The Land of Five Rivers

map punjab

Punjab - or the Panj (Five), Aab (Waters / Rivers) - the land of five rivers (the Indus, Ravi, Chenab, Sutlej and Jhelum) is known for its lush green irrigated lands. Despite its generally dry climate, extensive irrigation by the river and canals makes it a rich agricultural region. Wheat and cotton are the largest crops. Other crops include rice, sugarcane, millet, corn, oilseeds, pulses, fruits, and vegetables. Livestock, poultry and fish production are account for its major produces. Its southern portion is however desert and semi desert including the Thar and Cholistan deserts. The remains of famous Drawar Fort in Cholistan desert still remind the visitors of its once majestic glory. Going purely by population, Punjab ranks first among the four provinces of Pakistan, while with 205,344 sq km, it ranks the second, after Balochistan. Punjab is part of the larger Punjab region, which is divided between India and Pakistan, known as East and West Punjab respectively. The Pakistani Punjab neighbours Sindh to the south, Balochistan and Federally Administered Tribal Areas to the west, North-West Frontier Province (NWFP) and Azad Kashmir to the north. According to the 1998 Census, the population of the province stands at 71.5 million (about 55% of the total population of Pakistan) compared with 47.12 million of 1981 population census figures. Population density in the province is 348 persons per square kilometre.

Punjab's economy is mainly agricultural, although industry makes a substantial contribution. The total geographic and reported areas are 20.66 and 16.30 million hectares respectively. 11.35 million hectares of the reported areas are under cultivation while 0.43 million hectares are under forests. Punjab commands one the largest canal irrigation systems of the world; 41.3 per cent of total cultivable land is irrigated solely by canals, while another 41.1 per cent by canal tube wells.

Left to Right: Grand Canyon replicated at Potwar Plateau -  Cholistan Desert near Rahim Yar Khan

Punjab consists mostly of plains north and south of the ancient Salt Range, which runs from east to west. The Punjab can be divided into five major physical regions, such as the Northern Mountains, South-West Mountains, Pothwar Plateau, the Upper Indus Plain and the Deserts.

Lahore is the capital of Punjab, which has been the historical capital of the region. The major language spoken in the Punjab is Punjabi and Punjabis comprise the largest ethnic group. Once Sikhs dominated the Pakistani Punjab and many important Sikh shrines still exist including the birthplace of the Guru Nanak (born at Nankana Sahib). However, since partition, majority of the population is now Muslim.

If one has to see the real Punjab, one must see its rural landscape and its indigenous people. Thriving villages along river and canal banks, living simple lives and livestock being their secondary earning resource. Farming booms in areas where river water reaches through an extensive network of canals. In fact the network of canals in Pakistan, particularly in Punjab is considered to be the largest in the world. As a consequence of the Indus Basin Water Treaty between India and Pakistan for sharing the water of rivers flowing in Pakistan from India, this network of canals was constructed for shifting of waters from one river to the other and facilitating provision of irrigation water. Areas where canal water cannot reach, has tube wells bored for which electricity is provided on concessional rates by the government.

The people of Punjab are sturdy, men of soil, patriotic, hospitable and extremely hardworking. Their day starts much before the sunset, when they move to their farms to water their crops. Women folk follow their males with breakfast consisting of "lassi" (made of yogurt and water with home breads and butter). although, mechanical means like tractor driven ploughs and crop cutters are finding their way into the rural life, but reliance on buffalo and oxen continues for ploughing, besides a means of obtaining milk. In the mornings, the elders also take their children to nearby village schools, since they do not want their off springs to remain illiterate and want them to become doctors and engineers. when the men are in the fields, women folk after doing the household chores, get together for a gossip and other "matters of common interest". The Punjabis are the backbone of the Pakistan Army and since the British days, a majority of the Punjabi youth in addition to the Pathans join the armed forces of the Pakistan to protect the frontiers of the country. The banner on the right is a British recruiting advertisement, which reads "Punjabi is a farmer during peacetime and a soldier during war. Most of the recipients of the Nishan-e-Haider, the highest gallantry military award of Pakistan hailed from the province of Punjab.

Besides agriculture, industry is also booming here, though mostly agro-based. The manufacturing industries produce textiles, machinery, electrical appliances, surgical instruments, metals, bicycles and rickshaws, floor coverings, and processed foods. The surgical appliances and sports goods are world acclaimed and many World Cup Football matches have the honour of using footballs made from Sialkot, Punjab. Beside Lahore, its other important cities and towns include Bahawalnagar, Bahawalpur, Faisalabad, Gujranwala, Multan, Rawalpindi, Sialkot, Sahiwal and small town but historically important Taxila and Harappa.

Music is imbued in the heart and blood of the people of Punjab. Not only men, horses and camels also dance to the beat of the drums. Classical music forms an important part of the cultural wealth of the Punjab. The Muslim musicians have contributed a vast number of ragas to the repertory of classical music and in compositions of classical ragas, there are such masters as Malika-I-Museequi (the queen of music) Roshan Ara Begum, Ustad Amanat Ali Khan, Ustad Salamat Ali Khan and world famous Late Ustad Fateh Ali Khan and Ustad Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan. For the popular taste, however, light music particularly ghazals and folk songs which have an appeal of their own, the names of late melody queen Noor Jahan and Malika Pukhraj stand out notably.

Folk songs and dances reflect a wide range of moods: the rains, sowing and harvesting seasons, 'Luddi', 'Jhoomer', ' Bhangrah', and 'Sammin' depict the joy of living. Love legends of Hir Ranjha, Mirza Sahiban, Sohni Mahenwal and Saiful Maluk are sung in different styles. Some of the folk singers have performed in many parts of the world and received acclaim and appreciation. Among the Punjab poets, the names of Sultan Bahu, Bulleh Shah and Mian Mohammad from yesteryears and folk singers like late Sain Marna and Tufail Niazi are well-known. After the death of renowned folk singer Alam Lohar, his son Asif Lohar has taken over the family's traditional "chimta style" singing, though mixed with modern instruments.

Related Links: | Punjab | Punjab Pictorial | Punjab |

This page was created on 1 January 2005 / 19 January 2007

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