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PUNJAB DOWN THE AGES – A RUNNING SURVEY



PUNJAB DOWN THE AGES – A RUNNING SURVEY

DR. SATISH K. KAPOOR has an encyclopaedic sweep and grasp of the history of Punjab. He covers within the ambit of this article, the whole gamut of the multi-coloured life of this state from its remote beginnings to the modern times. The entire panorama of this great land, with its soarings, slidings and swings in its fortune, has been telescoped for the readers, with rare clarity and conciseness.   

PUNJAB has been the cradle of one of the most ancient civilisations of the world. Although it is no more a land of five rivers, it still tells a tale which captivates us all with its richness and diversity. It was in Punjab that Valmiki composed the Ramayana to present before mankind the supreme ideals of 'Dharma' It was here that Kaushalya, the mother of Lord Rama, and Draupadi, the wife of Arjuna, were born. It was here that Kautilya wrote the Arthashastras, Charak composed the Samhita on medicine and Panini set forth the great compendium of the rules of Sanskrit grammar.
Referring to the glorious heritage of Punjab, Rabindranath Tagore wrote : "similar to Germany in Europe, the Tigris-Euphrates valley in Western Asia, the Chinese plains in Eastern Asia, Punjab is one of those tracks on the surface of the earth where the streams of history flowed with full vigour. Punjab is that beautiful place of land on which the first ray of morn sprouted, in the forests of which the sacred hymns echoed for the first time, on the surface of which was born the first civilized man of India,  and on the bosom of which the Indian culture originated."
Swami Vivekanand described Punjab as the holiest piece of land in Aryavarta "This is the Brahmavarta of which our great Manu speaks. This is the land from whence arose that mighty aspiration of the spirit which, in times to come, as history shows was to deluge the world. This land, where like its mighty rivers, spiritual aspirations have arisen and joined their strength till they travelled over the length and breadth of the world and declared themselves with the voice of a thunder. This is the land which had first to bear the brunt of inroads and invasions into India; this heroic land had first to bare its bosom to every onslaught of the barbarians into Aryavarta. This is the land which despite its suffering has not Iost its glory and strength.
 From times immemorial Punjab has been the scene of intense activity in all walks of life, its boundaries, even its name, have undergone a change in different periods of history. During the vedic age, Punjab was known as Sapta Sindhu or the land of seven rivers. lt was then inhabited by the Panchajanas or five major tribes, namely Anus,  Purus Pharatas" Yadus and Turrasus. .
During the epic age" Punjab was known as Panchnad or the land of five rivers. The word "Panchnad" is the Sanskrit form of the Persian expression "Punjab" and the Greek version "Pentapotamia". Punjab was also known, for many centuries as Tak Desha after the name of a tribe which held sway over it from the Indus to the Beas. During the reign of Chandragupta Maurya and Kanishka the boundaries of Punjab extended far beyond the Hindukush and were outstretched in Central Asia. The Delhi Sultans further extended the frontiers of Punjab upto Peshawar. Dr. Hari Ram Gupta an eminent historian has held that even Chandragupta Maurya was also a Punjabi i.e. the native of Punjab.
During the Medieval age, Punjab was famous as the Suba of Lahore. Akbar, the great Mughal Emperor, recast its boundaries by dividing it into two provinces-those of Lahore and Multan, an arrangement which continued for quite a long period of time.  
When Maharaja Ranjit Singh ascended the throne, Punjab became farnous as the Kingdom of Lahore. lts boundaries then extended from the Sutlej in the east Peshawar in the west. However, the British occupation of the in 1849, it was given back the name of the province of Punjab. lt included all the territory from Hisar and Delhi in the East, to Khaiber in the West ln '1901, the north-western districts of Punjab were separated from it. ln 1937, it was made an autonomous province. When India free in 1947, Punjab was partitioned  between India and Pakistan, as the Radcliffe Award.  
In the times of yore, Punjab saw the efflorescence of the Indus valley civilisation which is said to be the oldest in the world. Indian history thus virtually commences with the history of Punjab. The remnants of Sothian, Harrapan and post Harrapan periods have been found at Ropar district, Rohira and Mohrana in Sangrur district, Dadheri, Sunet and Sanghol in Ludhiana district, Kathpalon in Jalandhar district and Ghurram in Patiala district.
Punjab has been the melting pot of various cultures and thought-systems. Being the gateway of India, it faced the onslaughts of Greek, Parthian, Scythian, Saka, Hapthelite, Huna and Persian invaders, some of whom settled here, interacted with the people and in the process gave birth to a vibrant social and cultural texture which is unique in many respects. Punjab also became the confluence of many languages like Sanskrit, Persian, Arabic and Turkish.
The linguistic and cultural interplay between native and foreign elements brought forth a number of religious cults and movements. The Chishti, Suhrawardi and Nakshabandi orders of the Sufis came to be established in Punjab. Vedantists, Sanatanists, Jains, Hatha yogis, Vam Margis, Tantriks and others established their strongholds in different parts of the region.
The proselytizing zeal of the Muslims, however, shook the complacency of the natives who attempted to set their own houses in order.  
ln the course of time, Islamic and Hindu religious currents amalgamated to form a new faith. Guru Nanak Dev, the fountainhead of Sikh religion, was accepted as a bridge between the two major communities. A popular couplet described him as "Guru Nanak Shah Faqir, Hindu ka guru, Musalman Ka pir."
Guru Nanak Dev was succeeded by Bhai Lehna, better known as Guru Angad Dev. He popularised the Gurmukhi alphabet and gave a fillip to the institution of langar where peopie could dine together without any distinction of caste, colour or creed. The third Guru, Guru Amar Das, constructed a Baoli at Goindwal with 84 steps leading to it. He is said to have declared that whosoever recited the Japuji of Guru Nanak on each of its stairs would be liberated from the cycle of birth and death.
The Fourth Guru Guru Ramdas laid the foundation stone of new city called Ramdaspura which became famous as Amritsar. The  crowning glory of Guru Arjan Dev was the compilation of Adi Granth or the Guru Granth Sahib, which contains more than 6000 verses of great spiritual personages. He also started the construction of the Harmandir Sahib or the Golden Temple, the sacred shrine of the Sikhs. Mian Mir, the famous Sufi saint, laid the foundation stone and since then it has been providing spiritual succour to the people belonging to all communities.
Guru Arjan Dev fell a victim to religious bigotry. His worthy successor, Guru Hargobind, formed the group of pious, reticent devotees into an organisation of soldier-saints. Guru Tegh Bahadur's martyrdom made the last Sikh Guru, Guru Gobind Singh, create the Khalsa to fight against political and religious tyranny. The tradition of valour was carried on by Banda Bahadur and others, who encountered the frenzied attacks of Abdus Samad Khan, Zakariya Khan, Yahya Khan, Ahmed Shah Abdali, Mir Mannu and Nadir Shah.
The political propensities of the Punjabis were realized when Maharaja Ranjit Singh created a strong kingdom on a purely secular basis. The fall of the Sikh kingdom was describable to the weak successors of the Maharaja and the internecine feuds as also to the superior military and diplomatic skill of the British Raj. However, one can see how the Punjabis vigorously fought against the alien regime in the years to come.
The people of Punjab remained at the forefront in the freedom struggle, they had to suffer at  The political proPensities of the Punjabis were realized when Maharaja Ranjit Singh created a strong kingdo,tl on a purely secular basis. The fall of the Sikh kingdom was ascribable to the weak successors of the Maharaja and the internecine feuds as also to the superior military and diplomatic skill of the British Raj. However, one can see how the Punjabis vigorouslY fought against the alien regime in the years to come. The people of Punjab remained at the forefront in the freedom struggle, they had to suffer at  the time of Independence. Their homeland was vivisected, and they had to undergo hardships as a result of the transfer of population and the communal flare-up. But gradually their losses were compensated through their hard work.
ln the field of education Punjab has given the lead in providing a primary school in each revenue village of the State. Statistics reveal that middle school and high / higher secondry schools exist within an easy walking distance of 2.02 km to 2.56 km respectively, as against the national norm of providing schools within an area of 3 km and 5 km repectively.Of late, the State has switched over to the uniform pattern of 10+2+3. Computer Education and Technical Education are also being encouraged. At present Punjab has four universities located at Amritsar, Patiala, Ludhiana and Chandigarh which attract students and research scholars from all over India and abroad. Education apart, the sturdy and hard-working people of Punjab have the longest life expectancy and the lowest death rate in the country. lt has been said that they can digest even stones. Even the average Punjabi woman is physically stronger and mentally more agile than her counterparts elsewhere in India. She exudes confidence and participates in all the activities of life. ln her traditional salwar-kameez with a dupatta, or wrapped in a saari adorned with zari-gota, carrying a 'laung' in her nose, bindi or tika on her forehead, or even without these, she makes her presence felt wherever she happens to be. One can see her in her household cooking, 'sagg' and 'makki di roti', 'paraonthas', 'malpuras', 'bhugga','pinnies' and other things, milking a cow or a buffalo, churning curd, making cowdung cakes, interacting with her mother-in-law and sister-in-law, cracking jokes with her 'devar', scolding children or even her husband and getting the rebuff in return.
One can watch her embroidering intricate patterns on a phulkari, performing giddha, playing rope-games or reciting religious texts with the fervour of a priest. She may also be seen in the fields carrying dal-roti and lassi for her husband or in the office doing a "number of jobs. Some of them can drive a scooter or a car, handle computers with skill, participate in political  activities and speak out their mind to counsellors in women welfare agencies.
Fairs and festivals are the living symbols of the cultural life of Punjab. lrrespective of whether they are religious, seasonal or national in character, Punjabis observe the fairs and festivals with great devotion and enthusiasm. The celebration of Hola Mohalla at Anandpur Sahib and Khadur Sahib, Shahidi Jor Mela at Fatehgarh Sahib, Basant Panchami at Gurudwara Chheharta Sahib, Baisakhi at Pandori Mahantan and Devi Talab Mandir Jalandhar, Maghi at Muktsar, Diwali in the Golden Temple Amritsar, Ram Navami at Ram Tirath near Amritsar, the Urs of Sheikh Ahmed Mujaddin Ali-l-Sani at Fatehgarh Sahib, the Harballabh Sangeet Sammelan at Jalandhar,  and the gurparv all over the State reveal the religious and the frolic some nature of the Punjabis. Since Punjab is littered with historical and religious shrines, forts, etc., people visit them with the inquisitiveness of a pilgrim and the steadfastness of a devotee.
Punjab is well-known for its folk dances bhangra and giddha performed by men a,nd women respectively to the accompaniment of the drum or dholki. The recitation of 'bolis' interspersed with the exuberant expressions "balleh balleh !" or "hai shava" the vibrant dance or exhilarating postures characterising it, the clapping of hands and other gestures bring out the chivalry and the happy-go-lucky attitude of Punjabis Folk theatre forms such as those presented by Bazigars, Mirasi, Bhand, Naqqal, Suthrey, Dholamaru and Dhadi, which suffered a setback in the wake of urbanization and modern means of entertainment, are staging a come back.
Endowed with a strong physique, games and sports come naturally to the people of Punjab. Some  of them can perform awe-inspiring feats like Iifting enormous weigrd with teeth or bending iron rods w:r the neck. Renowned wrestlers like Gama and Dara Singh, athletes like Milkha Singh, hockey wizards like Balbir Singh, Ajit Pat Singh and Surjit Singh, redoubtable cricketer like Lala Amar Nath and Bishan Singh Bedi, Kabbadi raiders like Sarwan Singh-all these and quite a few more hail from.Punjab.
Punjabis have a great sense of social service which is to be seen, to be believed whether at a religious place or outside it. The teachings of saints, gurus and pirs have helped them to combine 'dhyana' with 'sewa' to obliterate their ego and attain bliss. Bhagat Puran Singh's Pingalwara ir Amritsar and Sarup Singh Bawa's Pingla Ghar in Jalandhar are two more examples of institutions which have made service "an attitude of social commitment."
Whatever be their differences, Punjabis share certain historical and existential links, and love to revel in the ocean of their folk lore comprising of the 'qissa' of Hir Ranjha, Mirza Sahiban, Sohni Mahiwal and Puran Bhagat, or the writings of Damodar, Warris Shah Hasham, Qadar Yaar, Shah Muhammad, Bulleh Shah and Sheikh Baba Farid. Punjabi literature has also been enriched by the works of Bhai Vir Singh, Amrita Pritam, Shiv Kumar Batalvi, Nanak Singh, and many others. ln the field of arts, Punjab has produced painters like Amrita Sher-Gill and Sobha Singh, musicians like Baba Tuljagir, Baba Harballabh, Pandit Tolo Ram, Mohammad Hussain, Mian Ahmed Khan, Mian Udo Khan, Pandit Vishnu Digambar and Barhe Ghulam Ali Khan, theatre wizards like Prithvi Raj Kapoor and Balraj Sahni, singers like K. L. Sehgal, Mohammad Rafi and Bhupendra, and prodigies like M. S. Randhawa and inimitable Nek Chand, the creator of Chandigarh's Rock Garden.
Punjabis are adventurous by nature and have settled in almost all nooks and corners of the world. They have the will of a Protagoras and the venturesome spirit of a Columbus. lf they do not find opportunities for development, they know how to create them. They are known for their hospitality and religious tolerance. They pay respect to all religious prophets. 
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 Coins of Greeko-Bactrian period from' Texla reveal that Punjab has 'been under the rule of foreigners.
 A portrait of Ranjit Slngh the secular Maharaja who had left a deep impact on the history of Punjab
The last of the scians of Sikh royalty -Maharaja Dalip Singh who died in exile  The Jatts who have both defended and fed India, are a community peculiar to Punjab and form its backbane Photo : H. S. Baiwa   
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