The first impression of Punjab one gets is that of a land pulsating with prosperity. The plains of Punjab, with their fertile soil and abundant water supply, are naturally suited to be the breadbasket for India. The land of Punjab is a land of exciting culture, myriad images of swaying emerald green fields and hearty people whose robust rustic ways of camaraderie and bonhomie are very much a part of their heritage.
The state has achieved tremendous growth over the years due to the success of the Green Revolution in the early 70s. For a major period in the second half of the 20th century, Punjab led the other states in India to achieve self-sufficiency in crop production. The other major reason for the prosperity of the state are the great number of people who left their home for the countries in Europe and North America and, after long struggles, achieved successes there.
The people of the state are hard working and take life as it comes. Music and dance is in their blood and that is reflected in the Bhangra beats that are famous all over the world today.
Punjab is bounded on the west by Pakistan, on the north by Jammu and Kashmir, on the northeast by Himachal Pradesh and on the south by Haryana and Rajasthan. Punjab extends from the latitudes 29.30° North to 32.32° North and longitudes 73.55° East to 76.50° East.
Due to the presence of a large number of rivers, most of the Punjab is a fertile plain. Tributaries of the rivers Indus, Ravi, Sutlej, Beas, and Ghaggar flow towards the southeast crossing the entire state. There are many sub-tributaries of these rivers that provide a base for the most extensive canal system in India.
The southeast region of the state is semi-arid and gradually presents a desert landscape. A belt of undulating hills extends along the northeastern part of the state at the foot of the Himalayas.
The history of Punjab is as old as the history of the Indian Civilization. The land of five rivers, this state was known as Panchal when the Aryans came to India in the third millennium BC. before that, the whole region of the Sindhu (Indus) and its tributaries were inhibited by the Harappans or the people of Copper age who constructed great cities in this region. Ropar in modern Punjab is a great example of this civilization. The Harappan culture declined suddenly between 1800-1700 BC and its end is as puzzling as its beginning. After the decline of the Harappans, Aryans from Central Asia ventured into this land and made this their home.
Punjab was the first place on the Indian subcontinent where the Aryans actually decided to settle after a long period of grazing and fighting with the aboriginal communities. This was the place where later parts of the Rgveda and other Vedas were written. This was also the place where first war for the control of entire north India or Aryawart (as it was known in those days) was fought between the Aryans and non-Aryans, known as Dasragya War (war of 10 kings).
Draupadi, wife of the Pandava princes in Mahabharat, was the princess of Panchal though her father fought in the war of Mahabharat against the Pandavas. When the Aryans finally settled down in India, the region came under the rulers of Magadh kingdom in the last century BC.
Punjab always had a strategic importance due to its position on the famous Grand Trunk Road that connected the eastern parts of India to the extreme northwest point of Taxila (now in Afghanistan). This road was first constructed by Ashoka to have a better administration of the northwestern frontier, which was always a problem. After the decline of the Mauryan Empire, the Indo Greeks, Guptas, and Vardhans ruled this region in succession. After the coming of Muslims in the 9th-10th century AD, the region became an integral part of the Delhi Sultanate and the Mughal Empire. It was also under the Maratha rule for some time.
After the decline of the Mughal Empire, the most prominent ruler in this land was Maharaja Ranjit Singh in the early 19th century. After the death of Maharaja Ranjit Singh, the Sikhs could not hold on to their territory for long and the British controlled most of the region either directly or through the princely states.
The Partition of India in 1947 was a turning point for this state. Most of the Muslim dominated areas went out with Pakistan; while the Sikh and Hindu dominated areas remained with India. Lakhs of people were killed in the mayhem that engulfed in this region in the wake of the Partition. After independence, a new state of Punjab was created with modern day Haryana and Himachal Pradesh being a part of this state.
The festivals in Punjab have always been celebrated with much exuberance and fanfare. For the masses these festivals are popular occasions for social interaction and enjoyment.
Punjab being a predominantly agricultural state that prides itself on its food grain production, it is little wonder that its most significant festival is Baisakhi, which marks the arrival of the harvesting season. For the Sikhs, Baisakhi has a special significance because on this day in 1699, their tenth guru, Guru Gobind Singh organized the Order of the Khalsa.
The Gurpurab festival is celebrated by the Sikhs to express their reverence for their gurus. Two major Gurpurabs are celebrated during the year. The first in the month of Kartik (Oct-Nov) to celebrate the teachings of the founder of Sikhism, Guru Nanak, and the second in the month of Pausa (December-January) to celebrate the birth anniversary of Guru Govind Singh. On all Gurpurabs, non-stop recital of the granth sahib and religious discourses are held. Langars (free meals) are served to all without distinction of caste or creed.
A day after Holi, the Sikh community in Punjab observes Holla Mohalla with thousands of devout Sikhs gathering at Anandpur Sahib-where Guru Gobind Singh was baptized-to participate in the grand fair of Holla Mohalla. The whole place wears a festive look and processions are taken out and the people participate in the festivities with gaiety and fervor.
Tika is celebrated in the month of Kartik (Oct-Nov.) one day after Diwali. Women put a tika of saffron and rice grains on the foreheads of their brothers, to protect them from evil.
Like most other festivals of Punjab, Lohri too is a festival related to the seasons. Celebrated in the month of Pausa (December-January), it marks the end of the winter season. A huge bonfire is made in every house and the fire god is worshipped.
Teej heralds the onset of Sawan (monsoon), which is essential for the agricultural prosperity of the state. Dressed in all their finery, with menndi on their hands, the womenfolk converge to welcome the rains and pray for the long life of their husbands.
The state has three major seasons i.e. summer, monsoon, and winter. Summer remains in the state from April to June and the heat is unbearable at that time. Monsoon touches this state in the month of July and remain in action till September. Most of the rainfall in the state occurs during this season only. The annual average rainfall is 770 mm. winter comes in October and remains till March and extreme cold can be experienced at this time.
The most important tourist center in the state is Amritsar with its Golden Temple. This temple is considered to be the holiest of all the pilgrimages of Sikhism and houses Akal Takht, the supreme governing body of Sikhism. The Jalianwallah Bagh is a small park in the city where many pilgrims were massacred by the British police in the year 1919.
Wagah is the only open land point between India and Pakistan. The Changing of Guards and the ceremonial lowering of the flags ceremony at sundown are great tourist attractions and have their own symbolic importance.
Ludhiana is famous for its hosiery and woolen goods and products from Ludhiana are exported all over the world. For its production of hosiery, Ludhiana is also known as the Manchester of India. It also boasts of the world famous Punjab Agricultural University, which organizes the Kisan Mela every Year. Nearby is Killa Raipur, which is famous for its Rural Olympics.
Patiala is famous for its healthy food, loving people, wonderful parandaas, exciting Patiala peg and jootis. Easily accessible and well maintained, Patiala is a place that would give one the much-needed tranquility far from urban chaos. The Sports School and the Moti Bagh Palace are some of the places that one must visit to get a clear picture of the past of the state.
If Varanasi symbolizes the spirit of ancient India, then Chandigarh is its city of 'today'. It is the capital of both Punjab and Haryana. The city is considered to be a Mecca of modern architecture and planning all over the world. What makes Chandigarh extraordinary is the fact that within four decades, a barren landscape has been transformed into a modern and model human habitation. The making of a new city is like inventing a new tomorrow. And Chandigarh succeeds in ushering in a new dawn. The major attractions of this city are the Capitol Complex, Secretariat, Assembly, High Court, Open Hand, City Beautiful, Garden City, Piazza, Tower of Shadows, Geometric Hill, Martyr's Memorial, Sukhna Lake, Rock Garden, Leisure Valley, Rose Garden, Garden of Tranquility, Garden of Rare Plants, Garden of Annuals, Bougainvillea Garden, Botanical Garden, Garden of Aromatic Plants, Government Museum and Art Gallery, Museum of Evolution of Life, and International Dolls Museum.
Jalandhar is an ancient city but not much of its evidence is left now. Today, it is a major rail and road junction and an army cantonment.
The Yadavendra Gardens 24 kilometers on the Shimla road at Pinjore has charming Mughal style terraced lawns, flower beds, fountains, water channels and airy pavilions enclosed by high walls swathed in the mauve and magenta bougainvillea.
An ancient Indus Valley settlement was found near Ropar, which was also the meeting place of Punjab's legendary Maharajah Ranjit Singh and Lord William Bentick on October 31, 1831.