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History of Punjab

Punjab, a region in Northern India, has a long history and rich cultural heritage. 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.

The word Punjab was first time used in the book Tarikh-e-Sher by Sher Shah Suri (1580), who mentioned the construction of a fort “Sher Khan of Punjab”. However, the history of Punjab dates back to the Sanskrit equivalent of ‘Punjab’ in the great epic, the Mahabharata (pancha-nada ‘country of five rivers’). The name Punjab is mentioned again in Ain-e-Akbari, written by Abul Fazal, who also mentions that the territory of Punjab was divided into two provinces, Lahore and Multan.

Punjab in Persian, literally means “five” (panj) “waters” (?b), i.e. the Land of Five Rivers, thus referring to the five rivers, which go through it. It was because of this that it was made the granary of British India. Today, two rivers flow in Indian Punjab, two rivers lie in Pakistani Punjab, and one river is the general border between them. Archaeological discoveries at Mehrgarh in today’s Baluchistan show evidences of inhabited villages in the region as early as 7000 BCE. By about 3000 BCE the small communities started to grow up and around the Indus River basin they expanded giving rise to the Indus valley civilization, one of the earliest in human history. At its height, it boasted large cities like Harrapa (near Sahiwal in West Punjab) and Mohenjo Daro (near Sindh). The civilization declined rapidly after the 19th century BCE, for reasons that are still largely unexplained. Causes for the Indus valley civilization’s decline possibly included a change in weather patterns and unsustainable urbanization. This coincided with the drying up of the lower Sarasvati River.

The foundations of the present Punjab were laid by Banda Singh Bahadur, a hermit who became a military leader and, with his fighting band of Sikhs, temporarily liberated the eastern part of the province from Mughal rule in 1709–10. Banda Singh’s defeat and execution in 1716 were followed by a prolonged struggle between the Sikhs on one side and the Mughals and Afghans on the other. By 1764–65 the Sikhs had established their dominance in the area. Ranjit Singh (1780–1839) subsequently built up the Punjab region into a powerful Sikh kingdom and attached to it the adjacent provinces of Multan, Kashmir, and Peshawar (all of which are now fully or partially administered by Pakistan).
At last on 15th August 1947, India became independent and the State was divided among India and Pakistan. Punjab was again divided into the states of present day Punjab, Haryana and Himachal Pradesh for administrative reasons in 1966.