Punjab – Overview
From ‘Sarson Da Saag’ and ‘Makki Di Roti’ to sacred Golden Temple and imposing Quila Mabarak, from intricate Phulkari Dupattas to colourful Mojris, the reasons to visit the state of Punjab are many.
Punjab, literally meaning the ‘land of five rivers’ boasts of five rivers namely Jhelum, Chenab, Ravi, Beas and Sutlej – all these rivers are tributaries of the Indus River. The enchanting state of Punjab has an integrated cultural history, even today, you can see the glimpses of that rich culture in the lively Punjabi folks. If you love wildlife, then also Punjab is an ideal place to take a tour to. In the sanctuaries, you can see a variety of resident as well as migratory birds. Besides, a visit to world famous Golden Temple or Harmandir Sahib, offers succour to your mind and soul.
Situated in north-western part of India, Punjab is bordered by Punjab (Pakistan) to the west, Chandigarh to the south-east, Haryana to the south and south-east, Himachal Pradesh to the north-east, Jammu and Kashmir to the north and Rajasthan to the south-west. Punjab has a total area of 50,362 sq.kms and the population of state is 24,289, 296 (2001 census). The Union Territory of Chandigarh is the capital of Punjab, other major cities include Amritsar, Ludhiana, Jalandhar and Patiala.
So, whether you are interested in historic structures, ancient culture and civilization, architectural masterpieces, religious places or common tourist spots, in truth, Punjab offers more or less everything to make your vacation a memorable experience. In addition to these, vast stretches of field clad in yellow mustard flowers, would certainly enamor you with their sheer beauty.
Punjab – History
Earliest recorded history of Punjab goes back to the Indus Valley Civilization, which was discovered in 1920s. As per historic records, Punjab was first invaded by the Persians under Faridun, in the 800 B.C. In 522 B.C. Darayus of Persia, captured Punjab and eventually Punjab became the part of the extended Persian empire. In 327 B.C, Alexander entered through Punjab to invade and capture Indian subcontinent. Further, Maurayan Emperor Chandragupta captured the region of Punjab by defeating the Governer of Masidonia. For several centuries, invaders invaded Indian territory and Punjab underwent blood-bath repeatedly. Around 10th century A.D., Punjab went under the control of Muslim rulers. During the Sultanate period and Mughal regime, Punjab witnessed a series of intermittent war. In 1525 A.D, Mughal Emperor Babar occupied Punjab, later, in 1526 he defeated Ibrahim Lodi at Panipat. By the year 1542 A.D, Punjab came under the control of Sher Shah Suri.
Guru Nanak (1469-1539), the first Guru of Sikhs, founded Seeker’s religion and led Punjab to renaissance. Guru Govind Singh (1661 – 1708 A.D), led an army of saint-warriors to create Khalsa and gradually the Sikhs occupied a major portion of Punjab. In 1799, Ranjit Singh (1778-1839) captured Lahore and built up Sikh state in Punjab. In 1801, Ranjit declared himself Maharaja of Punjab and ruled the state till 1830. In 1839, after the death of Ranjit Singh his eldest son Kharak Singh, ascended the throne. Kharak Singh was followed by his son Nau Nehal Singh, later Daleep Singh, son of Ranjit Singh become ruler. In 1849, the British took possession of Punjab and succeeded in adding a major portion of the state to their empire.
In 1857, during the First War of Independence, Punjab took the side of British Government. Later, Jallianwala Bagh massacre took place at Amritsar on 13th April, 1919, that became a turning point in the history of India. In 1937, Punjab became a separate province and made a remarkable contribution to the Quit India Movement in 1942. In 1947, after India’s independence Punjab was divided into two – Sikh dominated East Punjab remained in India and a new sovereign state was born in the name of Pakistan. Earlier Shimla was chosen as the capital of the state, later in 50s, Chandigarh became the capital of Punjab. In the year 1966, Punjab was again divided into two states namely Punjab and Haryana and Chandigarh became the capital of both the states.
Punjab – Tourist Destinations
The state capital, Chandigarh is regarded as the ‘Mecca of modern architecture’ and planning across the world. A completely planned city, Chandigarh had been designed by the French architect Le Cobusier. Amritsar is known all over the world for Golden Temple, while Ludhiana is famous for its hosiery and woolen products. Patiala is another popular tourist destination which you should not miss on your visit to Punjab. Other places which form an important part of the tourist circuit of Punjab include Jalandhar, Pathankot, Hoshiarpur, Kapurthala, Ropar, Muktsar, Fatehgarh Sahib and Bathinda.
Punjab – Temples and Gurudwaras
Sikhism, is the main faith of Punjabis which is depicted by the holy shrines like temples and gurudwaras of Punjab. The temples and gurudwaras of the state hold the same religious significance for both Sikhs and Hindus. Golden Temple, located in the city of Amritsar draws devotee from all parts of the world. Apart from Sikhs, Amritsar is also a destination of religious significance for the people of Jainism faith. Some of the important temples and gurudwaras of Punjab include the Gurudwara Alamgir (Ludhiana), Devi Talab Mandir (Jalandhar), Ram Tirth (Amritsar), Panch Mandir (Kapurthala), Durgiana Mandir (Amritsar), Kali Devi Temple (Patiala), Shiv Mandir (Jalandhar) and Gurudwara Kiratpur Sahib (Ropar).
Punjab – Forts & Monuments
Punjab has a long historic background, but it houses only few forts. Although, Punjab doesn’t have immensely famous historic forts like Delhi’s Red Fort, Agra’s Red Fort and so on, but the forts of the state deserve a visit. Anandgarh Fort, Lohgarh Fort and Fatehgarh Fort are some of the important forts of Punjab. Today, these forts are mostly in ruins and Gurudwaras have been erected in the place of fort.
Just like forts, very few monuments are present in Punjab. Diwan Khana, is one of the major ancient monuments in Punjab and now it has been converted into a museum. It displays valuable items such as dazzling chandeliers and armour, including the sword and dagger of Guru Govind Singh and the sword of Nadir Shah. Sheesh Mahal or the ‘Palace of Mirrors’, is another important monument of Punjab. Located at the town of Patiala, Sheesh Mahal was constructed by Maharaja Narinder Singh between 1845-1862. The palace consists of a museum displaying Tibetan art and a medal gallery, displaying the largest number of medals and decorations in the world, around 3,200 in number.
Punjab – People & Culture
The state of Punjab boasts of a long history and rich cultural heritage. Historically, Punjab is the location of the Indus Valley Civilization, India’s first civilization and also one of the world’s oldest civilization. Even today, you will find the influence of Indus Valley Civilization in the lifestyle of people of the state, who are referred as Punjabis. Punjabi people are known for self-dependence, self reliance and hard-working nature, which have statistically made Punjab one of the wealthiest states in India. Sikhism is the main religion of Punjab, around 60% of the population follow the particular faith while, Hinduism forms the minority religion. Punjabi and Hindi are the main language spoken by the people of the state.
Punjabis are fond of colourful costumes that depict their unique and rich culture. Men wear varied colour turbans wrapped in sophisticated manner, while women dress up themselves in colourful Salwar-Kameez. Dance and music form an important part of the day-to-day life of Punjabis. Most popular folk dance forms of Punjab include Bhangra, Giddha, Luddi, Jhumar and Kikli. Punjab has been the home of great classical musicians like Ustaad Ali Bakshm Ustaad Fateh Ali, Ustad Bade Ghulam Ali and Barkat Ali. Besides, the Punjabi style of tabla playing, to which Allah Rakha, the great tabla maestro belongs, came into existence in Punjab.
Punjabis are known for their excellent craft works, which are quite popular all over the country. Art works such as metalwork, jewellery making, embroidery, chowk-pooran, basketry, wood carving, needlework, mud wall paintings and wall paintings form a part of the daily affair of the local people.
Punjab – Cuisine
Punjab is famous all over the country for a variety of delectable cuisine. Majority of the population like wheat bread and they cook rice only on special occasions. People eat rice with Rajma, Kadhi or flavouring of cumin or fried onions. Rice is also cooked with peas known as ‘Matarwale Chawal’ or jaggary called ‘Gurwala Chawal’ or with sugarcane juice called ‘Rao Ki Kheer.’ Punjab is the land of milk, which is used by the state people in their daily cookery. Milk and its products like curd and buttermilk form an essential part of every Punjabi meal.
Makkee Ki Roti, Sarson Ka Saag, Mah ki Dal and meat curry ‘Roghan Josh’, are some of the specialties of Punjab. Although Punjab is a small state, but flavours and eating habits differ from place to place. People living in Amritsar and nearby areas like well-fried Parathas and sweets made from milk. Bajra (ground maize) Kchitdi is a favourite dish among the people of the Malwa region. People of other regions like other types of traditional dishes.
Punjab – Fairs and Festivals
Punjab abounds with a number of traditional and religious, fairs and festivals all through the year. Most of the festivals are linked with rich culture of the state and reflect some of the distinct Punjabi traits. Almost all the festivals spread some specific messages among the people of the state and those coming from other parts of the country.
Lohri (January), Basant Panchami (January-February), Hola Mohalla (March), Baisakhi (April), Chhapaar Mela (September), Guru Purbs, Jor Mela (December) and Hariballabh Sangeet Mela (December) are some of popular fairs and festivals of Punjab. In addition to these, people of Punjab also celebrate many of the nation-wide celebrated festivals such as Makar Sakranti, Janmashtami, Ramnavami, Holi, Deepawali, Dussehra, Eid-ul-Fitr, Eid-ul-Azha, Muharram, Milad-un-Nabi, Raksha Bandhan, Easter, Good Friday and Christmas.
Punjab – Shopping
Punjab is known for a rich tradition of handicrafts, which makes shopping a wonderful experience for you. Punjabi women are skilled in weaving and needlework, they make a range of local specialties. Some of the celebrated crafts of Punjab include embroidery, hand-woven shawls, delicate needlework of Phulkaris and woven durries (floor covering). In addition, you should look out for leather craft and shoes, metalwork, woodwork, baskets and jewellery. You can shop in Government run Emporia and private shops located in the big cities of the state. Chandigarh, Amritsar, Ludhiana, Jalandhar have some big shopping malls and commercial shopping centres. You can also enjoy shopping in colourful local markets of the state, which offer good bargain.
Punjab has a extreme type of climate, the summers are hot and humid while the winters are cold. April to June is the summer season, when the temperature soars to a high of 47oC. Rainy season starts from early July and ends by the end of September. Winter arrives Punjab in early December and remains till February. Winter season is chilly and temperature drops below 0oC at some places of the state.
Best Time to Visit
October to April
Punjab – Transportation
Airlines : Punjab has two airports which are located in the cities of Amritsar and Chandigarh. Regular flights connect these cities with Delhi, Srinagar, Kulu, Shimla and other major cities of India. Indian Airlines and Jet Airways have frequent flights from Chandigarh to Delhi, Lucknow, Leh and Amritsar.
Railways : Punjab is well-linked by good rail network with other parts of the country. Chandigarh, Amritsar, Ludhiana, Pathankot, Jalandhar, Ferozepur are important railway stations of Punjab. All these railheads are served by a number of express and super fast trains. Daily Shatabdi Express trains connect Delhi to Chandigarh and Delhi to Amritsar via Ludhiana. Shan-E-Punjab also ply everyday between New Delhi and Amritsar.
Roadways : An extensive network of National Highway 1, 1 A, 15, 19, 20, 21 and State Highways connect Punjab with rest of the country. Roads of Punjab are in very good condition and you can drive from one extreme of the state to other in a single day. Private and state-run buses are available from Delhi to Patiala, Ludhiana, Amritsar, Chandigarh and Jalandhar. You can hire also taxis or cabs from Delhi to reach various tourist destinations of Punjab.