (Shakas).
The region, populated by Indo-Aryan speaking peoples, has been ruled by many different empires and ethnic groups, including Hindus, Jains, Buddhists, ancient Macedonians, Persians, Arabs, Turks, Mughals, Afghans, Balochis, Sikhs and British. In 1947, it was partitioned between British India's successor states with the bulk (4 out of the 5 rivers) going to Pakistan and the remaining river was alloted to India.
The Pakistani Punjab now comprises the majority of the region together with the Hazara region of the North-West Frontier Province and Azad Kashmir. The Indian Punjab has been further sub-divided into the modern Indian states of Punjab, Haryana, Himachal Pradesh and Delhi. 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 Himachal and Haryana 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 Lahore, which now sits close to the partition line as the capital of West Punjab. Indian Punjab has as its capital the city of Chandigarh. Indian Punjab uses the Gurmukhi or Devanagari scripts, while Pakistani Punjab uses the Shahmukhi script.
As a result of numerous invasions, many ethnic groups and religions make up the cultural heritage of the Punjab.
The Vedic and Epic period was socially and culturally prolific in the Punjab. During this period, the Hindu scriptures, the Rig Veda and the Upanishads, were composed in the Punjab. Tradition maintains that the sage Valmiki composed the Ramayana near the present location of Amritsar. In legend, Krishna delivered the divine message of the Bhagavad Gita at Kurukshetra. Eighteen principal Puranas were written in the region. The authors of Vishnu Purana and the Shiva Purana belonged to Central Punjab.
The epic battles described in the Mahabharata were fought in the 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 Kurukshetra. 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 Kush in north west Pakistan and his rule extended up to the city of Sagala (modern day Sialkot) in north east Pakistan.
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 Sheikhupura, 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 Bahadur wanted to establish a Sikh 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.
In 1756, the Marathas under Raghunath Rao defeated the Afghan Ahmed Shah Abdali on his first attempt at conquering India. The Marathas chased the retreating Afghans back to Attock. The Sikhs and Khatris (the dominant groups of Punjab) were co-operative to the Marathas for having successfully removed the Muslims from their land and signed formal treaties of friendship. However, the Marathas failed to enlist the support of the Rajputs, and they were defeated by the Abdali at the Third Battle of Panipat in 1761.
Abdali's Indian invasion weakened the Maratha influence, but left the smaller rulers like Sikhs less affected. At the formation of the Dal Khalsa in 1748 at Amritsar, 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 seized the Punjab.
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 Lajpat Rai, Ajit Singh Sindhu, Bhagat Singh, Udham Singh, Bhai Parmanand, Muhammad Iqbal, Chaudhary Rehmat Ali, Kartar singh sarabha and Ilam Din Shaheed.
At the time of partition in 1947, the province was split in to East and West Punjab. East Punjab became part of India, while West Punjab became part of Pakistan. 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.
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 India and Pakistan'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 Maharashtra. Haryana is the fourth. The Pakistani Punjab produces 68% of Pakistan's food grain production.
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.