Also found in: Dictionary, Thesaurus, Wikipedia.
Related to Punjab: Sikh, Punjabi people


Punjab (pŭnˌjäbˈ) [Pers.,=five rivers], historic region in the NW of the Indian subcontinent. Since 1947 it has been separated into an Indian state and a Pakistani province bearing the same name. The Indus River bounds the region in part of the west and the Yamuna River in part of the east. The five rivers that give Punjab its name, the Jhelum, the Chenab, the Ravi, the Sutlej, and the Beas, merge to form the Panjnad, which flows into the Indus. Except in the north, where there are forested mountains yielding salt and coal, the Punjab is a level alluvial plain. Rainfall is scant and irregular, but extensive irrigation systems using the waters of the great rivers have made possible enormous agricultural productivity. Wheat (by far the leading crop), millet, barley, cotton, and sugarcane are grown, and there are extensive fruit orchards. The Punjab has a large textile industry and much flour milling. Communications (by road, by rail, and on the rivers) are excellent. More than 60% of the population of Punjab is Sikh (see Sikhism).


The region, situated athwart the main approaches to the Indian subcontinent, formed one of the centers of the prehistoric Indus valley civilization, and after c.1500 B.C. it was the site of the earliest Aryan settlements. The Punjab was occupied by Alexander the Great and then by the Maurya empire. Muslims occupied W Punjab by the 8th cent. and firmly implanted Islam. Not until the late 12th cent. did they conquer E Punjab, which even afterward remained predominantly Hindu. Under the Mughal empire the Punjab reached its cultural height. When the empire declined in the late 18th cent., the Sikhs rose to dominance. By the early 19th cent. their territorial aggrandizement brought conflict with the British, who emerged victorious in the two Sikh Wars (1846, 1849) and in 1849 annexed most of the Punjab and made it a province, though some of the princely states were retained.

With the creation of Pakistan in 1947, the Punjab was partitioned approximately along the line between the main concentrations of the Muslim and the Hindu populations. The western portion became the Pakistan province of West Punjab (renamed simply Punjab in 1949; 2017 provisional pop. 110,012,442; c.58,000 sq mi/150,220 sq km) with its capital at Lahore.

The Indian section (c.91,000 sq mi/235,690 sq km) of the Punjab was divided after partition into three areas. The numerous Punjab hill states were merged into the union territory of Himachal Pradesh (now a state), other princely states were formed into the union territory of Patiala and East Punjab States Union, and the remaining area became the Indian state of East Punjab. In 1956 East Punjab and Patiala and East Punjab States Union were merged to form the state of Punjab. In a further reorganization in 1966, Punjab was divided into two states: Hindi-speaking Haryana and Punjabi-speaking Punjab (2001 provisional pop. 24,289,296), 19,764 sq mi (51,189 sq km). The capital of Punjab is Chandigarh. Other important cities in Punjab are Amritsar, Jalandhar, and Ludhiana. A third portion of the former Punjab was added to Himachal Pradesh.

Sikh separatists have sought an independent Sikh state since 1947. The movement grew more militant in the face of attempts by India's central government to suppress the movement through military action, jailings, concessions to moderates, and internal subversion, and during the 1980s thousands died and Prime Minister Indira Gandhi was assassinated. Peace has now returned, but Punjab has not regained its former economic primacy. Punjab is governed by a chief minister and cabinet responsible to a bicameral legislature with one elected house and by a governor appointed by the president of India.

The Columbia Electronic Encyclopedia™ Copyright © 2022, Columbia University Press. Licensed from Columbia University Press. All rights reserved.
The following article is from The Great Soviet Encyclopedia (1979). It might be outdated or ideologically biased.



(literally “the land of five rivers”), a natural and historical region in South Asia, in India and Pakistan. Punjab occupies the northern part of the Indo-Gangetic Plain, which is composed primarily of alluvium. In the west is the sandy Thar Desert. Punjab is drained by the Sutlej, Jhelum, Chenab, Ravi, and Beas rivers, which converge to form the Panjnad River, a left tributary of the Indus. The prevailing elevation is from 150 to 350 m, with a gentle gradient (1°-2°). The climate is dry and warm, with sharp drops in temperature; January temperatures range from 13° to 16°C, and the average May temperature is approximately 35°C. Annual precipitation in the west totals approximately 150 mm, and in the east 700 mm; maximum precipitation occurs during the summer monsoon season. The rivers overflow annually and often change their courses. The natural vegetation, desert-savanna with thorny shrubs, survives primarily in the watershed areas. Improved landscapes predominate on 70 to 90 percent of the territory. Punjab has a broad network of irrigation canals. The major cities are Lahore (Pakistan) and Amritsar (India).


In the third through first half of the second millennium B.C., Punjab was included in the territory of one of the world’s oldest civilizations, the Harappa civilization (also Indus or Proto-Indus). Beginning in the second half of the second millennium B.C., the region was gradually settled by Aryan tribes, advancing from the west and northwest and mixing with the local inhabitants, thus forming the Indo-Aryan peoples and tribes, including the Madra, Jartika, and Kekaya. In the late sixth century B.C., a large part of Punjab was included in the ancient Persian Achaemenid state. From 327 to 325 B.C. the lands up to the Hyphasis (Beas) River were captured by Alexander the Great, after whose death Punjab became part of the ancient Indian Maurya empire. From the late second century B.C. to the mid-sixth century A.D., Punjab was successively ruled by the Greeks, the Kushans, the Guptas, and the Ephtalite Huns. After the collapse of the last (567), several small states governed by local rulers arose.

Beginning in the seventh century, Punjab became the object of conquest by the governors-general of the Umayyad Caliphate, which became established in Sind and in what is now Afghanistan. Beginning in the second half of the tenth century, it was subject to invasions by the Muslim emirs of Ghazni. In the early 11th century, it became part of the Ghaznavid state, the rulers of which moved their capital to Lahore. After the late 12th century, Punjab was part of the Ghurid state, the Sultanate of Delhi, and the Mogul Empire. The dominance of Muslim rulers led to the general spread of Islam throughout Punjab.

The fall of the Mogul Empire cleared the way in Punjab for the Iranian conqueror Nadir Shah (1736–47) and then for the Afghanistan shahs of the Durrani dynasty, who added the region to their possessions. The Sikh movement, which developed in Punjab in the early 16th century, led to the formation in the 1760’s of several independent Sikh principalities. In the early 19th century, all the Punjab lands west of the Sutlej River were united into a single independent Punjab state by Ranjit Singh, who ruled from 1799 to 1839. As a result of the Sikh Wars (1845–46 and 1848–49), Punjab was conquered by the British East India Company and divided into Punjab Province and 43 small principalities. In August 1947, with the formation of the dominions of India and Pakistan, Punjab was divided between the two states according to the religious composition of the population—the areas inhabited primarily by Muslims went to Pakistan, and those inhabited primarily by Sikhs and Hindus to India.




a state in northwestern India, in the basin of the Sutlej River, a tributary of the Indus. Area, 50,000 sq km. Population, 13.5 million (1971). The administrative center is Chandigarh.

The economy of the state is based on agriculture, and about half of the arable land is irrigated by canals. The main food crops are wheat (approximately 25 percent of India’s total harvest), legumes, barley, corn, and potatoes. Rice is grown on irrigated land. The state also produces 20 percent of India’s cotton, primarily medium-fiber varieties, and about 10 percent of its sugarcane. There are small tea plantations in the Kangra Valley. Livestock raising is also important; the state has about 6 million cattle and more than 1 million sheep and goats.

The leading industries are textiles and food processing, chiefly sugar and tea. The textile centers of Amritsar and Ludhiana produce cotton, wool, and silk cloth. Agricultural implements and sports goods are manufactured at Jullundur. Other enterprises include bicycle assembly plants, a paper factory, cement works, and a heavy water and chemical fertilizer plant (Nangal). Handicrafts include blankets, rugs, wooden articles, and shoes. The Bhakra-Nangal river-valley project is extremely important for the state’s economy.




a province in northeastern Pakistan, in the basin of the Indus River and its tributaries (Chenab). Area, 182,000 sq km. Population, 37.4 million (1972). The administrative center is Lahore.

Punjab is Pakistan’s most highly developed region. The mainstay of the economy is irrigated agriculture, although industry is also well developed. The province accounts for 25 percent of Pakistan’s territory and 57.6 percent of its population. Punjab produces more than 77 percent of the nation’s wheat, 43 percent of its rice, and 72 percent of its cotton and sugarcane, as well as 45 percent of its industrial output. Of the province’s roughly 6.5 million hectares of agricultural land, about 5 million hectares are irrigated. There is an extensive network of irrigation canals. The chief crops are wheat (37 percent of the province’s sown area), gram (13 percent), bajra (12 percent), rice (5 percent), jowar, corn, cotton, sugarcane, and oilseeds. Livestock, raised mostly in the north and northwest, includes 9 million sheep and 4 million goats.

The province’s extractive industries produce coal, antimony, rock salt, and petroleum. The leading industries are food processing, textiles, and other light industries. The cotton industry is concentrated in Lyallpur and Multan. Also important are machine building, metalworking (primarily in Lahore and its suburbs), and the manufacture of chemicals and cement. Handicrafts include metal and pottery household articles and art objects carved from ivory.

The Great Soviet Encyclopedia, 3rd Edition (1970-1979). © 2010 The Gale Group, Inc. All rights reserved.


1. (formerly) a province in NW British India: divided between India and Pakistan in 1947
2. a state of NW India: reorganized in 1966 as a Punjabi-speaking state, a large part forming the new state of Haryana; mainly agricultural. Capital: Chandigarh. Pop.: 24 289 296 (2001). Area: 50 255 sq. km (19 403 sq. miles)
3. a province of W Pakistan: created in 1947. Capital: Lahore. Pop.: 82 710 000 (2003 est.). Area: 205 344 sq. km (127 595 sq. miles)
Collins Discovery Encyclopedia, 1st edition © HarperCollins Publishers 2005
References in periodicals archive ?
Sept 14-17: Sindh vs Balochistan (UBL Sports Complex, Karachi); Central Punjab vs Southern Punjab (Gaddafi Stadium, Lahore); Khyber Pakhtunkhwa vs Northern (Abbottabad Cricket Stadium).
Punjab Minister for Excise appreciated the efforts of DG Sports Punjab for holding Chief Minister Punjab National Men and Women Karate Championship quite successfully at Nishtar Park Sports Complex.
IG Punjab Captain (retired) Arif Nawaz Khan said that Punjab Police is playing its full part for the betterment of the environment and Clean and Green Pakistan Campaign and tree plantation campaign has been started in this regard.
Director General Sports Punjab Adnan Arshad Aulakh, in a statement on Tuesday, said that upcoming Chief Minister Punjab National Men and Women Karate Championship is also part of this move to provide a suitable platform to talented youth of the province to express their potential.
A few months ago, the Punjab Parks and Wildlife Protection Department started working on documentaries of different animal species found in the province.
Director Admin JavedChohan presented a bouquet to o Nadeem Sarwar on behalf of Sports Board Punjab employees and lauded his services during his stay at Sports Board Punjab.
During the meetings, the Punjab CM and the Governor Punjab briefed the prime minister on the current political situation in the province.
According to details, Punjab Aab e Pak Authority will comprise of five private members.
As many as 34 personalities including Muhammad Arshad (Punjab), Dr.
Punjab Chief Minister Usman Buzdar, Information Minister Fawad Chaudhry, Minister of State for Overseas Pakistanis Syed Zulfiqar Abbas Bukhari alias Zulfi Bukhari, Minister Designate for National Health Services Amir Mehmood Kayani, and Special Assistant on Political Affairs Naeemul Haq were in attendance.
'We have been waiting for recommendations of federal and provincial committees set up for making of Southern Punjab province.
Issues related to the Southern Punjab have totally be neglected in this "historic" cabinet meeting being held at the conference room of Islamia University Bahawalpur.

Full browser ?