The word 'Punjab’ appeared for the first time in the Book "Tarikh-e-Sher Shah” (1580). It describes the construction of a fort by 'Sher Khan of Punjab’. Reference to the word 'Punjab’ can be found in "Ain-e-Akbari” Part 1 as well, which describes that the territory can be divided into provinces of Lahore and Multan. Even the second volume of 'Ain-e-Akbari’ contains the word 'Punjab’ in it. The word also occurs in the book of the Mughal King Jahangir, under the name 'Tuzk-i-Janhageeri’. However, the first mentioning of Punjab as a place occurs in the Great Hindu epic Mahabharata, where it is described as Pancha-nanda meaning 'the country of five rivers’. Let us now delve into the origin and history of Punjab.
Archaeologists have discovered evidence of life in the Punjab region as early as 7000 B.C. By around 3000 BC, life grew in and around the Indus Valley, which gave rise to the Indus Valley Civilization. Then, there was the evolution of historic cities like Harappa (near Sahiwal in West Punjab) and Mohenjo Daro (near Sindh). After 19th century BC, there was the sudden decline in these civilizations. Next thousand years saw the dominance of Aryans, who migrated from the North-West (1500-100 BC), over the Indus region. The oldest book of human history, Rig Veda, is supposed to be written in the region only, during the Aryan period.
Punjab was continuously attacked by the Persian kings, as it was lying just at the outskirt of the Persian Empire. The Persian king King Gustasp conquered the region in 516 BC. Consequently, Punjab became the wealthiest satrapy i.e. a province of the Persian kingdom. Greeks, the strong competitors of the Persians, also had a lure for Punjab territory. In 321 BC, the Great Greek King Alexander invaded Punjab, breaking the authority of the Persian kings. He invited all the chieftains of the Persian Satrapy to come and surrender to him.
After a stretch of time, the Greek empire in the east was disrupted by the ascendancy of the Bacterians. In the second century BC, Bacterian king Demetrius I added Punjab to his kingdom. During the same period, the Northern Sakas successfully wrestled the power of the area from the Indo-Greeks. The white Huns established their rule over the state in the later 3rd century AD. Now, it was the turn of the Arabs to get attracted to the land. They conquered the area of Multan in 8th century AD. Meanwhile, Mahmud, the ruler of Ghazni, attacked Punjab 17 times during his reign. However, the Ghaznavids were uprooted by the Ghauris, who spreader as far as Delhi. Then, there were subsequent short-term rules of the Mamluks, Mongols, Khiljis and Tughluqs.
Punjab had a picture of chaos and disorder when Maharaja Ranjit Singh took over as its ruler, on 12th April 1801. Ahmad Shah Abdali's empire in India had crumbled. Punjab was under the Afghan rule since 1757 and they had to face the rising power of Sikhs. Sikhs joined hands to overthrow Taimul Shah and his Chief, Jalal Khan. Afghans had to return and Lahore came under the Sikhs in 1758. Jassa Singh Ahluwalia became the head of the Sikh sovereignty. Under his rule, the domain of Sikhs considerably grew over Punjab. After the death of Jassa Singh, Afghans started gaining power again. However, that was short term, as Maharaja Ranjit Singh built up a strong force to counteract them.
One of the main rivals to be defeated by Ranjit Singh was Shah Zaman. Shah Zaman, despite his previous defeats, attacked Lahore and surrounded Sikhs from all the sides. The Afghans now planned to attack Amritsar, which was well answered by the forces of Ranjit Singh. Ranjit Singh won the hearts of everyone in Punjab, irrespective of religion and status. It was on July 7, 1799 that the victorious Ranjit Singh entered Lahore. He finally acquired a kingdom in the Punjab, which stretched from the Sutlej river in the east to Peshawar in the west, and from the junction of the Sutlej and the Indus in the south to Ladakh in the north. Ranjit Singh died in 1839 and a succession struggle followed his death.
British entered the province of Punjab with 32,000 troops by 1845 and moved to the Sutlej frontier. British and Sikh troops engaged in the First Anglo-Sikh War near Ferozepur, in the late 1845. The war ended the following year and the territory between the Sutlej and the Beas fell into the hands of the British rule, along with Kashmir. As per the Peace Treaty and the Treaty of Lahore, Punjab was totally annexed by the British East India Company and Dhalip Singh, the minor Sikh ruler, was pensioned off. The black day of the Jalianwala Bagh Massacre occurred at Amritsar, in 1919. It agitated the Sikhs to revolt against the tyranny of the colonial rule. The 1940 Lahore Resolution of the Muslim League made Punjab the center of a bloodier struggle.
In 1946, communal tensions erupted between the majority Muslims of Punjab and the Hindu and Sikh minorities. The British Punjab province, which forms the present day Punjab province of Pakistan and the Punjab of India were partitioned in 1947, prior to independence. The Indian state of Punjab has never seen back after independence. The Green Revolution in the 1960s swept the land and consequently, it developed to become the bread-basket of the country. Punjab has grown ever since both in the economical and moral matter. Today, it is counted amongst the popular tourist destinations of the country as well.