Punjab: Profile

The word "Punjab" is a combination of the Persian words panj (five), and āb (water), giving the literal meaning of the "Land of Five Rivers". The five rivers after which Punjab is named are the Beas, Jhelum, Chenab, Ravi and Sutlej.  The people that live in the state of Punjab are known as Punjabi.

India’s northern state of Punjab borders the Pakistani province of Punjab to the west, Jammu and Kashmir to the north, Himachal Pradesh to the northeast, Haryana to the south and southeast, and Rajasthan to the southwest. 

Geography and Demographics

Punjab has an area of 50,362 km2. It extends from the latitudes 29.30° North to 32.32° North and longitudes 73.55° East to 76.50° East. Most of the state is an alluvial plain, bounded by mountains to the North. Despite its dry conditions, it is a rich agricultural area due to the extensive irrigation made possible by the great river system traversing it.

Punjab’s population, according to the 2011 Census, stands at 27,704,236 (Males 14,634,819 & Females 13,069,417). Sikhism is the most practiced faith in the state, and nearly 60% of the population belongs to the Sikh faith. Nearly 37% of the population practices Hinduism. There is a small Muslim population still living there, especially in Malerkotla. The Jat Community accounts for 20% of the population and Dalits 30%. In recent times, there is growing concern in the state about the immigration of labourers from other Indian states such as Orissa, Uttar Pradesh and Bihar. Around 15-20% of Punjab's population is now made up of migrants from other states.

The Punjabi language, written in the Gurmukhi script, is the official and most commonly used language in the state.

History and Culture

The history of Punjab is as old as the history of the Indian Civilization. The land of five rivers, this state was known as Panchal when the Aryans came to India in the third millennium BC. Before that, the whole region of the Sindhu (Indus) and its tributaries were inhibited by the Harappans or the people of Copper Age who constructed great cities in this region. Ropar in modern Punjab is a great example of this civilization. The Harappan culture declined suddenly between 1800-1700 BC and its end is as puzzling as its beginning. After the decline of the Harappans, Aryans from Central Asia ventured into this land and made this their home.

Punjab was the first place on the Indian subcontinent where the Aryans actually decided to settle after a long period of grazing and fighting with the aboriginal communities. This was the place where later parts of the Rigveda and other Vedas were written. This was also the place where first war for the control of entire north India or Aryawart (as it was known in those days) was fought between the Aryans and non-Aryans, known as Dasragya War (war of 10 kings).

Punjab always had a strategic importance due to its position on the famous Grand Trunk Road that connected the eastern parts of India to the extreme northwest point of Taxila (now in Afghanistan). This road was first constructed by Ashoka to have a better administration of the northwestern frontier, which was always a problem. After the decline of the Mauryan Empire, the Indo Greeks, Guptas, and Vardhans ruled this region in succession.

After the coming of Muslims in the 9th-10th century AD, the region became an integral part of the Delhi Sultanate and the Mughal Empire. It was also under the Maratha rule for some time.

After the decline of the Mughal Empire, the most prominent ruler in this land was Maharaja Ranjit Singh in the early 19th century. After the death of Maharaja Ranjit Singh, the Sikhs could not hold on to their territory for long and the British controlled most of the region either directly or through the princely states.

The Partition of India in 1947 was a turning point for this state. Most of the Muslim dominated areas went out with Pakistan; while the Sikh and Hindu dominated areas remained with India. Lakhs of people were killed in the mayhem that engulfed in this region in the wake of the Partition. After Independence, a new state of Punjab was created with modern day Haryana and Himachal Pradesh being a part of this state.

The music of Punjab is world famous. In fact, Bhangra, one of the many Punjabi musical art forms, is increasingly becoming popular in the West. As regards Punjabi cuisine, it has an immense range of dishes and is popular across India as well as in other parts of the world. The poetry is one of the deepest insights into the Punjabi mindset. Punjabi poetry is renowned for its extremely deep meaning, beautiful, exciting and hopeful use of words. Punjabi dances have a long history. These dances are normally performed at times of celebration, the most prominent being at Punjabi weddings where the elation is usually particularly intense.

Economy

Punjab is considered to have the best infrastructure in India, this includes road, rail, air and river transport links that are extensive throughout the region. Punjab also has the lowest poverty rate in India at 6.16% (1999-2000 figures), and has won the best state performance award, based on statistical data compiled by the Central Government. It boasts of an average growth rate of 10%, which is amongst the highest in the country. Agriculture is the biggest contributor to Punjab’s GDP. The state is one of the most fertile regions on this planet. The region is ideal for wheat-growing. Rice, sugar cane, fruits and vegetables are also grown. In fact, Punjab is called the "Granary of India" or "India's bread-basket". It produces 14% of the country’s cotton, 20% of wheat, and 9% of rice.

The state was the first to translate agricultural technology into the "Green Revolution", recording highest growth rate in food production. From a minor producer it emerged as a major rice surplus state. Providing the impetus for the "White Revolution", during “Operation Flood”, it was Punjab that recorded the highest per capita availability of milk.

Further, Punjab has highest per capita generation of electricity in India, which is 2.5 times the national average.

The state has essentially an agrarian economy with a lower industrial output as compared to other states of India. A prominent feature of the industrial scenario of the Punjab is its small sized industrial units. There are nearly 194,000 small scale industrial units in the state in addition to 586 large and medium units.

Government

The state has unicameral legislature with 117 members elected from single-seat constituencies. The capital of Punjab is Chandigarh which also serves as the capital of Haryana, and is thus administered separately as a Union Territory of India. The judicial branch of the state government is provided by the Punjab and Haryana High Court in Chandigarh. The state is divided into four administrative divisions and twenty two districts: Punjab is governed through a parliamentary system of representative democracy, as in the case all other Indian states. The Assembly’s term of office is five years, unless it is dissolved prior to the completion of the term.

The leader of the party or coalition with a majority in the Legislative Assembly is appointed as the Chief Minister by the Governor and the Council of Ministers are appointed by the Governor on the advice of the Chief Minister. The Council of Ministers reports to the Legislative Assembly.

The state has 13 Lok Sabha seats, namely Gurdaspur, Amritsar, Khadoor Sahib, Jalandhar (SC), Hoshiarpur (SC), Anandpur Sahib, Ludhiana, Fatehgarh Sahib (SC), Faridkot (SC), Firozpur, Bhatinda, Sangrur and Patiala.

JPN