History of the Punjab

Ancient history and the Hindu Period It was formerly thought that the original inhabitants of the Indus Valley area were the present populations of South India who were displaced by Aryans invaders from the North West, however, recently the Aryan invasion theory has been largely discarded by most scholars. It is now generally accepted that the area of the Indus Valley Civilization has been continuously inhabited for thousands of years by the same general population stock as is presently found in the area of Punjab. The main site of the Indus Valley Civilization in Punjab was the city of Harrapa. The Indus Valley Civilization spanned much of what is today Pakistan and eventually evolved into Indo-Aryan civilization. The arrival of the Indo-Aryans led to the flourishing of the Vedic Civilization that extended from the ancient Sarasvati River to the Ganges river to the entire Indian Subcontinent around 1500 BCE. This civilization shaped subsequent cultures in South Asia. Punjab was part of the great ancient empires including the Gandhara Mahajanapadas, Mauryas, Kushans, Gupta Empire and Hindu Shahi. Agriculture flourished and trading cities (such as Multan and Lahore) grew in wealth. Due to its location, the Punjab region came under constant attack and influence from the west. Invaded by the Persians, Greeks, Kushans, Scythians, Turks and Afghans, Punjab witnessed centuries of bitter bloodshed. Its legacy is a unique culture that combines Hindu, Buddhist, Persian, Central Asian, Islamic, Sikh and British elements. The city of Taxila, reputed to house the oldest university in the world, Takshashila University, was established by the great Vedic thinker and politician Chanakya. Taxila was a great center of learning and intellectual discussion during the Hindu Maurya Empire. It is a UN World Heritage site, and revered for its archaeological and religious history. [edit] The arrival of Islam Badshahi Masjid – The largest mosque of the Mughal Empire built by emperor Aurangzeb.The Punjabis were predominantly Hindus with large minorities of Buddhists and Zoroastrians, when the Umayyad Muslim Arab army led by Muhammad bin Qasim conquered the Punjab and Sindh in 711. Bin Qasim recorded he so was overwhelmed by the gold in the Aditya Temple in the thriving trading city of Multan (known as Mulasthana then), that he recovered the expenses for his entire invasion. During the reign of Mahmud of Ghazni, non-Muslims were forced to pay the jaziya tax or to convert to Islam. The province became an important centre and Lahore was made into a second capital of the Ghaznavid Empire. [edit] The Greeks, Central Asians and Persians Unique to Pakistani Punjab was that this area was briefly conquered into various central Asian, Greek and Persian empires: after the bloody victories of Alexander the Great, Mahmud of Ghazni and Tamerlane. These were periods of contact between this region of Pakistan and the Persian Empire and all the way to Greece. In later centuries, when Persian was the language of the Mughal government, Persian architecture, poetry, art and music was an integral part of the region’s culture. The official language of Punjab remained Persian until the arrival of the British in the mid 19th century, where it was finally abolished and the administrative language was changed over to English. The Punjabi language gained prominence during Ranjit Singh’s rule in between but was written in the Sikh Gurumukhi script. After 1947, Urdu, which has Persian and Sanskrit roots, became Islamic Pakistan’s national language. [edit] The Mughals The Mughals controlled the region from 1524 until 1739 and would also lavish the province with building projects such as the Shalimar Gardens and the Badshahi Mosque, both situated in Lahore. Muslim soldiers, traders, architects, theologians and Sufis flocked from the rest of the Muslim world to the Islamic Sultanate in South Asia and some may have settled in the Punjab. Following the decline of the Mughals, the Shah of Iran and founder of the Afsharid dynasty in Persia, Nader Shah crossed the Indus and sacked the province in 1739. Following this terrible visitation, the Afghan conqueror Ahmad Shah Durrani annexed the Punjab into his Durrani Empire from 1747 until 1762. [edit] The Afghans The founder of Afghanistan, Ahmad Shah Durrani, an ethnic Pashtun (Afghan), is believed to be born in the city of Multan. After cementing his authority over various Afghan tribes, he went about to establish the first united Afghan Kingdom (Greater Afghanistan) that during its greatest extent included modern-day Afghanistan, Pakistan, northeastern Iran and western India. The Punjab was a cultural reservoir for the Afghans, and many where attracted to its lush fertile lands. It has been said that with the loss of the breadbasket regions of the Punjab and Sindh, Afghanistan has never been able to achieve a stable state ever since. Many ethnic Afghan or Pashtun tribes continue to live in Pakistan’s Punjab province such as the Gardezis, Niazis, Lodhis, the Kakazai and the Barakzai to name a few. [edit] The Sikhs A section of the Lahore Fort built by the Sikh ruler, Ranjit Singh.At the beginning of the sixteenth century, the religion of Sikhism was born, and during the Mughal period gradually emerged as a formidable military force until subjugated and assimilated by the later expanding British Empire. After fighting Ahmad Shah Durrani, the Sikhs wrested control of the Punjab from his descendants and ruled in a confederacy, which later became the Sikh Kingdom of the Punjab under Maharaja Ranjit Singh. A denizen of the city of Gujranwala, the capital of Ranjit Singh’s kingdom was Lahore. The Sikhs made architectural contributions to the city and the Lahore Fort. [edit] The British The Maharaja’s death in the summer of 1839 brought political chaos and the subsequent battles of succession and the bloody infighting between the factions at court weakened the state. Relationships with neighbouring British territories then broke down, starting the First Anglo-Sikh War; this led to a British official being resident in Lahore and the annexation of territory south of the Satluj to British India. Some parts of Pakistani Punjab also served as the centre of resistance in the Indian Rebellion of 1857. [edit] Partition and its aftermath Minar-e-PakistanIn 1947 the Punjab province of British India was divided along religious lines into West Punjab and East Punjab. The western Punjabis voted to join the new country of Pakistan while the easterners joined India. This led to massive rioting as both sides committed atrocities against fleeing refugees. The undivided Punjab, of which Punjab (Pakistan) forms a major region today, was home to a large minority population of Punjabi Hindus and Sikhs unto 1947 apart from the Muslim majority.[2] At the time of Partition in 1947 and due to the ensuing horrendous exchange of populations, the Punjabi Hindus and Sikhs migrated to India.[3] Punjabi Muslims were uprooted similarly from their homes in East Punjab which now forms part of India.[4] The West Punjabi Hindu and Sikh refugees who moved to India leaving their ancient home lands in Punjab (Pakistan) belonged to various sub groups, clans, tribes, castes and linguistic groups. This includes Khatris, Aroras, Rajputs, Jats, Gujjars, Kambojs, Mohyals, Mazhabis, as well as others such as the linguistically distinct Multanis. A unique feature among Punjabis of different faiths Muslim, Hindu and Sikh hailing from the area which now forms the Punjab (Pakistan) is the enduring affinities to sub grouping and clans cutting across religious lines. Consequently these Punjabis of Pakistan, despite having left the country, continue to share common surnames and tribal affiliations with their parent tribes and lands left behind. This includes surnames such as Sahgal, Sial, Bhatti, Ghumman, Sandhu, Tiwana and Cheema. In recent years, many of these refugees have been able to visit their ancestral homelands. [edit] Recent History Since the 1950s, Punjab industrialized rapidly. New factories came up in Lahore, Multan, Sialkot. In the 1960s the new city of Islamabad was built near Rawalpindi. Agriculture continues to be the largest sector of Punjab’s economy. The province is the breadbasket of the country as well as home to the largest ethnic group in Pakistan, the Punjabis. Unlike neighbouring India, there was no large-scale redistribution of agricultural land. As a result most rural areas are dominated by a small set of land-owning families. This small ruling class also allegedly dominates powerful positions in the army and civil bureaucracy. This results in some resentment from residents of other provinces as well as by the working people of Punjab. In the 1950s there was tension between the eastern and western halves of Pakistan. In order to address the situation, a new formula resulted in the abolition of the province status for Punjab in 1955. It was merged into a single province West Pakistan. In 1972, after East Pakistan seceded and became Bangladesh, Punjab again became a province. Punjab witnessed major battles between the armies of India and Pakistan in the wars of 1965 and 1971. Since the 1990s Punjab hosted several key sites of Pakistan’s nuclear program such as Kahuta. It also hosts major military bases such as at Sargodha and Rawalpindi. The peace process between India and Pakistan, which began in earnest in 2004, has helped pacify the situation. Trade and people-to-people contacts through the Wagah border are now starting to become common. Indian Sikh pilgrims visit holy sites such as Nankana Sahib. Starting in the 1980s large numbers of Punjabis migrated to the Middle East, Britain, Spain, Canada and the United States for economic opportunties. Business and cultural ties between the US and Punjab are growing. The rise of radical Islamic jihad in Punjab gained international attention. The bloody legacy of partition violence resulted in an anti-minority sentiment since its formation. In the 1980s society got even more polarized with funding by certain Middle Eastern countries of radical madrassas, both Sunni and Shia. Throughout the 1990s there were a series of gun battles between Shia and Sunni groups which claimed many lives. There were also attacks on Christian, Ahmadiya and Hindu minorities. The presence of armed militant groups and their propaganda are often felt in some areas. Some Punjabis joined or assisted jihadi campaigns in Afghanistan, Kashmir and in Britain. In the 2000s, in the Musharraf era, the Sufi heritage of Punjab slowly started staging a comeback. In addition non-religious holidays such as Basant and New Year’s Eve are again celebrated openly. Some Middle Eastern countries started to provide development assistance not driven by fundamentalist compulsions, such as by the UAE in Rahim Yar Khan. However the spread of radicalism has not stopped and incidents of terrorism continue sporadically. Radical groups sympathetic to Taliban and Al Qaeda are believed to have carried out bombings in Lahore, Sargodha and the assassination of Benazir Bhutto in Rawalpindi in 2007