The first known documentation of the word “Punjab” is in the writings of Ibn Battuta, a Moroccan scholar, and explorer, who visited the region in the 14th century. In the second half of the 16th century too, many references to Punjab can be seen, like in ‘Ain-i-Akbari’ and the book ‘Tarikh-e-Sher Shah Suri’. The Mughal emperor Jahangir also mentions the word Punjab in ‘Tuzuk-i-Jahangiri’, an autobiography. Whereas, a Sanskrit equivalent word of Punjab is mentioned in the great epic, Mahabharata, where it is described as Pancha-nada, meaning a country of five rivers.
However, the history of Punjab region dates back even further, to as early as 3300 BCE – 1300 BCE. Punjab has had a rich history, from early civilizations, foreign invasions, ancient Indian empires, Mughals, Sikh rule, colonialism, and partition to the present day Punjab.
It is believed by most scholars that the earliest traces of human habitation in Punjab can be sourced back to the Soan Valley between Indus and Jhelum rivers. This era dates back to the first interglacial period of the Second Ice Age.
PUNJAB UNDER THE INDUS VALLEY CIVILIZATION
Ancient Punjab was the primary geographical extent of an ancient civilization, the Indus Valley Civilization, which was notable for advanced technologies and amenities such as the provision of a modern underground drainage system, construction of burnt brick houses, manufacturing of cotton and textiles, etc.
Several regions and sites in modern-day Punjab (and surrounding areas) have been identified, where the Indus Valley Civilization flourished. In 1921, the civilization was identified at Harappa in the Punjab region and then again in 1922 at Mohenjo-Daro, near the Indus River in the Sindh region of Punjab. Both the sites now, are present in Pakistan in the Punjab and Sindh regions, respectively. The ruins of cities found in the Indus Valley in Punjab date back thousands of years. The most notable cities being Harappa, Rakhigarhi (now in Hisar, Haryana, India), and Rupar (now Rupnagar city, Punjab, India).
History of Punjab : THE VEDIC AGE
The Punjab region has also been linked with the Vedic period, c.1500 – c.1100 BCE. In the ancient Vedic Period, Punjab was known as the “Sapta Sindhu’‘, the land of seven rivers, namely Vitsta and Vitamasa (Jhelum), Asikni (Chenab), Parusni and Iravati (Ravi) and the Satudri (Sutlej).
Rig-Veda, the oldest book in human history, is believed to have been written in Punjab.
The text embodies a literary record of the socio-cultural development of ancient Punjab (then known as Sapta Sindhu) and affords us a glimpse of the life of its people. Some of the early Janas (tribes) of Rig Veda also can be strongly attributed to this region. The rivers of Punjab often correspond to the eastern Janapads (realms, republics, and kingdoms of the Vedic period).
A significant battle of the Rig Vedic era in the 14th century CE, “The Battle of Ten Kings”, was fought between king Sudas of the Trtsu lineage of the Bharata clan on the one hand and a confederation of ten tribes on the other. The battle was fought on the banks of the river Ravi (then known as the river Parusni) in the Punjab region.
In Book 3 of Rig Veda, the Bharatas are noted to have crossed Beas and Sutlej, in their progress towards Kurukshetra where they came across a nascent (and temporary) inter-tribal alliance. This led to the battle, which is described in the 18th hymn of Book 7 of Rig Veda.
Another battle associated with Kurukshetra is the great battle of Mahabharata, which arose from a dynastic succession between two groups of cousins, the Kauravas and Pandavas, for the throne of Hastinapura. It was fought in Punjab in Kurukshetra (now a city in Haryana).
In its early history, Punjab was also a center of learning for ancient India. Founded in 1000 BC, Takhsh-Shila, a renowned ancient institute of higher learning, was one of the first international universities in the world. It attracted over 20,000 students from distant places such as China, Babylon, Syria, and Greece in addition to the Indian students already there.
Takshashila’s famous researchers and teachers include Panini (the great grammarian of Sanskrit), Kautilya, also known as Chanakya, (a king-maker, an astute political advisor, and the author of ArthaShastra), Charaka (the distinguished physician, whose research on the region’s flora and fauna, described in his Charaka Samhita strengthened the development of Ayurveda). The university used to be on the grounds of the Punjab region (now in Taxila city, Pakistan).
Out of such conflicts, struggles, conquests, and movements of the Vedic and Later Vedic age emerged the heroic society of Punjab, a society that laid special stress on the value of the action. The ideals and standards of that society are embedded in the Hindu Epics, like the Mahabharata.
Also read: Sheroes of Punjab