PUNJAB, now divided into two parts apportioned one each to India and Pakistan is geographically and historically one compact region comprising the plains of the Indus river basin. The name Punjab, a compound of two Persian words, Pañj (five) and āb (water),literally signifies ‘the land of five rivers', the major tributaries of the River Indus. Historically, the Punjab as the name of the region first finds mention in the writings of the Muslim traveller, Ibn Batūtā, who visited India during the 14th century. It was, however, not until the latter half of the 16th century that the term came into wider currency. The ancients called it Sapt Sindhu or Sapt Sindhava, lit.(the land of) seven rivers. These seven rivers were: Sindhu (Indus or Sindh); Vitasta (Jhelum pronounced Jihlam); Asiknī, Chandrabhāgā (Chenāb, pronounced Chanāb); Puruṣṇī, Irāvatī (Rāvī); Vipāsā (Beās, pronounced Biās); Studra (Sutlej pronounced Satluj); and Sarasvatī (now a seasonal stream losing itself in Rājasthān desert). It was also called Pañchnad, lit.(the country of) five rivers, in later Sanskrit literature. Haft Hindu, a Persian version of the former name, also appears in Zend Avesta, the famous religious book of ancient Iran. Centuries later, the Greeks called it Penta Potamia , the Greek version of Pañchnad. Later, some other names such as Madra Deś, Vāhika Deś and Ṭakka Deś came into vogue depending upon which of these tribes was dominant at the time. Ultimately, however, the Persian nomenclature, Pañjāb (spelt Punjab in English) proved lasting and has come down to the present time. This literal geographical definition has, however, had little relevance to historical Punjab over the centuries. Both under the Sikhs and the British it covered a far larger territory ---- the entire Indus basin and the watershed between the Indus and the Gangetic plains. Jammū and Kashmīr were sliced off to form a separate princely state in 1849, the trans-Indus region was separated in 1901 to form the North-West Frontier Province, Delhi conclave was created in 1911; and in 1947, the remaining British province of Punjab was partitioned into West Punjab and East Punjab. The former with an area of 158,347 square km and population 18,288,015(1951) went to Pakistan and the latter with an area of 95,687 square km and population 12,641,205 (1951) remained with India. In 1956, Paṭiālā and East Punjab States Union (PEPSU), a 'B' class state comprising eight princely states, was amalgamated with the Punjab, but 10 years later, on 1 November 1966, a further vivisection took away the southern and south eastern districts to create the new state of Haryāṇā, while the hill district of Kāṅgrā and Unā tahsīl of Hoshiārpur district were joined with Himāchal Pradesh, formerly a 'C' class state comprising the princely hill states, to make it a full fledged state or governor's province. Another segment, Chaṇḍīgarh, became a Union Territory administered by the Central government through a Chief Commissioner.

         The pre-Partition Punjab, rained by the Indus and its five tributaries, could be divided into four natural regions, viz. the eastern mountainous region, the central plain, north-western semiarid areas separated from the central plain by the Salt Range and semi-desert of southern Punjab. Another natural division, that of the Punjab plain, is into five doābs (land between two rivers) — Sindh Sāgar Doāb between Indus and Jhelum; Chajj between Jhelum and Chenāb; Rachnā between Chenāb and Rāvī Bārī between Rāvī and Beās; Bist Jalandhar or simply Jalandhar Doāb; and the cis-Sutlej tract. The present Punjab (India) is limited to the upper Bārī (Mājhā) and Jalandhar Daāb (Doābā), and part of the cis-Sutlej tract (Mālvā). Thanks to irrigation facilities developed after independence, Mālvā is no longer a semi-desert. The soil all over the plain is alluvial and highly productive, rain moderate (50-60 cm) mainly from summer monsoons, and the climate presents extremes of both heat and cold.

         Historically, on the basis of archaeological finds from excavations conducted in the Soāṅ Valley in the Sindh-Sāgar Doāb estimated to be dating back to the first and the second inter glacial periods, Punjab may be the earliest habitation of man in this part of the world. Evidence of the highly developed Indus civilization is clearly available from several excavation sites in Bārī Doāb and along the Sutlej basin. The Aryans, a pastoral people, who entered India between 2500 BC and 1500 BC in successive waves, first settled here. It was in the Sapt Sindhu that the first Vedic hymns were composed and sung. In what is called the post-Vedic period, Punjab witnessed the rise of a number of small independent states, some monarchical, others oligarchies and republics known as gaṇgs or mahājanapadās. In the 6th century BC, Punjab attracted the attention of the Achaemenian rulers of Persia. The conquest did not extend beyond a narrow strip along the Indus, yet the contact did result in the Punjab being exposed to influences from the West. Alexander's invasion in 326 BC was stemmed by the stiff resistance offered by states of the region and he was made to retreat from the bank of the Beās. The Mauryan empire established soon after ended the short-lived Greek occupation of the Punjab, but the cultural effects of the invasion far outweighed its political consequences. The Mauryan emperors maintained diplomatic contacts with Greek successors of Alexander, and Hellenic influence contributed considerably to the growth and efflorescence of the Gāndhāra school of art and architecture now best represented by the finds at the ruins of Takṣaśila (Taxilā) near Rāwalpiṇḍī (now in Pakistan). On the other hand, the reign of Emperor Aśoka(268-232 sc)saw Buddhism at the peak of its glory in India, and Takṣaśila, like Nālanda in the eastern parts, became a great seat of learning which continued to flourish for several centuries.

         The Mauryan empire declined after the death of Asoka the result was that in the second century BC the Bactrian. Greeks established their rule in Puṣkalāvatī (Peshāwar), Taxilā and Sākala (Siālkoṭ). They were succeeded by Kuśāns but, soon after the death of their only notable king, Kaniṣka, in c. 162, the local mahājanapadas of the Punjab reasserted their independence. The Gupta empire which was at the peak of its power during the 4th century AD uprooted the tribal republics of the Mālavas, Yaudheyas and Arjunāyaṇas in the Sutlej-Yamuna watershed and Madras in the upper Doābs, but independent states continued to exist in the rest of the Punjab till the Huṇa invasions in the later half of the 5th century. Punjab passed through a terrible crisis during the Huṇa rule. A barbarian people, the Huṇas destroyed Taxilā and several other flourishing towns; Buddhist centres were the special targets of their depredation.

         The decline of the Huṇas towards the middle of the 6th century paved the way for the rise of the Takkīs in the north of Sutlej and the Vardhanas of Thānesar in the south. The Takkī ascendancy endured longer than the Vardhana sway which. registered a rapid decline after King Harṣa's death in 647, The power vacuum in the Punjab during the 8th century led to a prolonged struggle between the Utpales of Kashmīr and Gurjar-Pratihārs of Kanauj. Ultimately a new power known as the Hindūshāhis established itself in the Punjab by the middle of the 9th century and dominated the entire region northwest of the Yamunā including parts of Afghanistan for over a century, after which they were overcome by the Muslim rulers of Ghaznī of whom Mahmūd of Ghaznī is the most famous.

         Mahmūd's repeated invasions between 1001 and 1026 were essentially plundering raids with no attempt at permanent conquest, but he did annex the Punjab down to the Sutlej to Afghanistan. Thus Muslim rule in Punjab was established 172 years earlier than its advent in the rest of the country in the, closing years of the 12th century when Shahāb ud-Dīn Ghaurī occupied almost the whole of North India. From then onwards Punjab became part of the Delhi Sultanate ruled one after another by several dynasties of Turks and Afghāns until Bābar, the Mughal ruler originally of Farghānā in Central Asia and then of Kābul, defeated the last Lodhī Sultān, Ibrāhīm, in 1526, and soon became the master of North India. The Mughal rule over the Punjab continued uninterrupted for about two centuries except a 15 year interval following the defeat of Humāyūṅ at the hands of Sher Shāh Sūrī in 1540. The most significant development of this period withe rise of the Sikhs as a new religious community and their transformation into the Khālsā, a strong political force destined to step into the power gap in the Punjab created by the rapid decline of the Mughal empire in the first half of the 18th century. The Sikhs, organized into a loose confederacy of misls or independent principalities spread over the vast plains between the Yamunā and the Indus, were firmly established in power by 1765 having defeated both the Mughals and the Afghāns in along drawn war of attrition. Half a century later, Mahārājā Raṇjīt Siṅgh, leader of one of the Sikh misls and already master of Lahore since1799, had established his supremacy and started on a series of conquests which unified under him the entire country north of the Sutlej and marked by international boundaries of pre-Partition India. Forty years of Raṇjīt Siṅgh's rule from 1799 to 1839 gave the Punjab peace, stability and prosperity the like of which it had not known for a whole century prior to his rise. However, the State so painstakingly built by him survived for not more than a decade after his death. It was annexed to the British dominions in 1849.

         The impact of British rule produced far reaching changes in all spheres of Punjab 's life, socio- religious as well as economic and administrative. Comprehensive land surveys were carried out and proper records of land holdings prepared. A network of canals, newly dug, brought vast barren tracts of land under cultivation. With the spread of modern state-regulated education, a scientific outlook and new ideas of rationalism, humanism, liberty and democracy leavened the outlook of the people. Socio-religious reform movements sprang up in all communities. These, however, while bringing in fresh awakening and enlightenment among the masses, intensified communal feelings which, under communal representation introduced by the British while introducing democratic constitutional reforms, resulted in a growing hiatus between Muslim majority on the one hand, and Hindus and Sikhs on the other. The result was bifurcation of the Punjab on communal basis and the consequent blood bath and mass migrations of 1947. Practically no Hindu or Sikh remained in Pakistan part of the Punjab while most Muslims of the Indian Punjab went over to Pakistan. But with the fear of Muslim domination gone, Hindus and Sikhs of the Indian Punjab soon fell out over the question of language. The latter wanted Punjabi to be the official language as well as medium of instruction and examination in Punjab, while the former wanted Hindi to be given this status. They even denied during the decennial census that Punjabi was their mother tongue, thus stalling for several years the declaration of Punjab as a linguistic state. The result was a further division of Punjab and the limitation of the present Punjab to a few Sikh majority districts.

         Traditionally considered by the Sikhs as their homeland, the Punjab today is among the smaller states of the Indian Union. With an area of 50,362 square km, Punjab in 1991 recorded a population of 2,02,81,969, which was 2.4% of India's total population, and density of 403 per square km. Community-wise it has 62.95 % Sikhs, 34.46 % Hindus, 1.18% Muslims and 1.11% Christians. Sex-ratio in Punjab traditionally unfavourable, improved marginally during 1981-91 and was 882 at the time of 1991 census, though it is still lower than the nation average of 929.One of the Main reasons for male predominance appears to be large scale migration of male labour into the State. While there has been a gradual decline in the death rate, the birth rate has remained unchanged for a long time. Based on sample registration, birth rate in 1991 was 27.7 per thousand and death rate 7.8. Traditionally rural, like the rest of India, urbanization in Punjab has been gradually increasing. In 1971, 25.73 % of the State's population lived in towns and cities. In 1991, this percentage was 29.55 against the national average of 23.73. Of the 120 urban localities in the State, however, only 10 are class I cities, i.e. those with a population exceeding 1,00,000. The State having no mineral resources of its own has virtually no large scale industry but is well advanced in small-and-medium scale industries, mostly agro based and consumer goods units. At the end of 1993-94, the number of small industrial units was 1,84,875 and that of medium and-large-scale units 440. Together they provided employment to 9,51,226 workers, of which 79.46% were in the small-scale sector. One reason of the State's industrial backwardness is poor allocation to it of public sector enterprises which is governed by the Union government. During the first six 5 year plans (1951-85), Punjab 's share in public sector outlay has been close to 2.0% and has not significantly changed since then. The overall growth rate in terms of Gross State Income during 1993-94 at 1980-81 prices was 4.94% per annum as against 4.3% per annum for the country as a whole.

         Agriculture continues to be the mainstay of Punjab's economy. The progress made by its agricultural sector has attracted international notice. The overall rate of growth of agriculture between 1949-50 and 1992-93 was of the order of 2.71% per annum which is the highest in the country. The index of agricultural production shows that there was nearly eleven fold increase in the index of food grains during the period 1960-61 to 1994-95. Much of it is accounted for by the exceptionally high rate of growth in wheat and rice. Its per hectare yield of wheat was 4,0 11 kg in 1993-94 and that of rice 3,507 kg. The net area sown in 1994-95 was 83% of the total reporting area, the highest in the country. There is a corresponding dearth of forest resources. Only 4.17% of the total reporting area is covered by forests which is far below the national average of 22.3% (199 1-92). Cropping pattern in the State has undergone substantial change since the adoption of new technology in the mid-1960's. Wheat and rice are by far the major crops although cotton, oilseeds, maize, millets, barley, pulses, fruit and vegetables are also grown. Together, the output of food grains in the State reached a record level of 2,15,75,000 tons in 1993 94 which is more than 17.34% of the total output in the country. In 1994-95, Punjab contributed 61.0% of the total wheat and 44.0% of total rice procured for the country's central pool. Dairying and poultry farming are also popular as subsidiary occupations in the farm sector.

         Irrigation, the key variable which determines the use of other modern inputs and mechanical means of farming, is the key to Punjab's progress in the agricultural field. The area irrigated reached a level of 93% of the net area sown during 1993-94. Wells, tubewells and pumping sets supplied water to 61% of the irrigated area and canals to the remaining 39%.The consumption of chemical fertilizers in the Punjab was 305.81kg per hectare during 1994-95 which was more than four times the national average of 73.88 kg per hectare. The use of high yielding varieties of seeds covers almost the entire sown area. The Punjab Agricultural University at Ludhiāṇā has played a leading role in developing new varieties of high yielding crops and in popularizing modern methods of agriculture.

         Another factor in Punjab's high productivity is the nature and size of landholdings. Most of the landholdings are family-operated. The average size of owned landholdings was only 5.06 acres in 1971-72 and has further declined because of land ceiling and the law of inheritance. The average size of operational landholdings, 10.01 acres in 1971-72, has also somewhat declined in spite of capital intensive technology being increasingly adopted by the farming community. About 20% of tractors in, the country are concentrated in the Punjab. On an average, in 1994-95, there was one tractor for every 11.46 hectares and one tubewell for every 4.89 hectares of net area sown. Of the 6,343.9 million kwh consumption of electricity in 1994-95, agriculture accounted for 39.97%, industry for 36.59%,and domestic, commercial and public lighting for the remaining 23.44%. Per capita consumption of electricity in the State (689.43 kwh in 1993-94) was the highest in the country. Communications, especially road communications, are also well developed. A network of roads links all villages, towns and cities with marketing centres, industrial towns, district and state headquarters, and with main national highways. By March 1995, the State had 93.0 km of roads per 100 square km, of which 83.9% were black-topped. In March 1995, the State had 17,69,755 vehicles which included 13,45,064 passenger-carrying and 67,675 goods-carrying, but excluded 3,54,378 tractors used in the farm sector both for carrying goods and passengers.

         Punjab is slightly ahead of the average national standards in education. It has a primary school in every village, a middle school within a radius of 2 km and a high school within a radius of 2.6 km. At the end of 1994, there were 17,344 educational institutions in the State. These included 3 universities, 2 multi-faculty, viz. Punjabi University at Paṭiālā and Gurū Nānak Dev University at Amritsar (besides of course the Puñjāb University at Chaṇḍīgaṛh to which some colleges of Punjab alone are affiliated), and one Agricultural University at Ludhiāṇā 28 professional colleges, 177 arts, science, commerce and home science colleges; and 2,973 high and higher secondary schools besides a number of institutes for technical training. According to 1991census, the rate of literacy in Punjab was 58.51% (65.66 for male and 50.41 for females) against the national average of 52.11%.

         Punjab is also on top of other states in the matter of general standard of living of the common man. In 1993-94, per capita income in Punjab was Rs 12,724 against Rs 6,929 for the country as a whole. Among all the States of the Union, Punjab ranked second next only to Delhi which in 1993-94 had per capita income Rs 14,714.This is an index of the industrious and enterprising nature of the Punjabis. Besides being foremost in the adoption of modern techniques in agriculture, a large number of them have migrated to foreign lands in search of better prospects; and the invisible imports from that source have played not an insignificant part in the general prosperity of the State. According to estimates included in the sixth 5 year plan (1981-85), the incidence of unemployment in the State was only 4.53% against 8.35% for the country as a whole. As a result of inadequate growth of industry, unemployment among the educated is far greater than among the labour force. In fact there is a shortage of unskilled and farm labour especially during sowing and harvesting seasons which is made good only by large scale import of migratory labour from other states, particularly from Uttar Pradesh and Bihār. This is in spite of the fact that one major avenue of employment, i.e. recruitment to the armed forces, has been gradually narrowed during recent decades, thereby causing unemployment both for the educated and the uneducated Punjab is, particularly the Sikhs.

         A remarkable feature of modernization process in the Punjab is the high degree of rural-urban economic integration that it has brought about. Universal electrification of villages, linking of villages to main roads, development of an extensive network of markets for agricultural produce and inputs, easier access to educational and medical facilities, and growing streams and counter-streams of rural-urban migrants are the main contributory factors.


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H. K. Manmohan Siṅgh