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Punjabi (ਪੰਜਾਬੀ in Gurmukhi, پنجابی in Shahmukhi) is a word that refers to the native language of the residents of the area of India and Pakistan (formerly India) called Punjab and also to the people who live in this region. This area is situated in North West part of India and North East Pakistan and includes the cities of Amritsar, Lahore, Jalandhar, Ludhiana, etc.

The Punjabi language can be written in two different scripts – Gurmukhi and Shahmukhi script. The Gurmukhi script is derived from the Landa Script and standardized by Guru Angad Dev (the second Sikh Guru) in the 16th century. This script was designed to write the Punjabi language and other native languages. The word Gurmukhi literally means - "From the Mouth of the Guru". The whole of the Guru Granth Sahib's 1430 pages are written in this script.

Punjabi is an Indo-European language of the Indo-Iranian subfamily. Unusually for an Indo-European language, Punjabi is tonal; the tones arose as a reinterpretation of different consonant series in terms of pitch. In terms of morphological complexity, it is an agglutinative language (also very unusual for an Indo-European language, most of which are inflecting) and words are usually ordered 'Subject Object Verb'.

The Punjabi people suffered a split between India and Pakistan during the Partition of 1947. However, Punjabi language and culture tend to be uniting factors in spite of national and religious affiliations.

Dialects and geographic distribution

Punjabi is the official language of the Indian state of Punjab and Chandigarh. It is one of the second official languages of Delhi and Haryana. It is also spoken in neighbouring areas such as Jammu and Kashmir and Himachal Pradesh. Punjabi is the predominant spoken language in the Punjab province of Pakistan although it has no official status there, and both Urdu and English are preferred languages .

Punjabi is also spoken as a minority language in several other countries where Punjabis have emigrated in large numbers such as the United States, Australia, the United Kingdom (where it is the second most commonly used language) and Canada (where it is the fifth most commonly used language). Punjabi is the preferred language of the Sikhs, as some of their religious literature is written in it. It is the usual language of Bhangra music, which has recently gained wide popularity both in South Asia and abroad.

There are many dialects of Punjabi and they all form part of a dialect continuum, merging with Sindhi and related languages in Pakistan, and Hindustani in India. The main dialects of Punjabi are Majhi, Doabi, Malwai and Powadhi in India, and Pothohari, Lahndi and Multani in Pakistan. Majhi is the standard written form of Punjabi and is the dialect used in both Amritsar and Lahore.

Punjabi Hindus

Punjabi Hindus are a group of people that follow the Hindu religion and have their roots in the erstwhile joint Punjab of greater Panjab (West Punjab/East Punjab).

Today they are distributed in most parts of the northern India and in some parts of western India like Mumbai. In India, most of the Punjabi Hindus are concentrated in Indian states of Punjab, Haryana and Delhi. There has also been continuous migration of Punjabi Hindus to western world countries like USA, Canada and UK.

The oldest Hindu texts such as the Vedas, Upanishads and Mahabharata were composed in Punjab or nearby region and therefore indirectly influenced the entire South Asian region through time.In fact, Punjabi Hindus can trace their roots from the time of the Vedas. Many would later convert into Sikhism to fight the Mughals. Hindu Punjabi's used to send their oldest son to become a Sikh this was mostly seen in the Khatri and Arora communities and is still practiced today. In fact, Punjabi Hindus can trace their roots from the time of the Vedas. Many modern day cities in Indian Punjab and Pakistan Punjab are still named from that period like Lahore etc.

Punjabi Hindus have their unique culture which resembles in some ways very closely to the culture of Sikhs and also differs in lot of other ways. The Punjabi Hindus usually have a very liberal lifestyle and are famous for their lavish wedding parties. Like other Hindus,and Sikhs they are also divided into castes. The most common castes are Khatri (Kshatriya in Hindi), Jatt or Jat, Brahman, Baniya, Rajput etc. Punjabi Hindus go to Hindu temples for worship.

Indian Punjabis

The population of Indian Punjab is divided into two major religious groups, the Sikhs and Hindus. It is further sub-divided into various tribal groups, social groups (caste) and economic groups. Major sub-groups in India include the Aroras (Khatris), Kalals/Ahluwalias, Bania, Bhatias, Saini Sikhs, Saini Hindus, Brahmin, Chamar, Chhimba, Chura, Jatt Sikhs, Kamboj Sikhs, Khatri, Labanas, Lohar, Mahtam, Mazhabi, Nais, Rajput, Ramgarhia, Ramdasia, Soods and Tarkhans etc. The largest subgroups are Jatts with around 20% of the population, Chamars with around 12% of the population and Churas with around 10% of the population. Like Punjabi Muslim society, these various castes are associated with particular occupations or crafts. Communities such as the Jatt Sikh, Kamboj Sikh and Saini Sikh are essentially farmers, while the Arora, Bania, Bhatia and Khatri are associated to trade. Other groups are associated with particular crafts, include Lohar who were historically ironsmiths, while Tarkhans were carpenters and the Nai were barbers.[35]

Indian Punjab is also home to small groups of Muslims and Christian. Most of the East Punjab's Muslims (in today's states of Punjab, Haryana, Himachal Pradesh, Delhi and Chandigarh) left for West Punjab in 1947. However, a small community still exists today, mainly in Malerkotla which was spared during partition, the only Muslim princely state among the seven that formed the erstwhile Patiala and East Punjab States Union (PEPSU). The other six (mostly Sikh) states were: Patiala, Nabha, Jind, Faridkot, Kapurthala and Kalsia.

Punjabis in India have mainly Indo-Aryan and Indo-Scythian origin. The Punjab region within India maintains a strong influence on the perceived culture of India towards the rest of the world. Numerous Bollywood film productions use the Punjabi language within its songs and dialogues as well as traditional dances and instruments such as the bhangra and the tabla. Prime Ministers of India including Gulzarilal Nanda and Inder Kumar Gujral in the past, and Dr. Manmohan Singh at present, are Punjabis, as are numerous players in the Indian cricket team (both past and present including Bishen Singh Bedi, Kapil Dev, Mohinder Amarnath, Navjot Sidhu, Harbhajan Singh, Yuvraj Singh, Yograj Singh).

See also

Banis in Gurmukhi

Setting up Gurmukhi facility on your Computer

External Links

Learning Punjabi

Basic alphabets


More advanced

Learning Shabads

Translation tools