Punjab, state of India, located in the northwestern part of the subcontinent. It is bounded by the Indian states of Jammu and Kashmir to the north, Himachal Pradeshto the northeast, Haryana to the south and southeast, and Rajasthan to the southwest and by the country of Pakistan to the west. Punjab in its present form came into existence on November 1, 1966, when most of its predominantly Hindi-speaking areas were separated to form the new state of Haryana. The city of Chandigarh, within the Chandigarh union territory, is the joint capital of Punjab and Haryana.
The word Punjab is a compound of two Persian words, panj (“five”) and āb (“water”), thus signifying the land of five waters, or rivers (the Beas, Chenab, Jhelum, Ravi, and Sutlej). The word’s origin can perhaps be traced to panca nada, Sanskrit for “five rivers” and the name of a region mentioned in the ancient epic the Mahabharata. As applied to the present Indian state of Punjab, however, it is a misnomer: since the partition of India in 1947, only two of those rivers, the Sutlej and the Beas, lie within Punjab’s territory, while the Ravi flows only along part of its western border. Area 19,445 square miles (50,362 square km). Pop. (2011) 27,704,236.
Relief, drainage, and soils
Punjab spans three physiographic regions, the smallest being the Siwalik Range in the northeast, where elevations reach about 3,000 feet (900 metres). Farther south, the narrow, undulating foothill region is dissected by closely spaced seasonal torrents, locally known as chos, several of which terminate in the plain below without joining any stream. To the south and west of the foothills lies the broad flat tract, with low-lying floodplains separated by slightly elevated uplands. This region, with its fertile alluvial soils, slopes gently from an elevation of about 900 feet (275 metres) in the northeast to about 550 feet (170 metres) in the southwest. The southwestern part of the plains, formerly strewn with sand dunes, has mostly been levelled off with the expansion of irrigation projects.
Punjab has an inland subtropical location, and its climate is continental, being semiarid to subhumid. Summers are very hot. In June, the warmest month, daily temperatures in Ludhiana usually reach about 100 °F (upper 30s C) from a low in the upper 70s F (mid-20s C). In January, the coolest month, daily temperatures normally rise from the mid-40s (about 7 °C) into the mid-60s F (upper 10s C). Annual rainfall is highest in the Siwalik Range, which may receive more than 45 inches (1,150 mm), and lowest in the southwest, which may receive less than 12 inches (300 mm); statewide average annual precipitation is roughly 16 inches (400 mm). Most of the annual rainfall occurs from July to September, the months of the southwest monsoon. Winter rains from the western cyclones, occurring from December to March, account for less than one-fourth of the total rainfall.
Plant and animal life
With the growth of human settlement over the centuries, Punjab has been cleared of most of its forest cover. Over large parts of the Siwalik Range, bush vegetation has succeeded trees as a result of extensive deforestation. There have been attempts at reforestation on the hillsides, and eucalyptus trees have been planted along major roads.
Natural habitats for wildlife are severely limited because of intense competition from agriculture. Even so, many types of rodents (such as mice, rats, squirrels, and gerbils), bats, birds, and snakes, as well as some species of monkeys, have adapted to the farming environment. Larger mammals, including jackals, leopards, wild boar, various types of deer, civets, and pangolins (scaly anteaters), among others, are found in the Siwaliks.
Ballads of love and war, fairs and festivals, dancing, music, and Punjabi literature are among the characteristic expressions of the state’s cultural life. The origins of Punjabi literature trace to the mystical and religious verse of the 13th-century Sufi (mystic) Shaikh Farīd and to the 15th–16th-century founder of the Sikh faith, Guru Nanak; those figures were the first to use Punjabi extensively as a medium of poetic expression. The works of Sufi poet Waris Shah greatly enriched Punjabi literature in the second half of the 18th century. Contemporary in the 20th and early 21st centuries Punjabi literature found some of its greatest exponents in poet and author Bhai Vir Singh and the poets Puran Singh, Dhani Ram Chatrik, Mohan Singh “Mahir,” and Shiv Kumar Batalvi; renowned novelists included Jaswant Singh Kanwal, Gurdial Singh, Giani Gurdit Singh, and Sohan Singh Shital, among others. Kulwant Singh Virk is one of the best-known writers of short stories in Punjabi.