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History Of Punjab

The Punjab, called Pentapotamia by the Greeks, derives its name from two Persian words, panj (five), an aab (water, having reference to the five rivers which confer on the country).

The most remarkable feature in the topography of the country is found in its rivers, the feeders of the great Indus, which, after traversing for hundreds of miles in the mountainous regions of the lofty Himalayas, descend into the plains, fertilizing the soil, and continue their course generally to the south, until, after their confluence with the Indus, the Nile of India, the amalgamated waters fall into the ocean. These rivers run between the Indus and the Jamna, and their names, in succession, eastward from the Indus, are the Jhelum, the Chin, the Ravi, the Bias and the Sutlej.

Punjab, a region in Northern India, has a long history and rich cultural heritage. The people of the Punjab are called Punjabis and they speak a language called Punjabi. The two main religions in the area are Sikhism and Hinduism. The region has been invaded and ruled by many different empires and races, including the Aryans, Persians, Greeks, Egyptians, Afghans, and Mongols. Around the time of the 15th Century, Guru Nanak Dev founded the Sikh religion, which quickly came to prominence in the region, and shortly afterwards, Maharaja Ranjit Singh reformed the Punjab into a secular and powerful state. The 19th Century saw the beginning of British rule, which led to the emergence of several heroic Punjabi freedom fighters. In 1947, at the end of British rule, the Punjab was split between Pakistan and India.

Maharaja Ranjit Singh

Many races of people and religions made up the cultural heritage of the Punjab. Punjab is the land where spiritual aspirations arose. This heroic land bore numerous invasions, and after all its suffering, did not entirely lose its glory and its strength. Here it was that the gentle Nanak preached his marvellous love for the world. Here it was that his broad heart opened and his arms outstretched to embrace the whole world.

One of the earliest stone age cultures of South Asia nourished in the Punjab. People generally accept that about eight centuries before Christ, the Punjab was the most enlightened and the prosperous region in the world. The Harappa civilization developed in Punjab and its culture spread to Iran, Afghanistan, Balochistan, and north-western parts of South Asia.

The Vedic and Epic period of the Punjab was socially and culturally very prolific as during this glorious period, the people accelerated in the fields of philosophy and culture. Here the people composed the Rig Veda and the Upanishads. Further, tradition maintains that Valmiki composed the Ramayana near the present Amritsar city and Kaikyee belonged to this region. Lord Krishna gave the divine message of the Gita at Kurukshetra. It was here that people wrote eighteen principal Puranas. The authors of Vishnu Purana and the Shiv Purana belonged to the central Punjab. Right from the invasion of Alexander in 326 B.C., the Punjab bore the brunt of incursions and the aggressive assaults of the hordes from the north. During the gruesome period great kings like Porus, Chandragupta Maurya, Ashoka and host of other heroes emerged to defend Punjab from the onslaughts.

Maharishi Valmiki

During Mughal rule, there was lots of conflict, chaos, and political upheavals in the Punjab. Appearance of Guru Nanak (1469-1538) was an event significant not only for the region but for the whole country. He was the founder of a powerful popular movement which has left a lasting impression on the history and culture of all of South Asia. Born in the district of Sheikhupura, he rejected the division of mankind into rigid compartments of orthodox religions 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. He condemned and ridiculed the false and unnatural notions of high and low in society, He denounced idolatory and laid stress on meditation for the realization of the Universal self.

British intrution had political, cultural, philosophical and literary consequences in the Punjab. The opening of a new system of education introduced a new spirit in the life of the Punjabis. More people realized the greatness of Punjabi culture. During the freedom movement, Punjab played a role worthy of its name. Many heroes emerged from the Punjab such as Lajpat Rai, Ajit Singh, Bhagat Singh, Uddham Singh, Bhal Parmanand and a host of others.

However, the Punjabi spirit of tenacity and toughness sustained the uprooted people. The disillusioned people set to work with no self pity to plough fresh fields. They built new industries and became prominent in sports. Punjabis attained an eminent place in cultural, aesthetic, and literary work, and revived folk art, song, dance and drama. All of this has created a sense of pride and climate of involvement in the heritage of the Punjab.

Timeline Of The History Of Punjab

Before 3000 BC Aboriginals of Punjab
3000 BC - 2000 BC Indus Valley Civilization
2000 BC - 1500 BC Aryans Invade the Punjab
2000 BC - 500 BC Aryan Civilization
Vedas Composed in the Punjab
Development of Caste System
800 BC Invasion of Punjab by Semiramis
650 BC Invasion of Punjab by Ancient Scythians
550 BC - 500 BC Persian Invasion of Punjab
550 BC - 400 AD Spread of Buddhism in Punjab
321 BC Invasion of Punjab Alexander
273 BC - 232 BC Period of Ashoka
206 BC Invasion by Antiochus
165 BC Invasion by Eneradites
110 BC - 400 Scythians Invade Punjab, Rule Punjab
400 - 711 Turks, Kashmiri Kings Conquer Punjab
711 - 962 Arabs Invade Punjab
Rajputs Expel Arabs, Rule the Punjab
962 - 1186 Turks Invade Punjab, Ghaznivide Dynasty
1186 - 1205 Ghori Dynasty
1205 - 1288 Tartar Dynasty
1288 - 1321 Khiljai Dynasty
1321 - 1395 Toghlak Dynasty
1396 Invasion of Punjab by Tymur
1416 - 1450 Dynasty of the Syads
1450 - 1526 Lodi Dynasty
1469 - 1539 Period of Guru Nanak
1519 Moghals, under Baber, Invade Punjab
1526 - 1540 Moghal Dynasty
1539 - 1675 Period of 8 Sikh Gurus After Nanak
1540 Sher Shah Conquers Punjab
1540 - 1555 Sur Dynasty
1555 Moghals, under Humayun, Conquer Punjab
1556 - 1605 Akber Ascends the Throne, Rules Punjab
1605 - 1658 Jahangir, Shah Jahan
1658 - 1707 Muhyuddin Aurangzeb
1675 - 1708 Guru Gobind Singh
1699 Birth of the Khalsa
1708 - 1715 Conquests of Banda Bahadur
1713 Muhammad Farrukhseer Ascends the Throne
1739 Invasion of Nadir Shah
1748 Ahmad Shah
1764 - 1799 Rule of Sikh Misls
1799 - 1839 Rule by Maharaja Ranjit Singh
1849 Annexation of the Punjab
1849 - 1947 British Rule
1947 Punjab Divided Between India and Pakistan

Punjabi Clothing

Women's Clothing

Punjabi girls and women wear salwar kameez's with bright colored duppattas. A salwar kameez has two pieces of cloths: the kameez, or shirt or top piece, and the salwar, or pants or bottom piece. A duppatta is a piece of colorful cloth that women wear around their necks. Salwar kameez's and duppattas come in a variety of colors and designs. There are many stores that specialize and sell only these articles of clothing.

Men's Clothing

Men and boys generally wear loose pants or slacks with a collared shirt or t-shirt. Some males also wear the kurta pajama, an Indian shirt and pant outfit, especially the Punjabi farmer. On their head, many Sikhs also wear bhuggs, or turbins.

Winter Clothing

In winter, both women and men generally wear a woolen shawl, a small blanket, around their necks. Many men wear jackets and woolen caps as well.

Punjabi Folk Dances


Originally, Punjabis performed Bhangra to celebrate the sucess of the harvest. Now people perform Bhangra at wedding parties, receptions, birthdays, competitions, and other happy occations. On the day of Baisakhi, April 13, many farmers, engineers, teachers, shop owners, and other sorts of people perform Bhangra. In the villages, with large drums, called dhols, people circle round and round leaping and laughing. Persons of all types of social classes perform Bhangra together. Even the elders occationally join the young to celebrate and dance Bhangra.


Giddha is Punjab's most famous folkal dance for women. In Giddha, the women enact verses called bolis, folk poetry, and dance. The subject matter of these bolis include everything from arguments with the father-in-law to political affairs. The dance rhythm is set by the dhols and the distinctive hand claps of the dancers. These days, people associate Giddha with Bhangra.


This dance, originally from Sandalbar (now in Pakistan), is very much a part of Punjab's folk heritage. It is a graceful dance based on a Jhumar rhythm. Dancers circle around the drummer and sing graceful lyrics as they dance.


Luddi is a victory dance where people do special movements of their heads. The costume is a simple loose shirt. The dancers put one hand on their backs and the other hand in front of their faces. The body movement is sinuous, snake-like. There is also a drummer in the center of the dance.


Also called the Gaatka dance, this is a dance of celebration. Two men, each holding colorful staves, in rhythm with the drums dance round each other and tap their sticks together. This dance is often part of marriage celebrations.


This dance, originally from Sandalbar (now in Pakistan), is very much a part of Punjab's folk heritage. It is a graceful dance based on a Jhumar rhythm. Dancers circle around the drummer and sing graceful lyrics as they dance.


Muslim holymen, called pirs, perform this dance. Generally they dance in their hermitages (khangahs). People perform the dance while sitting. Sometimes they dance around the preceptor's grave. Normally the dancer wears black.


This folk dance is similar to bhangra. The difference is only that in it men dance in a circle on different rythms.


Literally Jaago means wake up! When there is a marriage in the house, girls dance through the village streets carrying a pot (gaggar) decorated with lightened candles and sing Jaago songs. The themes of the songs are social and usually a bit of teasing, often aimed at elders, goes with the song.


Women perform this dance in pairs. They cross their arms, hold each other`s hands and whirl around singing folk songs. Sometimes four girls join hands to perform this dance.


Gatka is a Sikh martial art in which people use swords, sticks, and daggers. People believe that Guru Hargobind Sahib started the art of gatka after the martyrdom of fifth guru Guru Arjan Dev. Wherever there is a large Khalsa Sikh population, there will be Gatka participants, which can consist of small children and adults. These participants usually perform Gatka on special holidays such as Bhaisakhi and Gurpurab.

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