Punjab, a region in Northern India, has a long history and rich cultural heritage. The region has been invaded and ruled by many different empires and races, including the Aryans, Persians, Greeks, Egyptians, Afghans, and Mongols. Around the time of the 15th Century, Guru Nanak Dev founded the Sikh religion, which quickly came to prominence in the region, and shortly afterwards, Maharaja Ranjit Singh reformed the Punjab into a secular and powerful state. The 19th Century saw the beginning of British rule, which led to the emergence of several heroic Punjabi freedom fighters. In 1947, at the end of British rule, the Punjab was split between Pakistan and India.
Land of Ancient Civilizations and Epics
Punjab is the cradle of the Indus Valley Civilization, more than 4000 years old. Archaeological excavations, throughout the state, have revealed evidences of the magnificent cities of Harappa and Mohenjodaro, that lived and died along the banks of the mighty Indus and its tributaries. The Mahabharata, which narrates life between the 7th and 5th century BC, contains rich descriptions of the land and people of Punjab at that time. The Vedic and Epic period of the Punjab was socially and culturally very prolific as during this glorious period, the people accelerated in the fields of philosophy and culture. It is believed that parts of the Ramayana too, were written around the Shri Ram Tirath Ashram, near Amritsar; and it was in these forests that Lav and Kush grew up. Kaikyee belonged to this region. The authors of Vishnu Purana and the Shiv Purano belonged to the central Punjab. Other great historical discoveries have been unearthed at Ropar, Kiratpur, Dholbaha, Rohira and Ghuram. These relics throw light on the culture and changing architectural styles of Punjab, since the Harappan age. At Sanghol, in Fatehgarh Sahib district near Ludhiana, sites associated with great Mauryan Dynasty, have yielded remarkable relics that record the presence of Buddhism in the region.
Aryan Migration and Persian Rule(516 BC -- 321 AD)
Among other reasons, one of the reasons of the decline of Indus Valley Civilization could be a series of raids or small scale migration from North-West between 1500 B.C to 100 B.C . The next thousand years of the history of Punjab is dominated by the Aryans. They used to call it Arya-Varta or the land of Arya. Here is where the oldest books of human history called the Rig-Vedas are supposed to have been written. The Aryans spoke Sanskrit, which became common language of the people.
The location of Punjab was on the outskirts of the Great Persian empires. It was often attacked by the Persian rulers. The Persian King Darius the great was able to occupy some parts of Punjab. But he was Persian King Gustasp who completed the occupation of Punjab in 516 B.C. Soon, Punjab became the wealthiest of all the Satrapies i.e provinces of the Persian kingdom.
At that time the greatest rival of the Persians were the Greeks. They also had some knowledge of the area. Persian emperor Darius I appointed Skylax, the Greek to explore the area around Indus for its commercial viability . Skylax later wrote a book "Peripulus" in which he mentioned about the area and its richness . Hectaeus (500 BC) and Herodotus (483-431 BC) also wrote about the "Indian Satrapy" of the Persians. In Greek maps we find the mention of the mightiest of river of all the world called the Indos (Indus) and its tributaries of Hydaspes (Jehlum), Akesines (Chenab), Hydroatis (Ravi), Hyphasis (Satluj) and Hesidros (Beas).
Alexander's Invasion(321 AD)
The legendary king Great Alexander of Greece had an ambition of Conquering the World. Around 321 B.C after crushing the might of Persians , he entered India through its North-West frontiers . The place, which is modern day Punjab, was then under the rule of Persians and was the richest place on earth . Alexander invited all the local rulers of Punjab to submit to his authority . Some of the rulers did the same , but the ruler of the kingdom between rivers Hydaspes(Jehlum) and Akesines(Chenab) , the legendary king Porus , refused to submit to his authority. As a result , fierce battle took place . Both sides suffered heavy casualites. Porus lost his sons and got injured. In the end Alexander's forces took over Punjab and they brought Porus to Alexander's court. Here the legendary conversation took place . Alexander asked Porus "How should I treat you ?" . Porus shot back "In the same way as a king treats another king". Alexander was struck by his genius and bravery . He returned the kingdom back to Porus.
Alexander as with his other occupied areas established two cities in the area of Punjab, where he settled people from his multi-national armies which included a majority of Greeks and Macedonians. These cities along with the rule of the Indo-Greek thrived long after Alexander's departure.
Alexander's Eastern empire (from Syria to Punjab) was inherited by Selecus Nicator, the founder of Seleucid dynasty. However the Greek empire in the east was disrupted by the ascendency of the Bacterians. The Bacterian King Demetrius I added Punjab to his Kingdom in the second century BC. The best known of the Indo-Greek kings was Menander who established his independent kingdom centered at Taxila in 170 BC. He later moved his capital to Sagala (The modern Sialkot). Menander soon captured territories east of his kingdom and grew to rival the power of Bacterians. Menander died in a vain attempt to conquer Bacteria in 130 BC. Menander's successors maintained the their rule on Punjab till 55 BC when the whole area was disrupted by the events happening in greater Euro-Asia.
In the middle of the second century BC, Yui Chi tribe of modern China began to move westward which caused in turn to Sakas or Scythians to move. Northern Sakas successfully wrestled the power of the areas from the Indo-Greeks. Another Central Asiatic people to make Punjab their home were the white Huns who made continuous campaigns towars this part of the world. Finally establishing their rule in the later 3rd century AD.
Muslim Invasions(713 AD -- 1300 AD)
Following the birth of Islam in Arabia in 6th century AD, Arabs rose to power and replaced the Persians as the major power in the area. In 711-13 AD Arabs advanced to the land of five rivers, occupying Multan. Further north the area that survived the Arab attacks was divided into small kingdoms.
Meanwhile in Ghazni after the death of Subuktgin, the Turk, his son Mahmud assumed power in 997 AD. He was to expand his father's kingdom far to the west and east of Ghazni through his military conquest. He was to attack Punjab 17 times during his reign. The Ghaznavids were uprooted by the Ghauris who extended their rule as far as Dehli. Shahabuddin Ghauri annexed Lahore to his kingdom in 1186. After Ghauri's death his governor Qutbudin Aibak became an independent ruler of Punjab and founded the Mamluk sultenate. Khiljis' replaced the Mamluks in 1290. The rule of Khiljis was briefly disrupted by the two successful raids by the Mongols who marched their way to dehli twice during Alauddin khilji's rule. tughluqs succeeded Khiljis in 1320 AD. Tughluq rule was replaced by the Sayyids in 1414 AD. Lodhis gained control of Dehli in 1479 AD.
After that Mugals came and captured relatively the whole of India and remained in power for about 250 years.
The Rise of Sikh Power(1700 AD -- 1849 AD)
In 1469 A.D , Guru Nanak was born at Talwandi, now in Pakistan . He was to show the world a new light , the path of brotherhood amoung Hindus and Muslims . Soon he became famous accross Punjab and thousands of people started following his teachings . His followers were called the "SIKHS". Guru Angad Sahab Ji succeeded Guru Nanak in 1539 .He was followed by Guru Amardas Sahab Ji, Guru Ramdas Sahab Ji, Guru Ajan Dev Sahab Ji, Guru Har Gobind Sahab Ji, Guru Har Rai Sahab Ji, Guru Har Krihan Sahab Ji, Guru Teg Bahadur Sahab Ji and finally by Guru Gobind Singh Ji.
After Guru Gobind Singh Ji , the Sikhs started following the holy book, Shri Guru Grandh Sahab Ji, written and compiled by all the Gurus. The 10th Guru was Guru Gobind Singh Ji. He was a true warrior . On 13th April 1699 , he modified his Sikhs to a community , different from normal Hindus . From now on , Sikhs were required to keep long hair on head and beard . They were also required to wear a Pagdi i.e. a Turban. He faught several battles with Mughal emperor Aurangzeb.
Around 1757 A.D , both Punjab and Sind , had fallen to Ahmad Shah Abdali's rule . Ahmad Shah died in June 1773. After his death power of Afghans declined in Punjab.
Next was the territory of Ranjit singh. During the rein of Maharaja Ranjit Singh , the Sikhs had even ruled on Afganistan . The Sikh religion flourished and the territorial boundaries increased . Ranjit Singh constructed many Gurdwaras . He constructed the famous Sachkhand Sahib at Nanded in Maharashtra . He also covered the famous Har Mandir Sahib (Golden Temple) with Gold .
After his death in 1839, the Sikh governors started fighting with each other for supremacy . Slowly the Sikh kingdom started declining and the British took over it .
The British and the Post Independence Era
The British ruled Punjab for 200 years like the rest of India . Many of the Freedom Fighters of the Great Indian Freedom Struggle were from Punjab . Bhagat Singh, Rajguru, Sukhdev , Lala Lajpat Rai, Udham Singh were some of the brave sons of this soil who laid down their life for the country. In addition thousands of unsung heros sacrificed themselves in the "Jalia Wala Bagh" incident.
At last on 15 th August 1947, India became independent and the State was divided among India and Pakistan. Punjab was again divided into the states of present day Punjab, Haryana and Himachal Pradesh for administrative reasons in 1966 . Chandigarh on the border of Punjab and Haryana, remains the capital of the two states, yet is administered as a Union Territory from Delhi.