Punjab ("five waters"), also spelled Panjab, is the most developed and populous province of Pakistan with approximately 56% of the country's total population. Lahore is the provincial capital and Punjab's main cultural, historical, administrative and economic center. [Wiki]
The history of Punjab dates back to the Indus civilization. The region has been invaded and ruled by many different empires and races including the Aryans, Persians, Greeks, Egyptians, Afghans, and Mongols.
The population of Punjab had been pre-dominantly Hindu with large Buddhist minorities before it was conquered by Muhammad bin Qasim in 712 AD. He was the first to bring the message of Islam to the region. It was later spread through the teachings of various Sufi saints. The Mughals controlled the region from 1524-1739. It was their reign that saw the construction of the great architectural wonders such as the Badshahi Mosque and the Shalimar Gardens.
Following the decline and subsequent fall of the Mughal Empire, Maharaja Ranjeet Singh was the most prominent ruler of the Punjab. He established the Sikh Empire that lasted from 1799-1849. During his time a lot of importance was given to the landed aristocracy and he relied upon their loyal support to retain power. However, after his death, political chaos ensued and two of his successor maharajas were assassinated in the succession struggle. The British Empire took control and annexed Punjab in 1849 after two Anglo Sikh Wars.
By virtue of its geo-political position, Punjab was one of Great Britain’s most important assets in colonial India allowing it to execute control over the numerous princely states that made up the country. The British rule saw a series of measures being introduced including the introduction of western education, a new revenue system and the establishment of a new administrative system. However, the increasing resentment of the people towards their colonial masters brought Punjab at the center of the rising rebellion. The Jallianwala Bagh Massacre of 1919 took place in Amritsar and following the Pakistan Resolution of 1940, Punjab was at the heart of the independence struggle of modern day Pakistan. During the partition of India in 1947, most of the Muslim dominated areas went on to form the present day province of Punjab while the Sikh and Hindu dominated regions formed the Indian states of Punjab, Haryana, and Himachal Pradesh.
In 1955 due to the rising tensions between East and West Pakistan, Punjab lost it province status. In 1972 however, following the secession of East Pakistan and formation of Bangladesh, it regained its standing. In 1965 and 1971, Punjab witnessed the two wars between India and Pakistan.
Today, Punjab remains the heartbeat of the nation and is at the center of all political and economic progress.
To the North of the Punjab is the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa Province and the federal capital area of Islamabad, to the North-East is Azad Kashmir, to its South-East is India (Indian Punjab & Rajasthan), to the South-West is the province of Sindh while to the West are Baluchistan and the Federally Administered Tribal Areas (FATA).
The province is predominantly on plain level, however, there are some hilly areas in the North-West and extreme South-West. There is also a plateau adjacent to the mountains known as the Potohar plateau and a desert belt in the South Eastern part known as Cholistan.
All the major rivers of the country namely Indus, Jhelum, Chanab, Ravi, & Sutlaj flow through this province. They originate from the Himalayas and pass from North-West to South-West. They are primeval in nature and the volume of water increases in the summer after the monsoon rains, resulting sometimes in floods.
Punjab is the most populous province of Pakistan. According to the 1998 census, the population of the province is 7,25,85,000. The population density is 353 persons per square kilometer as compared to the national figure of 164. It contains several major cities of the country: Lahore, Faisalabad, Rawalpindi, Multan and Gujranwala.
The land of 5-rivers, population-wise the largest, and once known as the granary of east, Punjab is the lifeline of Pakistan.
On account of its strategic location in the Indian sub-continent, wave after wave of migrants poured into the area and settled on its fertile lands and today, although originally belonging to the Aryan stock, the people of Punjab are descendants of the Iranians, Turks, Afghans and Arabs who came individually or in groups.
The people of Punjab ethnically belong to a pluralistic pattern of life but they have a common identity. They have one common faith, Islam, and they proudly share its glorious traditions in their thought and conduct. In their religious sensibility, in folklore, in regional and domestic culture and in their hopes and aspirations the people have a common identity. The dialects spoken in different regions of the land have a common vocabulary and a shared heritage. The people of Punjab also have a shared spiritual experience which has been disseminated by Tassawwaf and can be witnessed on the occasion of the remembrance festivals held on the Urs of great Sufi Saints.
Punjab has been the cradle of civilization since time immemorial.
The ruins of Harappa show an advanced urban culture that flourished over 5000 years ago. Taxila, another historic landmark also stands out as a proof of the achievements of the area in learning, arts and crafts in bygone ages.
The forts, palaces, gardens, mosques, mausoleums, are eloquent reminders of the great tradition in Muslim architecture. The structure of a mosque is simple and it expresses openness. Calligraphic inscriptions from the Holy Quran decorate mosques and mausoleums. The inscriptions on bricks and tiles of the mausoleum of Shah Rukn-e-Alam (1320 AD) at Multan are outstanding specimens of architectural calligraphy. The earliest existing building in South Asia with enameled tile work, is the tomb of Shah Yusuf Gardezi (1150 AD) at Multan. A specimen of the sixteenth century tile-work at Lahore is the tomb of Sheikh Musa Ahangar, with its brilliant blue dome. The tile-work of Emperor Shah Jahan's reign is of a richer and more elaborate nature. The pictured wall of the Lahore Fort is the last line in the tile-work in the entire world.
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