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: