Tuesday, 12 October 2021

138 - Delhi: When it was a district of Punjab

For some readers, this title would be intriguing. After all what Delhi, the capital of India for many centuries, has to do with Punjab. Moreover, in the popular imagination, Delhi and Punjab do not have much common in language and culture  (that's too is a misconception). But there is one close connection, which I would try to explain below.

The battle of Plassey in 1757 was probably the most important milestone in the history of the British conquest of India. Victory at Plassey provided East India Company a vast and a strong foothold in India in the shape of Bengal. Economically the most prosperous and populous subah of Bengal, that also included Bihar and parts of Orissa. In 1764 this occupation was formalized when EIC defeated the combined forces of Mir Qasim the Nawab of Bengal, Nawab Shuja ud Daula of Awadh and Shah Alam the Mughal Emperor. Shah Alam at the mercy of the British had no option but to sign a treaty under which he granted the East India Company Diwani of this subah, that is the right to collect revenues in Bengal and administer it as they pleased. That was the formal inauguration of the British Rule in India. State of Awadh (Oudh), one of the biggest in India, too came under the influence of EIC.

The victory against Tipu Sultan in 1799 tilted the balance of power in India in favour of EIC. In 1801 the company forced Nawab Saadat Ali Khan of Awadh to cede Lower Doab and Rohilkhand to EIC, more than half the territory of the richest state in India. Now the road to Delhi, which was under the protection of Marathas, was open and was captured just two years later in 1803 after their defeat in the Second Anglo-Maratha War. Along with Delhi city, many districts to the west and north of the city came under the control of EIC. These territories were named Delhi territories and were made part of North-Western Provinces or NWP, with capital at Agra. The same province was renamed the United Provinces of Agra and Oudh, after the annexation of Oudh in 1856.

Punjab 1861 (Delhi territories roughly comprised of Delhi and Hissar divisions)

Punjab 1890 (NWFP still was the part of Punjab)

This arrangement continued until 1857, when almost out of blue a mutiny broke out in the Bengal Army (as the largest part of the EIC army in India was called) and Delhi fell to the rebels on 11 May 1857. The city was recaptured by the English forces in September the same year, and the control of other lost areas was also regained over the next year.  After restoring law and order and re-establishing control over the city and the surrounding areas, the British authorities made some administrative changes and made Delhi and the adjoining territories, part of Punjab. This new arrangement continued until 1911, when the government of India decided to shift the capital of India from Calcutta to Delhi. At that point, Delhi was detached from Punjab and made a union/capital territory. Hence, it is an interesting fact of history that Delhi was a part of Punjab for almost half a century.

Punjab 1901 (After the separation of NWFP)

Punjab 1911 (The year Delhi was separated from Punjab)

As the city was administratively part of Punjab, so Punjab government and Punjabi contractors played an important part in the construction of new buildings and infrastructure for the new capital. One such example is of Sardar Sobha Singh (father of Khushwant Singh), a successful contractor from Hadali, district Khushab (then Shahpur). He constructed many landmarks of New Delhi like Connaught Place and India Gate. During this phase, many Punjabis came to Delhi and settled here. The next wave of settlers from Punjab came in 1947 when Sikhs and Hindus had to flee West Punjab and many of them were settled in Delhi.

Once Lahore, Delhi, and Agra were considered three imperial cities of the Mughals and Delhi was the most prominent of all three. But ironically first it was ruled from Agra for half a century and then for almost the same period from Lahore. However, it regained its lost glory in 1911, and still, it is the capital of the independent Republic of India and one of its most important cities.

For the interest of my readers, I am sharing the census of 1911 figures for Punjab،  the last census before Delhi was separated from Punjab and made the capital territory.

Census figures of Punjab for the year 1911.
(For the better view download the image or visit the following link)

I took the figures from the official census report of Punjab for the year 1911. The screenshot is given below and it is available on archive.org:

For the geographical details of the states you may visit my following post:

Tariq Amir

October 12, 2021. 

Monday, 10 May 2021

137 - The Princely States of Punjab


The English reached the shores of India in 1608 at Surat. In 1612 the East India Company's representatives met the emperor Jahangir and signed a commercial treaty. Gradually they established “factories” (trading posts) at many places along the lengthy coast of India. For the next century, the British confined their activities to trade. However, by the 1740s they had acquired significant political leverage in southern India. With their stronghold at Madras, they played a decisive role in regional politics. During this decade in Carnatic wars, the East India Co. defeated its regional adversaries and their French protectors. Now the way for expansion was open. The first big success came in 1757 when the company conquered Bengal and soon established its influence over Bihar and Awadh. By 1803 Delhi was also taken. This process completed in 1849 when Punjab, the last independent state was annexed. During this one century of conquest, many states succeeded in avoiding total annexation and retained some degree of autonomy. These states under the protection of British India were called the Princely States and numbered about 565. Punjab too had 34 such states and the demographics of these 34 states, prior to 1947, is the subject of this article.

The Princely States of Punjab.

The Princely States by the religion of the rulers. 

The princely states of India are an important segment of our history and played their role in shaping our future. I hope this article will be useful to the students of history. Here I would like to mention that you will find some exclaves of territories to the southwest of Delhi. These were small Muslim states and were confiscated by the British after the war of 1857 and given to the Sikh rulers as a reward for their help in suppressing the rebellion. 

Some of the borders of the Hill States can be incorrect to some extent. But more or less this map gives a fairly accurate idea of the location of the states. However, I am open to suggestions to improve it further.  

Tariq Amir
May 10, 2021.
Doha - Qatar.

Saturday, 20 March 2021

136 - Khewra Salt Mines, District Jhelum, Pakistan!

Khewra is a town in the district Jhelum, about five kilometers north of Pind Dadan Khan at the foot of the Salt Range or Kohistan-e-Namak as it is called in Urdu i.e, Land of Salt Mountains. Whoever named it as thus, could not have thought of a better name. Because salt is found at dozens perhaps hundreds of places in these mountains. The most famous of all these are the mines are at Khewra. These are so huge that they are considered the second biggest in the world after Sifto Salt Mines in Canada. 


Khewra is just 35 kilometers from my ancestral village Lilla and my father sometimes shares his fond memories of Khewra where his uncle and aunt lived and he often visited them in the 1950s for extended time periods and he still visits Khewra to meet his cousin. This time I went to Khewra after several years and took my children with me to see our relatives and the world-famous mine as well, which they have read about in their textbooks. 

Needless to say, the weather on 21 July 2019, was scorching and perhaps not a good time for such kind of excursions. But to our surprise, there were hundreds of people at the resort, which shows that the place is quite popular among the people who had thronged it from far away places. It was clear that thousands of people visit this place every day. 

Some official buildings, souvenir shops and a restaurant are located at the first stop near the parking area and from here one has to cross a bridge over a seasonal stream to reach the main entrance of the mine. Which can be done on foot or by a small tram and takes just a few minutes. 

The main entrance of Khewra Salt Mines. (21.07.2019.)

Ibrahim Tariq Ansari. (21.07.2019.)

The parkigng area. (21.07.2019.)

A beautiful old building. (21.07.2019.)

A view of the resort. (21.07.2019.)

The covered path towards the main entrance. (21.07.2019.)

The dry bed of the seasonal stream between the resort and the mine.  (21.07.2019.) 

A view of the bridge.  (21.07.2019.)

کھیوڑہ کوہستان نمک کا تاریخی پس منظر

کھیوڑہ میں نمک کی دریافت 326 قبل از مسیح میں اُس وقت ہوئی جب دریائے جہلم کے کنارے سکندراعظم اور راجہ پورس کے مابین جنگ لڑی گئی۔ سکندراعظم کے فوجیوں کے گھوڑے اس علاقے میں چرنے کے دوران پتھروں کو چاٹتے پائے گئے جس سے یہ نمک کی موجودگی کا انکشاف ہوا تھا، اس وقت سے یہاں نمک نکالنے کا کام جاری ہے۔ یہ دنیا میں نمک کا اہم ترین ذخیرہ ہے۔ کوہستان نمک کا سلسلہ دریائے جہلم کے قریب بیگنوالہ سے شروع ہوکر دریائے سندھ کالاباغ میں ختم ہوتا ہے۔ اس کی لمبائی 300 کلومیٹر چوڑائی 8 تا 30 کلومیٹر اور اونچائی 2200 فٹ تا 4990 فٹ (کوہ سکیسر) ہے۔ کھیوڑہ کو ارضیاتی عجائب گھر بھی قرار دیا جاتا ہے کیونکہ یہاں کروڑوں سال پرانے پری کیمبرین عہد سے موجودہ دور تک کے حجری آثار موجود ہیں۔ 1849ء میں انگریز انتظامیہ نے نمک کی نکاسی کا کام سائنسی بنیادوں پر شروع کیا۔ 1872ء میں ایک معروف انگریز مائنگ انجینئر، ڈاکٹر وارتھ نے نمک کے ذخائر تک براہ راست رسائی کے لیئے بڑی کان کی کھدائی کرائی جو تاحال فعال ہے۔ اس وقت کھیوڑہ کی کانوں میں 17 منزلوں سے نمک نکالا جارہا ہے۔ سائسی اصولوں کے مطابق کان سے 50 فیصد نمک نکال کر 50 فیصد بطور ستون چھوڑ دیا جاتا ہے جو کہ کان کی مضبوطی کو قائم رکھتا ہے۔ کھیوڑہ کان نمک دنیا کا خوردنی نمک کا دوسرا بڑا ذخیرہ ہے یہاں دو کروڑ بیس لاکھ ٹن کے ذخائر موجود ہیں۔ 

Historical Background of Khewra, The Salt Range
Salt was discovered in Khewra in 326 BC when a battle was fought between Alexander the Great and Raja Porus at the banks of river Jhelum. The presence of salt was revealed when the horses of Alexander's troops were found to be licking at the stones while grazing in this area. Since then salt is being extracted. It is the most important deposit of salt in the world. The Salt Range starts at Begnowala* near river Jhelum and ends at Kalabagh, river Indus. Its length is 300 kilometers and the width is from 8 to 30 kilometers and the height 2200 feet to 4990 feet (Sakesar peak). Khewra is called a geological museum also because millions of years old fossils from the Precambrian period are found here. In 1849 the British administration started the work of extracting salt on a scientific basis. In 1872 a well-known British mining engineer Doctor Warth, go the main mine excavated to access the salt deposits directly, which is still in use. At present salt is being excavated at seventeen levels from the Khewra mines. According to the scientific principles, 50% salt is extracted and the other 50% is left behind as support columns, which keeps the mines stable. Khewra salt mines are the second largest deposits of edible salt, here 22 million tons of deposits are found.

Brief History of PMDC Salt Mines Khewra
Tourist Resort

326 BC        Discovered by the licking of out crop salt by the horses of Alexander The                             Great who fought battle with Raja Porus. 

1500 AD     ASP Khan local leader of Khews informed the King  Akbar the Great abou the                     existence of salt deposit in Khewra. Minining initiated. 

1809            Sikhs taken [took] over the salt mines from Mughals. 

1849            British rulers taken [took] over the salt mines. 

1853            Aspiring [a spring ] of drinkable water was discovered and conveyed to                                 Khewra through a wooden tunnel.

1856            Motorable road was laid down between Khewra and P. D. Khan.  

1872            Dr. Warth first Chief Mining Engineer surveyed whole mines and introduced                        scientific mining system. He laid out main tunnel at ground level.

1886-87       Railway Bridge (Victoria) was constructed over the river Jhelum between the                        Railway Junction Malakwal and Khewra. 

1889-90       The salt production crosses 50,000 metric tonnes. 

1902            Hospital established to provide medical facilities to miners and workers of the                     salt mines.

1914            Production was reached 80,000 metric tonnes.

1918            Two steam engines were used in the mines for the carriage of rock salt.

1924-25       Power House with Two Disel Electric Generating sets, 500 HP were installed. 

1932            Chain cutter machines were imported.

1933             Automatic loading plant was installed. 

1971            The mines were switched over to WPIDC.

1974            PMDC taken over the mines from PIDC.

1998            Mining tub system switched over to tractor trolley system.

2002            Khewra Salt Mines Tourist Resort established. 

2003            Inauguration of Khewra Tourist Resort. 

2005            Khewra Asthma Clinic was Established. 

2007            Asthma Clinic working started.

2010            Renovation of Khewra Tourist Resort.  


                Chemical Name                Sodium Chloride      NaCL

                Mineralogical Name         Halite

                Hardness                           2.5

                Specific Gravity               2.16  Usually includes traces of Magnesium Chloride (MgCl2)
                                                         Magnesium Sulphate (MgSO4

                Sulphate                           Calcium Sulphate (CaSO4), Potassium Chloride (KCl) and
                                                         Magnesium Bromide (MgBr2)

                Common Use                   Seasoning agent, preservation of foods and edible purpose.

                Salt                                  Derived from the Latin word "Salarium" which means Salary, it 
                                                        served as amon in ancient Ethiopia & Tibet.

                Industrial Uses                Salt is the source of
                                                        1. Chlorine and its principal compounds 
                                                        2. Sodium  and its compounds

                Chlorine Compounds      Hydrochloric Acid, Chloroform, Carbon Tetra Chloride, Bleaching

                Sodium Compounds       Sodium Carbonate, Sodium Sulphate, Baking Soda i.e. Sodium 

                Uses                                Preservative for meats, Refrigeration Process in Dyeing, 
                                                       manufacturing of Soaps and Glass. Salt Crystals are used in the                                                                  study of infrared study.                 

A beautiful mosque at the resort.  (21.07.2019.)

Another view of the mosque.  (21.07.2019.)

A very interesting story is told in connection with the discovery of salt in this region. The credit for which is given to the horses of Alexander the Great's army in 323 BC. It is said that the soldiers noticed some horses licking on the rocks and on checking found them to contain salt. No doubt that the horses of this great general would be very smart but it is difficult to imagine this idea did not occur to any local horse or donkey etc before them. After all, we know that just across the river existed the thickly populated and well-organized kingdom of Raja Porus, having many horses and even elephants. I am not sure how fond elephants are of salt but horses could have accomplished this job long ago. 

Inside the tunnel. (21.07.2019.)

Huge chambers have been formed due to salt excavation on both sides of the tunnel, filled with water. (21.07.2019.)

The first thing which one feels inside the mine is the sudden drop in the temperature. Which is much cooler than the outside. A considerable length of the mines are open for tourists and many attractions have been constructed with bricks of pure salt for the enjoyment of tourists. One of them is a mosque and another a replica of Minar-e-Pakistan. There are many ponds that add to the beauty of the interior. The whole place is well lit and safe for the visitors. A guide leads the groups of visitors and informs them about the different attractions and features of the mines. However, one should keep an eye on children lest they get very close to the ponds. 

A mosque inside the mine built with salt bricks. (21.07.2019.)

A section of the mines lit with colourful lights. (21.07.2019.)

A replca of the Minar-e-Pakistan. (21.07.2019.)

This replica is too built with the salt bricks(21.07.2019.)

Another of the many ponds in the mines. (21.07.2019.)

Pillars constructed with pure salt along the side of acorridor. (21.07.2019.)

A big hall with a beautiful pool. (21.07.2019.)

Another decorative structure. (21.07.2019.)

Beautiful decorations in the pool. (21.07.2019.)

My family enjoying the fascinating surroundings and the cooler temperature. (21.07.2019.)

At the junction of two mines. (21.07.2019.)

Another of the many huge water poools in the mine. (21.07.2019.)

A wooden bridge over a large water pond. (21.07.2019.)

A souvenir shop. (21.07.2019.)

A section of the mine supported with large wooden beams. (21.07.2019.)

The mines are definitely a great wonder of nature and a source of income as well. The mines are a popular source of salt for a very long time. During the Mughal period and later during the Sikh rule, these mines were used to extract large quantities of salt. The British government of India introduced new technologies and techniques and increased production. It is estimated that the total deposits of salt are around 6.7 billion tons. These huge deposits can easily meet Pakistan's requirements for local use and export for many centuries. The nearby town Pind Dadan Khan owed its importance to a large extent to these mines. 

Tariq Amir
March 20, 2021.
Doha - Qatar.

Wednesday, 23 December 2020

135 - Everchanging Borders of Punjab (Historical Geography of Punjab)!

Punjab is an important historical region in Hindustan or the northern India. The word Punjab, meaning five rivers, in Persian came into use after the Muslim conquest of this region. Its natural boundaries are considered to be the Indus in the west and Yamuna in the East, Himalayan foothills in the north, and somewhere south of the confluence of five rivers of Punjab. But these boundaries are ill-defined and vague and kept on changing over the centuries. For example, Punjabi or its dialects are still spoken in large areas across Indus. In this article, we shall discuss the geographical boundaries of Punjab over the last three centuries. 

Punjab during the Mughal era, around 1700 AD.

As we can see in the map given above (and below as well), during the Mughal times the Punjab region was divided into three subahs. Lahore subah, lying between Indus and Sutlej, including presnt day Jammu region. While the areas south of Sutlej were part of Delhi subah. More intriguing are the boundaries of Multan, with northern Sindh and even a few faraway regions in Balochistan are shown as part of Multan. I leave this question to my readers how authentic is the map given below. 

A map showing subahs of the Mughal Empire in 1700 AD.

Sarkar-i-Khalsa in Punjab at the time of the death of Maharaja Ranjit Singh, 1839.

The Mughal Empire went into a rapid decline in the eighteenth century and in the middle of the century, they lost control of Punjab to the Sikhs and Afghans. The Sikhs ultimately won the contest with the Afghans for the control of Punjab under the leadership of Maharaja Ranjit Singh. He not only united all the petty states of Sikh sardars but also vastly expanded his kingdom in all directions by conquering Multan, Kashmir and Peshawar.
Punjab at the end of 1st Anglo-Sikh war in 1846 AD.

By the early nineteenth century, the British had become the supreme power and Punjab was the last to fell to their expanding empire. The first war between the two powers was fought in the winter of 1845-1846 and the Sikhs were defeated after a series of bloody and hard-fought battles. According to the treaty of Amritsar, signed after this defeat, Sarkar-i-Khalsa lost the territories between Beas and Sutlej rivers. Jammu was separated from the Punjab state and the Dogra rajas were recognized as the rulers of this state. Kashmir valley was also sold to Dogras. They further expanded their state and conquered Gilgit, Baltistan and Leh areas in the 1840s.

In 1849 after the Second Anglo-Sikh war Punjab was annexed to British India as a new province. Here it is pertinent to mention that some other Sikh states in the Malwa region succeeded in maintaining their independence by willingly coming under the protection of British India as the paramount power. A treaty was signed in 1809 between the Maharaja Ranjit Singh and the British, under the terms of this agreement river Sutlej was agreed upon as the border between the two countries. Thus barring Ranjit Singh against taking any action against these states. These states survived until 1947.

Punjab in 1858, after the merger of Delhi Territories with Punjab.

The British Indian Empire was sailing smoothly when suddenly the storm of 1857 rebellion burst upon it and almost the whole of north India was affected by it. Punjab mostly remained peaceful, except for rebellions by a few battalions of the Bengal Army stationed in Punjab. The Delhi city was the first to fall on 11 May 1857 but was recovered by late September the same year. Until then Delhi was part of North West Province, after the war due to some reasons the British thought it better to administer Delhi city and adjoining districts of Rohtak, Gurgaon, Hissar, Karnal, Ambala etc from Lahore. Thus the province was enlarged considerably and its boundary in the east reached the Yamuna river. These newly merged territories were mostly Hindi speaking. Some areas in the southeast of Delhi, formerly possessed by Muslims Nawabs, who rebelled against the British in 1857, were given to the Sikhs States of Patiala, Nabha and Jind, as a reward for actively supporting the British during the war of 1857.

Creation of N.W.F.P. as a separate province in 1901.

In 1901 a new province was created by separating six districts of Dera Ismail Khan, Tank, Kohat, Peshawar, Mardan and Mansehra, across the river Indus from Punjab. These districts were mostly populated by Pashto speakers. The new province was given the name of North West Frontier Province. 

Punjab after the separation of Delhi in 1911.

For administrative reasons, the British planned to shift the capital from Kolkata to Delhi in 1911. King George V laid the foundation of the new city on 2 December 1911. It took twenty years to complete the city and the viceroy Lord Irwin formally inaugurated it on February 13, 1931. Before that Delhi was a district of Punjab. 

The situation of Punjab in 1947. 

Notional Division of Punjab.

Once it became clear that Punjab would be divided on religious lines a notional division of Punjab was made in July 1947. It was based on simple majorities of Muslims and non-Muslims in the districts. 

Radcliffe Award on 17.08.2020.

To decide the final border between India and Pakistan a boundary commission was set up under a British barrister Mr Cyril John Radcliffe. He was given just five weeks to complete this extremely contentious and gigantic issue. His decision was made public on 17 August 1947. The dividing line which he suggested is called Radcliffe line and forms the border between India and Pakistan. It also divided Punjab in to two parts. 

Punjab from 1948 - 1956 AD. 

After the independence both parts of Punjab in Pakistan and India went under many administrative changes. The case of Pakistani Punjab was much more simple. The population, after the migration of Hindus and Sikhs, was ovewhelmingly Muslim and linguistically too was homogeneous with overwhelming population speaking Punjabi or its different dialects. So no big changes were required. However, Bahawalpur the only princely state of Punjab that acceded to Pakistan, was merged with the Punjab province in 1955. 

The situation in the Indian part of Punjab was more complex. Besides district there wre almost 33 princely states apread all over Punjab. These states were organized in to two groups. The states in Himalayan mountains were merged and given the name of Himachal Union Territory, these all states were Hindi speaking and ruled and inhabited mostly by Hindus. While the states in the plains were merged together to form PEPSU (Patiala & East Punjab States Union). These states were mostly Punjabi speaking, except three small states near Delhi. These were eight in number, the four larger ones were ruled by Sikhs and four smaller were ruled by Muslim rulers. 

Punjab 1957 - 1966 AD. 

In 1957 India took another major step towards the reoganization of the Punjab state. PEPSU was ablished and merged with the Punjab state.

Punjab after the creation of Islamabad Capital Territory in 1960 and the reogranization of Indian Punjab in 1966. 

Though almost all Mulims of Indian part had migrated to west in 1947, but still the followers of two religions were ihabiting this state, Sikhs and Hindus. Another issue that was causing resentment and unrest in the state was the issue of state's official lanague. More than half of the state's population was Hindi speaking. Sikhs were particularly resentful, because even after 1947 they were a religious and a linguistic minority in new Punjab. Indian constitution allowed the creation of new states or their reorganization on linguistic basis. Indeed in 1956 major inetnal changes were made, particularly in the southern and western areas of India and new states were created on the basis of language spoken in a particular area. The Sikhs on the basis of the same principle demanded a Punjabi Subah. But because of some reasons, the central government in Delhi draged their feet on this issue. Hindus of Punjab, both Hindi and Punjabi speaking too were not supportive of this idea. But the Sikhs are not a people to be cowed down by pressure tactics, they agitated for almost two decades before their demands were accepted and Hindi speaking areas were separated from Punjab and two states of Himachal Pradesh and Haryana were formed out of these areas. Thus finally the demands of the Sikhs were accepted and they became a majority in Punjab, first time in their history. Probably the great contribution of Sikhs in the war of 1965  finally convinced Indira Gandhi to accept the demands of the Sikhs. 

Map showing the location of Punjab in India in 1947.

Map showing the distribution of Population and Area between Pakistan and India. 

I hope the poeple having interest in the hisotry and geography of Punjab will like it. I do appreciate my readers for the suggestions or poinitng any mistake in facts or maps. For the more details abou division of Punjab you may visit my following post: 


Tariq Amir
December 23, 2020.
Doha - Qatar.