History of Punjab

From SikhiWiki
Jump to navigationJump to search

The first known use of the word Punjab is in the book Tarikh-e-Sher Shah (1580), which mentions the construction of a fort by "Sher Khan of Punjab". The name is mentioned again in Ain-e-Akbari (part 1), written by Abul Fazal, who also mentions that the territory of Punjab was divided into two provinces, Lahore and Multan. Similarly in the second volume of Ain-e-Akbari, the title of a chapter includes the word Punjab in it. The Mughal King Jahangir also mentions the word Punjab in Tuzk-i-Janhageeri.

Pre-Aryan civilization

Archeological discoveries at Mehrgarh in present-day Baluchistan show that humans inhabited the region as early as 7000 BCE. From about 3000 BCE the Indus River basin was home 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 17th century BCE, for reasons that are still unexplained.


Factors in the Indus valley civilization's decline possibly included a change in weather patterns and unsustainable urbanization (that is, without any rural agricultural production base). This coincided with the drying up of the Sarasvati River. The Out of India theory suggests that this drying up caused the movement of the remaining Indo-Aryans towards the Gangetic basin and possibly southwards towards the home of the Dravidian people.[3] The next one thousand years of the history of the Punjab and North India in general (c.1500-500 BCE) is dominated by the Indo-Aryans and the mixed population and culture that emerged from their interactions with the natives of the rest of the Indian subcontinent.

Vedic Punjab

The Rig-Veda, the oldest book in human history, is thought to have been written in the Punjab. It embodies a literary record of the socio-cultural development of ancient Punjab (known as Sapta Sindhu) and affords us a glimpse of the life of its people. Vedic society was tribal rather than territorial in character. A number of families constituted a grama, a number of gramas a vis (clan) and a number of clans a Jana (tribe). The Janas, led by Rajans, were in constant inter-tribal warfare. From this warfare arose larger groupings of peoples ruled by able chiefs and kings. As a result, a new political philosophy of conquest and empire grew, which traced the origin of the state to the exigencies of war.

An important event of the Rigvedic era was the "Battle of Ten Kings (BTK)" which was fought on the banks of the river Purusni (identified with the present-day river Ravi) between king Sudas of the Trtsu lineage of the Bharata clan on the one hand and a confederation of ten tribes on the other. The ten tribes pitted against Sudas comprised five major Indo-Aryan clans---the Purus, the Druhyus, the Anus, the Turvasas and the Yadus---and five non-Indo-Aryan (that is, Iranian) clans from the north-west frontiers of present-day Punjab---the Pakthas, the Alinas, the Bhalanas, the Visanins and the Sivas. King Sudas was supported by the Vedic Rishi Vasishtha, while sage Viswamitra sided with the confederation of ten tribes.

Out of such conflicts, struggles, conquests and movements of the Vedic and Later Vedic age emerged the heroic society of Punjab, a society that laid special stress on the value of action. The ideals and standards of that society are embedded in the Hindu Epics, notably the Mahabharata.

Epic Punjab

The philosophy of heroism of the Epic Age is excellently expounded in the Bhagavatagita section of the Mahabharata. That great work is a synthesis of many doctrines and creeds, but its core is arguably the enunciation of a martial and heroic cult. The Bhagavatagita comprehensively expounds a philosophy of heroism probably current in the then Punjab. It seeks to provide a philosophical foundation to the profession of arms and invests the Kshatriya or warrior with respectable position and noble status. It canonizes his professional integrity and injects an intensity of purpose into it. This philosophy was professed by the warrior communities of ancient Punjab and countless generation of Punjabi soldiers have derived their strength and inspiration from it. The Punjabis, represented by ethnic groups such as the Gandharas, the Kambojas, the Trigartas, the Madras, the Malavas, the Pauravas, the Bahlikas and the Yaudheyas are stated to have sided with the Kauravas and displayed exemplary courage, power and prowess in the 18 day battle. The glorious exploits of these warlike communities can be seen in the accounts of the charges of the Kauravas against the Pandavas. The great epic makes copious attestation of the fact that the contigents of Gandharas, Kambojas, Sauviras, Madras and Trigartas occupied key positions in the Kaurava arrays throughout the epic war.

Another important epic event which involved the Punjabis was the conflict between the Indo-Aryan king Vishwamitra from Uttar Pradesh and Sage Vasishtha from the north-western parts of greater Punjab. The story is portrayed in the Bala-Kanda section of Valmiki's Ramayana. The conflict is said to have been sparked over the re-possession of Kamadhenu, also known as Savala, a divine cow (possibly an allegorical reference to a fief) by king Vishwamitra from a Brahmana sage of the Vasishtha lineage. Rsi Vasishtha skillfully solicited the military support of the frontier Punjabi warriors consisting of eastern Iranians—the Shakas, Kambojas, Pahlavas etc., aided by Kirata, Harita and the Mlechcha soldiers from the Himalayas. This composite army of fierce warriors from frontier Punjab utterly ruined one Akshauni army of the illustrious Vishwamitra, along with all of his 100 his sons except one. The Kamdhenu war seems to allegorically symbolise a struggle for supremacy between the Kshatriya forces and the priestly class of the epic era. It is however ironic that the warrior Punjabi communities of the frontier supported the priestly class against their own Kshatriya brotherhood.

Paninian and Kautiliyan Punjab

Panini was a famous ancient Sanskrit grammarian born in Shalĝtura, identified with modern Lahur in northwest frontier province of Pakistan, thus a Punjabi himself. One may infer from his work, the Ashtadhyayi, that the people of greater Punjab lived prominently by the profession of arms. That text terms numerous clans as being "Ayudhajivin republics" or "Republics that live by force of arms". Those living in the plains were called Vahikas, while those in the mountainous regions (including the north-east of present-day Afghanistan) were termed as Parvatiyas (mountain people). The Vahikas Sanghas included prominently the Yaudheyas (modern Joiya or Johiya Rajputs and some Kamboj), Kekayas, Vrikas (possibly modern Virk Jatts), Usinaras, Sibis (possibly modern Sibia Jatts?), Kshudrakas, Malavas and the Madras clans, while the second class, styled as Parvatiya Ayudhajivins, comprised among others the Trigartas, the Gandharan clan of Hastayanas, and the Kambojan clans of Ashvayanas & Ashvakayanas, as well as the Daradas of the Chitral and Gilgit. In addition, Panini also refers to the Kshatriya monarchies of the Kuru, Gandhara and Kamboja. ]. In fact, the entire region of greater Punjab is known to have reeked with martial people. These Kshatriyas or warrior communities followed different forms of republican constitutions, as is amply attested to by Panini's Ashtadhyayi.

Again, the 4th century BC Arthashastra of Kautiliya also talks of several martial republics and specifically refers to the Kshatriya Shrenis (warrior-bands) of the Kambojas and some other frontier tribes as belonging to varta-Shastr-opajivin class (that is, living by the profession of arms and varta), while the Madraka, Malla and the Kuru etc clans are styled as Raja-shabd-opajivins class (that is, living by the title of Raja). Thus, it is seen that the heroic traditions cultivated in Vedic and Epic Age continued to the times of Panini and Kautaliya. History strongly witnesses that these Ayudhajivin clans had offered stiff resistance to the Achaemenid rulers in the 6th century, and later to the Macedonian invaders in the 4th century BC.

There is no doubt that the Kambojas, Daradas, Kaikayas, Madras, Pauravas, Malavas, Saindhavas and Kurus jointly contributed to the composite culture and evolution of heroic tradition of ancient Punjab.

Ancient empires

Persian domination

The western parts of ancient Gandhara and Kamboja (kingdoms of Greater Punjab) lay at the eastern edge of the Persian Empire. Both these ancient kingdoms fell prey to Persia either during the reign of the semi-legendary Achaemenid, or of Cyrus the Great (558-530 BCE), or in the first year of the reign of Darius I (521 BC - 486 BCE). The upper Indus region comprised of Gandhara and Kamboja formed the 7th satrapy of the Achaemenid Empire, while the lower and middle Indus comprised of Sindhu and Sauvira constituted the 20th satrapy. They are reported to have contributed 170 and 360 talents of gold dust in annual tribute.

The ancient Greeks also had some knowledge of the area. Darius I appointed the Greek Scylax of Caryanda to explore the Indian Ocean from the mouth of the Indus to Suez. Scylax provides an account of this voyage in his book Peripulus. Hecataeus (500 BCE) and Herodotus (483-431 BCE) also wrote about the Indian Satrapy of the Persians. In ancient Greek maps, we find mention of the "mightiest river of all the world", called the Indos (Indus), and its tributaries, the Hydaspes (Jhelum), Akesines (Chenab), Hydraotis (Ravi), Hesidros (Sutlej) and Hyphasis (Beas).

Alexander's invasion

Alexander overran the Achaemenid Empire in 331 BCE and marched into present-day Afghanistan with an army of 50,000. His scribes do not record the names of the rulers of the Gandhara or Kamboja; rather, they locate a dozen small political units in those territories. This rules out the possibility of Gandhara and/or Kamboja having been great kingdoms in the late 4th century BCE. In 326 BCE, most of the dozen-odd political units of the former Gandhara/Kamboja fell to Alexander's forces.

Alexander invited all the chieftains of the former satrapy of Gandhara to submit to his authority. Ambhi, ruler of Taxila, whose kingdom extended from the Indus to the Hydaspes (Jhelum), complied. After confirming him in his satrapy, Alexander marched against the Kamboja highlanders of the Kunar and Swat valleys (known in Greek texts as Aspasios and Assakenois and in Indian texts as Ashvayana and Ashvakayana) who had refused to submit to him.[17] The Ashvayan, Ashvakayan, Kamboja and allied Saka[18] clans offered tough resistance to the invader and even the Ashvakayan women took up arms, preferring "a glorious death to a life of dishonor".[19]

In a letter to his mother, Alexander described his encounters with these trans-Indus tribes: "I am involved in the land of a leonine and brave people, where every foot of the ground is like a well of steel, confronting my soldier. You have brought only one son into the world, but everyone in this land can be called an Alexander” [4].

Alexander then marched east to the Hydaspes, where Porus, ruler of the kingdom between the Hydaspes (Jhelum) and the Akesines (Chenab) refused to submit to him. The two armies fought the Battle of the Hydaspes River outside the town of Nikaia (near the modern city of Jhelum). Porus's army was defeated and when Alexander inquired of Porus, "How should I treat you?", the brave Porus reputedly shot back, "The way a king treats another king." Alexander was struck by his spirit. He not only returned the conquered kingdom to Porus, but added the land lying between the Akesines (Chenab) and the Hydraotis (Ravi).

Alexander's army crossed the Hydraotis and marched east to the Hesidros (Beas), but there his troops refused to march further east, and Alexander turned back, following the Jhelum and the Indus to the Arabian Sea, and sailing to Babylon.

Indo-Greek kingdom

Alexander established two cities in the Punjab, where he settled people from his multi-national armies, which included a majority of Greeks and Macedonians. These Indo-Greek cities and their associated kingdoms thrived long after Alexander's departure. After Alexander's death, the eastern portion of his empire (from present-day Syria to Punjab) was inherited by Seleucus I Nicator, the founder of the Seleucid dynasty. However, this empire was disrupted by the ascendancy of the Bactrians. The Bactrian king Demetrius I added the Punjab to his Kingdom in the 2nd century BCE. Many of the Indo-Greeks were Buddhists. The best known of the Indo-Greek kings was Menander I, known in India as Milinda, who established an independent kingdom centered at Taxila around 160 BCE. He later moved his capital to Sagala (modern Sialkot).

Sakas, Kushanas, and Hephthalites

In the middle of the 2nd century BC, the Yuezhi tribe of modern China moved westward into Central Asia, which, in turn, caused the Sakas (Scythians) to move west and south. The Northern Sakas, also known as the Indo-Scythians, moved first into Bactria, and later crossed the Hindu Kush into India, successfully wresting power from the Indo-Greeks. They were followed by the Yuezhi, who were known in India as the Kushans or Kushanas. The Kushanas founded a kingdom in the 1st century that lasted for several centuries. Both the Indo-Scythians and the Kushans embraced Buddhism, and absorbed elements of Indo-Greek art and culture into their own. Another Central Asiatic people to make Punjab their home were the Hephthalites (White Huns), who engaged in continuous campaigns from across the Hindu Kush, finally establishing their rule in India in the fifth century.

Muslim invasions and the Shahi Kingdom

Following the birth of Islam in Arabia in the 6th century, the Muslims rose to power, replacing formerly Zoroastrian Persia as the major power to the west of India. In 711-713 AD, Arab armies from the caliphate of Damascus conquered Sind and advanced into southern Punjab, occupying present-day Multan, which was later to become a center of the Ismaili sect of Islam. Northern Punjab was divided into small Hindu kingdoms.

The Hindu Shahi dynasty ruled much of the Punjab, as well as western Afghanistan, from the mid-9th to the early 11th centuries. The Shahi Kingdom was originally based at Kabul, and later spread across the Punjab. Kabul was overrun by Turkic Muslims in the 10th century, and the Shahi capital was shifted to Ohind, near present-day Attock.

In 977 AD, the Turkic ruler Sabuktigin acceded to the throne of the small kingdom of Ghazni in central Afghanistan. In the 980s, Subuktigin conquered the Shahis, extending his rule from the Khyber Pass, to the Indus. After his death in 997, his son Mahmud assumed power in Ghazni. He expanded his father's kingdom far to the west and east through military conquest. He invaded the Punjab and northern India seventeen times during his reign, conquering the Shahi kingdom and extending his rule across the Punjab as far as the upper Yamuna. Mahmud demolished Hindu temples wherever his campaigns took him, and he also attacked the Ismailis, whom he viewed as heretics.

Mahmud's successors, known as the Ghaznavids, ruled for 157 years. Their kingdom gradually shrank in size, and was racked by bitter succession struggles. The Ghaznavids lost the western part of their kingdom (in present-day Iran) to the expanding Seljuk Turks. The Rajput kingdoms of western India reconquered the eastern Punjab, and by the 1160s, the line of demarcation between the Ghaznavid state and the Hindu kingdoms approximated to the present-day boundary between India and Pakistan. The Ghorids of central Afghanistan occupied Ghazni around 1150, and the Ghaznevid capital was shifted to Lahore. Muhammad Ghori conquered the Ghaznavid kingdom, occupying Lahore in 1186-1187, and later extending his kingdom past Delhi into the Ganges-Yamuna Doab.

The Delhi Sultanate and Mughal empire

After Muhammad's death in 1206, his general Qutb-ud-din Aybak took control of Muhummad's Indian empire, including Afghanistan, the Punjab, and northern India. Qutb-ud-din moved his capital of the empire from Ghazni to Lahore, and, after becoming Sultan, to Delhi; the empire he founded was called the Sultanate of Delhi. His successors were known as the Mamluk or Slave dynasty, and ruled from his death in 1210 to 1290. The Mongols, who had conquered Muhammad Ghori's former possessions in Central Asia, continued to encroach on the Sultanate's northwest frontier in the thirteenth century. The Mongols conquered Afghanistan, and from there raided the Punjab and northwestern India. Lahore was sacked in 1241, and the Mongols and Sultans contested for control of the Punjab for much of the thirteenth century. The Khilji dynasty replaced the Mamluks in 1290. The rule of Khiljis was briefly disrupted by successful raids by the Mongols, who marched to Delhi twice during Alauddin Khilji's rule. The Tughluqids succeeded the Khiljis in 1320. Timur, who ruled a Central Asian empire from Samarkand, sacked Delhi in 1398-1399, and reduced the Sultanate to a small kingdom surrounding Delhi. Two Afghan dynasties took control of the Sultanate after the Tughluqids; The Sayyids from 1414 to 1479, and the Lodhis from 1479 to until 1526. The Lodhis recovered control of some of the Sultanate's lost territories, including the Punjab. Babur, a descendant of the Mongol Khans who ruled a kingdom in Afghanistan, defeated the last Sultan of Delhi at the First battle of Panipat in 1526 and founded the Mughal Empire.

The Mughal empire persisted for several centuries until it was severely weakened in the eighteenth century by the attacks of the Marathas and the 1739 sack of Delhi by the Persian Nadir Shah. As Mughal power weakened, Afghan rulers took control of the empire's northwestern provinces, including the Punjab and Sind. The eighteenth century also saw the rise of the Sikhs in the Punjab.

The Rise of Sikh Power

The Punjab presented a picture of chaos and confusion when Ranjit Singh took the control of Sukerchakias misal. The edifice of Ahmed Shah Abdali's empire in India had crumbled. Afghanistan was dismembered. Peshawar and Kashmir though under the suzerainty of Afghanistan had attained de facto independence. The Barakzais were now masters of these lands. Attock was ruled by Wazrikhels and Jhang lay at the feet of Sials. The Pathans ruled Kasur. Multan had thrown off the yoke and Nawab Muzaffar Khan was now ruler.

Both Punjab and Sind had been under Afghan rule since 1757 when Ahmed Shah Abdali was granted suzerainty over these provinces. However, the Sikhs were now a rising power in Punjab. Taimur Khan, a local Governor, was able to expel the Sikhs from Amritsar and raze the fort of Ram Rauni. His control was short-lived, however, and the Sikh misal joined to defeat Taimur Shah and his Chief minister Jalal Khan. The Afghans were forced to retreat and Lahore was occupied by the Sikhs in 1758. Jassa Singh Ahluwalia proclaimed the Sikh's sovereignty and assumed leadership, striking coins to commemorate his victory.

While Ahmed Shah Abdali was engaged in a campaign against the Marathas at Panipat in 1761, Jassa Singh Ahluwalia plundered Sirhind and Dialpur, seized towns in the Ferozepur district, and took possession of Jagraon and Kot Isa Khan on the opposite bank of the Sutlej. He captured Hoshiarpur and Naraingarh in Ambala and levied tribute from the chief of Kapurthala. He then marched towards Jhang. The Sial chief offered stout resistance. However, when Ahmad Shah left in February 1761, Jassa Singh Ahluwalia again attacked Sirhind and extended his territory as far as Tarn Taran. When he crossed the Bias and captured Sultanpur in 1762, Ahmad Shah again appeared and a fierce battle took place. The ensuing holocaust was called Ghalughara. Following the rout of Sikh forces, Jassa Singh fled to the Kangra hills. After the departure of Ahmad Shah Abdali, Jassa Singh Ahluwali again attacked Sirhind, razing it and killiing the Afghan Governor Zen Khan. This was a great victory for the Sikhs who now ruled all of the territory around the Sirhind. Jassa Singh immediately paid a visit to Hari Mandir Saheb at Amritsar, making amends and restoring the temple which had been defiled by Ahmad Shah through the slaughter of cows in its precincts.

Ahmad Shah died in June 1773. After his death the power of the Afghans declined in the Punjab. Taimur Shah ascended the throne at Kabul. By then the Misls were well established in the Punjab. They controlled territory as far as Saharnpur in the east, Attock in the west, Kangra Jammu in the north and Multan in the south. Efforts were made by Afghan rulers to dislodge the Sikhs from their citadels. Taimur Shah attacked Multan and defeated the Bhangis. The Bhangi Sardars, Lehna Singh, and Sobha Singh were driven out of Lahore in 1767 by the Abdali, but soon reoccupied it. They remained in power in Lahore until 1793 - the year when Shah Zaman acceded to the throne of Kabul.

The first attempt at conquest by Shah Zaman was in 1793. He came to Hasan Abdal from which he sent an army of 7000 cavalry under Ahmad Shah Shahnachi but the Sikhs routed them. It was a great setback to Shah Zaman, but in 1795 he reorganized forces and again attacked Hasan Abdal, This time he snatched Rohtas from the Sukerchikias, whose leader was Ranjit Singh. Singh suffered at Shah Zaman's hands but did not lose courage. However, Shah Zaman had to return to Kabul as an invasion of his country from the west was apprehended. When he returned, Ranjit Singh dislodged the Afghans from Rohtas.

Shah Zaman did not sit idle. In 1796 he crossed the Indus for the third time and planned to capture Delhi. His ambition knew no bounds. By now he had raised an Afghan army of 3000 men. He was confident a large number of Indians would join him. Nawab of Kasur had already assured him help. Sahib Singh of Patiala betrayed his countrymen and declared his intentions of helping Shah Zaman. Shah Zaman was also assured of help by the Rohillas, Wazir of Oudh, and Tipu Sultan of Mysore. The news of Shah Zaman's invasion spread quickly and people began fleeing to the hills for safety. Heads of Misals, though bound to give protection to the people as they were collecting Rakhi tax from them, were the first to leave the people in lurch. By December Shah Zaman occupied territory up to Jhelum. When he reached Gujarat, Sahib Singh Bhangi panicked and left the place.

Next Shah Zaman marched on the territory of Ranjit Singh. Singh was alert and raised an army of 5000 horsemen. However, they were inadequately armed with only spears and muskets. The Afghans were equipped with heavy artillery. Ranjit Singh foresaw a strong, united fight against the invaders as he came to Amritsar. A congregation of Sarbat Khlasa was called and many Sikh sardars answered the call. There was general agreement that Shah Zaman's army should be allowed to enter the Punjab and that the Sikhs should retire to the hills.

Forces were reorganized under the command of Ranjit Singh and they marched towards Lahore. They gave the Afghans a crushing defeat in several villages and surrounded the city of Lahore. Sorties were made into the city at night in which they would kill a few Afghan soldiers and then leave under cover of darkness. Following this tactic they were able to dislodge Afghans from several places.

In 1797 Shah Zaman suddenly left for Afghansistan as his brother Mahmud had revolted. Shahanchi khan remained at Lahore with a sizeable army. The Sikhs followed Shah Zaman to Jhelum and snatched many goods from him. In returning, the Sikhs were attacked by the army of Shahnachi khan near Ram Nagar. The Sikhs routed his army. It was the first major achievement of Ranjit Singh. He became the hero of the land of Five Rivers and his reputation spread far and wide.

Again in 1798 Shah Zaman attacked Punjab to avenge the defeat of 1797. The Sikh people took refuge in the hills. A Sarbat Khalsa was again called and Sada Kaur persuaded the Sikhs to fight once again to the last man. This time even Muslims were not spared by Shah Zaman's forces and he won Gujarat easily. Sada Kaur roused the Sikhs sense of national honour. If they were to again leave Amritsar, she would command the forces against the Afghans. She said that an Afghani soldier was no match for a Sikh soldier. In battle they would acquit themselves, and, by the grace of Sat Guru, would be successful.

The Afghans plundered the towns and villages as they had vowed and declared that they would exterminate the Sikhs. However, it was the Muslims who suffered most as the Hindus and Sikhs had already left for the hills. The Muslims had thought that they would not be touched but their hopes were dashed and their provisions forcibly taken from them by the Afghans.

Shah Zaman requested that Raja Sansar Chand of Kangra refuse to give food or shelter to the Sikhs. This was agreed. Shah Zaman attacked Lahore and the Sikhs, surrounded as they were on all sides, had to fight a grim battle. The Afghans occupied Lahore in November 1798 and planned to attack Amritsar. Ranjit Singh collected his men and faced Shah's forces about eight kilometres from Amritsar. They were well-matched and the Afghans were, at last, forced to retire. Humiliated, they fled towards Lahore. Ranjit Singh pursued them and surrounded Lahore. Afghan supply lines were cut, crops were burnt and other provisions plundered so that they did not fall into Afghan's hands. It was a humiliating defeat for the Afghans. Nizam-ud.din of Kasur attacked the Sikhs near Shahdara on the banks of the Ravi, but his forces were no match for the Sikhs. Here too, it was the Muslims who suffered the most. The retreating Afghans and Nizam-ud-din forces plundered the town, antagonizing the local people.

The Afghans struggled hard to dislodge the Sikhs but in vain. The Sikh cordon was so strong that it was impossible for the Afghans to break it and proceed towards Delhi. Ranjit Singh terrorized the Afghans. The moment Zaman Shah left, Ranjit Singh pursued his forces and caught them unawares near Gujranwala. They were chased further up to Jhelum. Many Afghans were put to death and their weapons and supplies taken. The rest fled for their lives. Shah Zaman was overthrown by his brother and was blinded. He became a helpless creature, who, twelve years later, came to the Punjab to seek refuge in Ranjit Singh's darbar. Singh was now ruler of the land.

Ranjit Singh combined with Sahib Singh of Gujrat (Punjab) and Milkha Singh Pindiwala and a large Sikh force. They fell upon the Afghan garrison while Shah Zaman was still in vicinity of Khyber Pass. The Afghan forces fled north after having been routed by the Sikhs, leaving behind their dead, including the Afghan deputy, at Gujarat." (Bikramjit Hasrat, Life and times of Ranjit Singh, p.36)

By this time the people of the country had become aware of the rising strength of Ranjit Singh. He was the most popular leader of the Punjab and was planning to enter Lahore. Victims of oppression, the people of Lahore were favorably disposed towards Singh who they saw as a potential liberator. Muslims joined Hindu and Sikh residents of Lahore in making an appeal to Singh to free them from the tyrannical rule.

A petition was written and was signed by Mian Ashak Muhammad, Mian Mukkam Din, Mohammad Tahir, Mohammad Bakar, Hakim Rai, and Bhai Gurbaksh Singh. It was addressed to Ranjit singh, requesting him to free them from the Bhangi sardars. They begged Singh to liberate Lahore as soon as possible. He mobilised an Army of 25,000 and marched towards Lahore on July 6, 1799.

It was a last day of Muharram when a big procession was to be held in the town in the memory of the two grandsons of the Prophet Muhammad who had been martyred on the battlefield. It was expected that the Bhangi sardars would also participate in the procession and mourn with their Shia brethren. By the time procession was over Ranjit Singh had reached the outskirts of city.

In the early morning of July 7, 1799, Ranjit Singh's men took up their positions. Guns glistened and bugles were sounded. Rani Sada Kaur stood outside Delhi Gate and Ranjit Singh proceeded towards Anarkali. Ranjit Singh rode along the walls of the city setting mines. The wall was breached. This created panic and confusion. Mukkam Din, who was one of the signatories to the petition made a proclamation, accompanied by drumbeats, stating that he had taken over the town and was now in charge. He ordered the city gates to be opened. Ranjit Singh entered the city with his troops through the Lahori Gate. Sada Kaur and a detachment of cavalry entered through Delhi gate. Before the Bhangi sardars realized it, a part of the citadel had been occupied without resistance. Sahib Singh and Mohar Singh left the city and sought protection. Chet Singh was left to either to fight to defend the town or flee. He shut himself in Hazuri Bagh with 500 men. Ranjit Singh's cavalry surrounded Hazuri Bagh. Chet Singh surrendered and was given permission to leave the city along with his family.

Ranjit Singh was now well-entrenched. Immediately after taking possession of the city, he paid a visit to Badshahi Mosque. This gesture increased his prestige in the eyes of people. He won the hearts of his subjects, Hindu, Muslim, and Sikh alike. It was July 7, 1799 when the victorious Ranjit Singh entered Lahore.

Ranjit Singh ultimately acquired a kingdom in the Punjab which stretched from the Sutlej River in the east to Peshawar in the west, and from the junction of the Sutlej and the Indus in the south to Ladakh in the north. Ranjit died in 1839, and a succession struggle ensued. Two of his successor maharajas were assassinated by 1843.

Sikh Empire (1799-1849)

  • Maharaja Ranjit Singh (b.1780, Coronated April 12, 1801, d.1839)
  • Kharak Singh (b.1801, d.1840), Eldest son of Ranjit Singh.
  • Nau Nihal Singh (b.1821, d.1840), Grandson of Ranjit Singh.
  • Sher Singh (b.1807, d.1843), Son of Ranjit Singh.
  • Duleep Singh (b.1838, Coronated 1843, d.1893), Youngest son of Ranjit Singh.

The British Empire annexed Punjab in c.1845-49 AD; after two Anglo Sikh Wars

The British in Punjab

By 1845 the British had moved 32,000 troops to the Sutlej frontier, to secure their northernmost possessions against the succession struggles in the Punjab. In late 1845, British and Sikh troops engaged near Ferozepur, beginning the First Anglo-Sikh War. The war ended the following year, and the territory between the Sutlej and the Beas was ceded to Great Britain, along with Kashmir, which was sold to Gulab Singh, who ruled Kashmir as a British vassal.

As a condition of the peace treaty, some British troops, along with a resident political agent and other officials, were left in the Punjab to oversee the regency of Maharaja Dhalip Singh, a minor. The Sikh army was reduced greatly in size. In 1848, out-of-work Sikh troops in Multan revolted, and a British official was killed. Within a few months, the unrest had spread throughout the Punjab, and British troops once again invaded. The British prevailed in the Second Anglo-Sikh War, and under the Treaty of Lahore in 1849, the Punjab was annexed by the British East India Company, and Dhalip Singh was pensioned off. The Punjab became a province of British India, although a number of small states, most notably Patiala, retained local rulers who recognized British sovereignty.

In every way, the Punjab was Great Britain's most important asset in colonial India. Its political and geographic predominance gave Britain a base from which to project its power over more than 500 princely states that made up India. Lahore was a center of learning and culture under British rule, and Rawalpindi became an important Army installation.

The Jallianwala Bagh Massacre of 1919 occurred in Amritsar. In 1930, the Indian National Congress proclaimed independence from Lahore. The 1940 Lahore Resolution of the Muslim League to work for Pakistan, made Punjab the centerstage of a different, bloodier and dirtier struggle.

In 1946, massive communal tensions and violence erupted between the majority Muslims of Punjab, and the Hindu and Sikh minorities. The Muslim League attacked the government of Unionist Punjabi Muslims, Sikh Akalis and the Congress, and led to its downfall. Unwilling to be cowed down, Sikhs and Hindus counter-attacked and the resulting bloodshed left the province in great disorder. Both Congress and League leaders agreed to partition Punjab upon religious lines, a precursor to the wider partition of the country.

The British Punjab province, which includes present-day Punjab province of Pakistan, and the Indian states of Punjab, Haryana, and Himachal Pradesh, was partitioned in 1947 between the newly-independent states of India and Pakistan.

The Punjab of India and Pakistan

In 1947, 70% of Punjab (now West Punjab) fell to Pakistan. Further controversial decisions made by the Radcliffe Boundary Commission exacerbated the crisis. The Gurdaspur region in the northern point of the province adjoining Kashmir was given to India, despite a distinct Muslim majority. Over 1 million people were killed indiscrminately and with medieval brutality. Women were raped and murdered, children massacred and the elderly brutalized. Whole villages and neighborhoods, temples and mosques were razed to the ground. No Sikh or Hindu could walk in safety in Lahore, once the capital of Ranjit Singh's independent Punjab, and no Muslim could walk freely in Amritsar or Delhi, the former seat of the Mughal Empire.

The frightening exodus tore away from the proud Sikhs the cities of Lahore, Rawalpindi, Gujranwala and Faisalabad, core to their history and culture. Ranjit Singh, the famed Sikh king, lies at rest in a grave in Lahore, the heart of Pakistan West Punjab. Sikhs were the chief land-holders of the more fertile West Punjab, forced to desert their family holdings for measly sums or none at all in a matter of days. Worst-hit by the partition of Punjab and India, the Sikhs re-grouped in India's Punjab. Having had no astute political leadership engaging the British, Sikhs were out-flanked by both Hindu & Muslim parties. Sikhs were made assurances of a recognised Punjabi speaking East Punjab with autonomous control. This never transpired. Led by Master Tara Singh, Sikhs wanted to obtain a political voice in their state. Although it began on stormy notes in 1947, the movement was largely peaceful. It was however opposed by the Indian Government.

Punjab of Pakistan like India became the most dominant province of the new state. It was, and still is the bread basket, the cultural heartland of both provinces. Most of Pakistan's military, police and political offices are filled by Punjabis. The great city of Lahore is the cultural, educational and sports capital of Pakistan; its second-largest city, though hailed in importance greater than the capital Islamabad or the commercial and population center, Karachi, owing to its spiritual importance to Punjabi Pakistanis. It is almost uniformly Punjabi and Muslim. Most of Pakistan's sportsmen in cricket, field hockey and squash (a sport it singularly dominates) come from Lahore! However, is only a few miles from the international boundary with India. Major cities like Rawalpindi and Sialkot are also located at extreme proximity to the Indian boundary. Through the 1960s and 1970s, major industries, educational institutions and urbanization swept the cities and towns of Punjab. Punjabis make 50-55% of Pakistan's people. Their political power remains undisputed; other ethnic groups in Pakistan accuse the Punjabis of strong bias and neglect of non-Punjabi areas and non-Punjabi national assets.

In 1965, a fierce war broke out between India and Pakistan over the disputed region of Kashmir, but owing to the treacherous geography of the state, and the open nature of hostilities, the fiercest fighting took place in Punjab. At a region called the Assal Uttar (Real North), thousands of Pakistani and Indian tanks fought terrifying battles. Thousands of men lost their lives, and while the Pakistani army made a few gains, the Indian forces by the end directly threatened the great city of Lahore with mortar and artillery fire. Owing to the extreme proximity of Pakistan's most important city to the border, the Pakistani army concentrates its forces and strengths to the maximum in this thin stretch of land. In 1971 again, fierce tank battles, air battles and artillery assaults tore away this thin stretch of land.

In 1966, owing to the tremendous bravery shown by thousands of Sikh officers and soldiers in the Indian Army, the Government divided the Punjab into a Sikh-majority state of the same name, and Hindu-majority Haryana and Himachal Pradesh. Sikhs, however, still form only about 60% of the population.

In the 1970s, the Green Revolution swept India. Punjab's agricultural production trebled, and so did the prosperity of its people. For such a small state to be called the bread-basket for a country of more than a billion people, is like a goldfish being classified a leviathan. Industrialization swept the state and the state remains the ones of the economic leaders of the entire country. Punjabi culture also predominates the national art, media, music and film industries. Punjabis, especially Sikhs, form a major part of the Armed Services. Punjab, being a frontline and focal-point state upon the border with Pakistan, is also a major area of extreme strategic security importance.

In the early 1980s, a small group of Sikh fundamentalists sought the Punjabi state to be made independent of India. Led by Jarnail Singh Bhindranwale, a young priest, small bands of militants began attacking policemen, military sites and government and army officials. In the Holy Harimandir Sahib in Amritsar, Bhindranwale broadcast and published his calls for independence. Bhindranwale was supported by Sikhs from all over the Punjab and Delhi, as well as Sikhs outside India. A vast majority of Sikhs in the Punjab and outside it supported the call for independence.

The Prime Minister Indira Gandhi, who had tried to use and manipulate Bhindranwale, authorized an Army take-over of the Harimandir Sahib area. In Operation Bluestar, executed in 1984, thousands of Indian soldiers raided the Temple to flush out thousands of militants holed up in it. During the action, major damage was inflicted to the temple complex. The militants were killed or arrested, but the Operation cost the lives of 300 soldiers and thousands of innocent civilians, many of whom were known to be innocent worshipers by the Indian army.

The incredibly bloody operation invited major criticism of the Gandhi government. The Gandhi government was the only country in modern times that had attacked a faiths most holiest of shrines. Outrage now broke lose in the mainstream of Sikh society. Outraged young Sikhs spread disorder around the Punjab and in Delhi. In October 1984, just two months after Bluestar, Indira Gandhi's own two Sikh bodyguards asassinated her in revenge for the attack on the Holy Harimandir Sahib in Amritsar. The Indian Army commander was similarly assassinated.

Bloodthirsty mobs took to the streets of Delhi following Gandhi's murder. For the first time in history, Hindus and Sikhs fueded against each other. More than 5,000 Sikhs were brutally murdered by Hindu mobs.

The Government acted quickly, imposing martial law in the disturbed areas. Over the next three years, tough police action destroyed the insurgency, and fresh political overtures in the early 1990s did much to calm the state. Although some political suspicion still remains, Sikhs and Hindus have healed their common wounds and bridged the divides. The Sikh fundamentalists have either been driven out of the country or reduced to the margins of politics. However, little was done by the Indian government to redress the thousand of Sikhs killed and many more who lost their homes in the 1984 mob violence. Many of the police and army officersas well as Indian MPs are known to the government for help anti-Sikh mobs kill innocent people, yet they have never been prosecuted or questioned.

The 1990s brought much prosperity to India's Punjab. In 2004, Dr. Manmohan Singh became the country's first Sikh Prime Minister. Operation Bluestar, however, remains a topic of great controversy and bitterness in many parts of society.

The Wagah border post, is the chief crossing point between India and Pakistan. The Samjhauta (Understanding) Express runs between Atari, in Indian Punjab, to Lahore in Pakistan, as does the Delhi-Lahore bus. The Government of Pakistan allows small numbers of Sikhs to visit religious sites in Pakistani Punjab, and allowed 3,000 Pakistani Sikhs to cross over recently, at the 300th anniversary of the founding of the Khalsa.

Punjab History Timeline

500,000 Years: Pre-historic and Proto-historic existence of early mankind

2500 - 1500 BCE: Harappa Culture

2500 - 700 BCE: Rigvedic Aryan Civilization

599 BCE: Jainism

567 - 487 BCE: Buddha

550 BCE - 600 CE: Buddhism remained prevalent

550 - 515 BCE: Persian Invasion to west of Indus River

326 BCE: Alexander's Invasion

322 - 298 BCE: Chandra Gupta Maurya Period

273 - 232 BCE: Ashoka's Period

125 - 160 BCE: Rise of the Sakas (Scythians known as Jat ancestors)

2 BCE: Beginning of Rule of the Sakas.

45 - 180 CE: Rule of the Kushanas

320 - 550 CE: Gupta Empire

500 CE: Hunnic Invasion

510 - 650 CE: Vardhanas Era

647 - 1192 CE: Rajput Period

713 - 1300 CE: Muslim Invaders (Turks and Arabs) famous invaders like Mahmud Gori and Mahmud Ghazni

8th Century CE: Arabs capture Sind and Multan

1450 - 1700 CE: Mughal Rulers

1469 - 1539 CE: Guru Nanak Dev Ji (1st Sikh Guru)

1539 - 1675 CE: Period of 8 Sikh Gurus from Guru Angad Dev Ji to Guru Tegh Bahadur Ji

1675 - 1708 CE: Guru Gobind Singh Ji (10th Sikh Guru)

1699 CE: Birth of the Khalsa

1708 - 1715 CE: Conquests of Banda Bahadur

1716 - 1759 CE: Sikh struggle against Moghul Governors

1739 CE: Invasion of Nadir Shah

1748 -1769 CE: Ahmed Shah Abdali's nine invasions

1762 CE: 2nd Holocaust (Ghalughara) from Ahmed Shah's 6th invasion

1764 - 1799 CE: Rule of the Sikh Misls

1799 - 1839 CE: Rule by Maharaja Ranjit Singh, (b.1780, Coronated April 12, 1801, d.1839)

Heirs to the Gaddi of Maharaja Ranjit Singh
Kharak Singh (b.1801, d.1840), Eldest son of Ranjit Singh.
Nau Nihal Singh (b.1821, d.1840), Grandson of Ranjit Singh.
Sher Singh (b.1807, d.1843), Son of Ranjit Singh.
Duleep Singh (b.1838, Coronated 1843, d.1893), Youngest son of Ranjit Singh.

1845-49 CE: after two Anglo Sikh Wars the British Empire take control of the Punjab

1849 CE: Formal Annexation of Punjab by the British Empire

1849 - 1947 CE: British Rule

1947 CE: Partition of India thus Punjab into 2 parts the Eastern part became the Indian Punjab and the Western part the Pakistan Punjab

1966 CE: Punjab in India divided into 3 parts on Linguistic basis

(Haryana, Himachal and Punjabi suba the present Punjab)

1984 CE: Operation Blue Star and its aftermath

See also