The word "Punjab" for the first time was mentioned in the Book
Shah'' (1580) which mentions the construction of Fort by a fellow named ``Sher
Khan of Punjab''. Again the name is mentioned in ``Ain-e-Akbari'' part 1 written
by Abul Fazal who also mentions that the territory of Punjab was divided into
two provinces of Lahore and Multan. Similarly in the second volume of ``Aeen-e-Akbari'' title of a chapter contains the word ``Punjab'' in it. Also
the Mughal King Jahangeer mentions the word ``Punjab'' on page 183 of his book
"Tuzk-i-Janhageeri". [Quraishee 73]
But Archeologists have traced the
signs of human habitation to times long before that of Mughals arrival. The
upper basin of Indus and the Baluchistan Plateau hosted one of the earliest human
civilizations known as the Indus valley civilization. The earliest signs of life
human activity date as far back as 7000 B.C. The Indus valley civilization grew
from small village and settlements to highly refined urban life. At its height,
around 3000 B.C., it boasted the splendid cities of Harrapa (Near present Day
Sahiwal in West Punjab) and Moen-jo Doro in the
lower Indus valley. The story of the decline, whose reasons are still not
completely explained, of civilization is also told through the remains of these
Among other reasons like the change in the weathers patterns, urbanization
without any rural agricultural production base one factor is reported
to be the series of raids or small scale migrations by the Aryans from
the North-West (1500-100 BC). The next thousand year history of Punjab
(or Arya-Varta, the land of Aryans, as Aryan called it) is dominated
by the Aryans and their interactions with the natives of the Indus basin.
Here is where the oldest books of human history called the Rig-Vedas
are supposed to have been written. The Aryan tongue Sanskrit became
a symbol of the Aryan domination of the area.
Easternmost Satrapy of the Persians:
Punjab lied at the outskirts of
the great Persian empires and came under their control from time to time. The
Persian King Darius the great is reported to have attacked Punjab and occupied
some parts. But for the first time the occupation of Punjab was completed by
the Persian King Gustasp in 516 BC. Punjab became the wealthiest Satrapy i.e.,
the province in the Persian kingdom.
Greeks, the rival empire of the
Persians, also had some knowledge of the area. The great Persian Emperor Darius
I (521-486 BC) appointed Sky lax the Greek to explore the area around Indus river
for commercial expeditions who provided an account of his voyage in his book
``Peripulus''. Hectaeus (500 BC) and Herodotus (483-431 BC) also wrote about the
``Indian Satrapy'' of the Persians. Alexander's expeditions were documented in
the works of Strobe, Ptolemy, Pliny, Arrian and others. They described a region
that had plenty of mighty rivers and was divided into four Kingdoms. In Greek
maps we find the mention of the mightiest of river of all the world called the
Indos (Indus) and its tributaries of Hydaspes (Jehlum), Akesines (Chenab),
Hydroatis (Ravi), Hyphasis (Satluj) and Hesidros (Beas).
In 321 BC Alexander the great after breaking the
might of the Persians entered their final Satrapy of Punjab. He invited all the
cheiftans of this Satrapy to come to him and submit to his authority, which is
exactly what the ruler of the northwest most (west of Hydaspes) kingdom of
Gandhara with its capital of Taxilai did. But the ruler of the Kingdom beteen
(Hydaspes and Akesines) refused to submit to Alexander's authority and the two
armies fought the historical battle on the bank of Akesines outside the town of
Nikaia (somewhere around modern city of Jehlum).
Porus put up a tough
fight but his army was no match for Alexanders army. After losing his sons and
getting hurt himself when the defiant Raja was brought in front of Alexander,
the legendary conversation took place when Alexander inquired Porus, ``How
should I treat you?'', the brave Porus shot back, ``The same way as a king
treats another king.''. Alexander was struck by his genius and he not only
returned the Kingdom back to Porus, but he also added the area lying between
Akesines and Hydraotis to his Kingdom whose ruler had fled.
with his other occupied areas established two cities in the area of Punjab,
where he settled people from his multi-national armies which included a majority
of Greeks and Macedonians. These cities along with the rule of the Indo-Greek
thrived long after Alexander's departure.
Alexander's Eastern empire
(from Syria to Punjab) was inherited by Selecus Nicator, the founder of Seleucid
dynasty. However the Greek empire in the east was disrupted by the ascendency of
the Bacterians. The Bacterian King Demetrius I added Punjab to his Kingdom in
the second century BC. The best known of the Indo-Greek kings was Menander who
established his independent kingdom centered at Taxila in 170 BC. He
later moved his capital to Sagala (The modern Sialkot). Menander soon captured
territories east of his kingdom and grew to rival the power of Bacterians.
Menander died in a vain attempt to conquer Bacteria in 130 BC. Menander's
successors maintained the their rule on Punjab till 55 BC when the whole area
was disrupted by the events happening in greater Euro-Asia.
In the middle
of the second century BC, Yui Chi tribe of modern China began to move westward
which caused in turn to Sakas or Scythians to move. Northern Sakas successfully
wrestled the power of the areas from the Indo-Greeks. Another Central Asiatic
people to make Punjab their home were the white Huns who made continuous
campaigns towars this part of the world. Finally establishing their rule in the
later 3rd century AD.
Following the birth of Islam in Arabia in 6th century
AD, Arabs rose to power and replaced the Persians as the major power in the
area. In 711-13 AD Arabs advanced to the land of five rivers, occupying Multan.
Further north the area that survived the Arab attcks was divided into small
Meanwhile in Ghazni after the death of Subuktgin, the Turk,
his son Mahmud assumed power in 997 AD. He was to expand his father's kingdom
far to the west and east of Ghazni through his military conquest. He was to
attack Punjab 17 times during his reign. The Ghaznavids were uprooted by the
Ghauris who extended their rule as far as Dehli. Shahabuddin Ghauri annexed
Lahore to his kingdom in 1186. After Ghauri's death his governor Qutbudin Aibak
became an independent ruler of Punjab and founded the Mamluk sultenate. Khiljis'
replaced the Mamluks in 1290. The rule of Khiljis was briefly disrupted by the
two successful raids by the Mongols who marched their way to dehli twice during
Alauddin khilji's rule. tughluqs succeeded Khiljis in 1320 AD. Tughluq rule was
replaced by the Sayyids in 1414 AD. Lodhis gained control of Dehli in 1479 AD.
The Rise of Sikh Power
Punjab presented a picture of chaos and
confusion when Ranjit singh took reins of Sukerchikias misal. The edifice of
Ahmad Shah abdali's empire in India had crumbled. Afghanistan was dismembered.
Peshawar and Kashmir though under the suzerainty of Afghanistan had attained de
facto independece. Barakzais were the masters of these places. Attock was ruled
by Wazrikhels and Jhang lay at the feet of Sials. Pathans were ruling Kasur.
Multan had thrown yoke and Nawab Muzaffar Khan had taken its charge.
Both Punjab and Sind were under Afghan rule since 1757 after Ahmad Shah
abdali was granted suzerainty over these two provinces. They were confronted
with the rising power of Siksh in PUnjab. Taimur Khan, a local Governer was able
to turn away Sikhs from Amritsar. He razed to the ground the fort of Ram Rauni.
But this state of affairs did not last long and the sikh misal joined hands and
defeated Taimur Shah and his Chief minister Jalal Khan. The Afghans were forced
to retreat and Lahore was occupied by the Sikhs in 1758, Jassa singh Ahluwalia
proclaimed Sikh's sovereignty and became its head. He struck coins to
commemorate his victory.
When ahmad Shah Abdali was engaged in his
campaign against the Marathas at Panipat in 1761, Jassa Singh Ahluwalia
plundered Sirhind and Dialpur, seized some places in Ferozepur district and took
under his possesion Jagraon and Kot Isa Khan on the other bank of Sutlej. He
captured Hoshioarpur and Naraingurh in Ambala and levied tribute from the chief
of Kapurthala. He then marched towards Jhang. Sial chief offered stout
resistance. When Ahmad Shah left in Feb 1761, Jassa Singh Ahluwalia again
attacked Sirhind and extended his territory as fas as Tarn Taran. He crossed
Bias and capture Sultanpur. In 1762, Ahmad Shah again appeared and a fierce
battle took place. It is called Ghalughara, a great holocaust. Jassa singh fled
to Kangra hills after Sikh forces were totally routed.after the departure of
Ahmad Shah Abdali, Jassa Singh Ahluwali attacked Sirhind, it was razed to ground
and the afghan Governer Zen Khan was killed. This was a great victory to Sikhs
who were rulers of all the area around the Sirhind. Jassa Singh hastitily paid
visit to Hari Mandir at Amritsar, and he made amends and restored it to original
shape as it was defiled by Ahmad Shah by slaughtering cows in its precincts.
Ahmad Shah died in June 1773. After his death power of Afghans declined
in Punjab. Taimur Shah ascended the throne at Kabul. By then misals, had
established themselves in Punjab. They had under their control the area as far
as Saharnpur in east, Attock in west, Kangra Jammu in north and Multan in south.
Efforts were made by Afghan rulers to dislodge Sikhs from their citadels. Taimur
Shah attacked Multan and defeated the Bhangis. The Bhangi sardars, Lehna Singh,
and Sobha singh were driven out of Lahore in 1767 by the Abdali but soon
reoccupied it. They remained in power in Lahore till 1793-the year when Shah
Zaman succeeded to the throne of Kabul.
The first attempt by Shah zaman was made in 1793. He came up to Hassan
Abdal from where he sent an army of 7000 strong cavalry under Ahmad
shsh Shahnachi but the Sikhs totally routed them. It was a great setback
to Shah zaman but again in 1795 he reorganised forces and attacked Hassan
ABdal, snathched Rohtas from Sukerchikias, whom leader was Ranjit Singh.
who suffered at Shah zaman' hands but did not lose courage. However,
shah had to be back in Kabul as an ivasion was apprehended on his own
country from the west. After he went back, Ranjit dislodged the Afghans
Shah Zaman could not sit idle. In 1796 he moved, crossed Indus for the
third time and dreamt of capturing Delhi. His ambition knew no bounds.
By now he had collected 3000 strong afghan army. He was confident a
large number of Indians will join with him. Nawab of KAsur had already
assured him help. Sahib Singh of Patiala betrayed his countrymen and
declared his intentions of helping Shah Zaman. Shah Zaman was also assured
help by the Rohillas, Wazir of Oudh, and Tipu Sultan of Mysore. The
news of Shah Zaman invasion spreadlike wild fire, people started fleeing
to hills for safety. Heads of Misals, though bound to give protection
to The people as they were collecting Rakhi tax from them were the first
to leave the people in lurch. By December Shah occupied territory up
to Jhelum. When he reached Gujarat Sahib singh bhangi panicked and left
Next was the territory of Ranjit singh. He was alert and raised an army
of 5000 horsemen. But they were inadequately armed with only spears
and muskets. The afghans were equipped with heavy artillery. Ranjit
singh thought of a stiff united fight against the invaders. He came
to Amritsar. A congregation of Sarbat Khlasa was called and many Sikh
sardars answered the call. An almost unanimous opinion prevailed that
Shah zaman's army should be allowed to enter the Punjab, and they all
should retire to hills.
Forces were reorganised under the
command of Ranjit singh and they marched towards Lahore. They were able to gave
Afghans a crushing defeat in several villages and ultimately sorrounded the city
of Lahore. Sorties were made in night in which they would kill a few Afghan
soldiers and then leave the city in the thick of darkness. Following this tactic
they were able to dislodge Afghans at several places.
In 1797, Shah Zaman, suddenly left for Afghansistan as his brother Mahmud
had revolted. Shahanchi khan with considerable force was left at Lahore.
The Sikhs however followed Shah up to Jhelum and snatched many goods
from him. The Sikhs returned and in the way were attacked by the army
of Shahnachi khan near Ram Nagar. The Sikhs routed his army. It was
the first major achievement of Ranjit Singh. He became the hero of the
land of Five Rivers and his reputation spread far and wide.
Again in 1798 Shah Zaman attacked Punjab to avenge his defeat in 1797,
people took refuge in hills. Sarbat Khalsa was again called and Sada
Kaur again pursued Sikhs to fight till the last man. This time even
Muslims were not spared by Shah zaman forces and he won Gujarat very
easily. Sada Kaur aroused the sense of Sikhs of national honor and if
they had left Amritsar then she will command the forces against Afghans.
She said an Afghani soldier was no match to a Sikh soldier . They would
be give befitting reply and by the grace of Sat Guru they would be successful.
The Afghans had plundered the towns and villages as they had vowed and
declared openly that they would exterminate the Sikhs; but in the process
the Muslims suffered most as Hindus and Sikhs had already left for the
hills. The Muslims thought that they would not be touched but their
hopes were belied and their provisions were forcible taken away by the
Shah Zaman sought help of raja Sansar Chand of Kangra, that he will
not give any food or shelter to Sikhs. He agreed. Shah Zaman attacked
Lahore and Sikhs were sorrounded from all sides, they had to fight a
grim battle. The Afghans occupied Lahore on Nov. 1798, and planned to
attack Amritsar. Ranjit Singh collected his Men and faced Shsh forces
about 8 Km from Amritsar. It was a well-matched encounter which forced
Afghan at last to retire. They were humiliated and fled towards Lahore.
Ranjit Singh pursued them and sorrounded Lahore. Afghan supply lines
were cut. Crops were burnt and other provisions plundered so that they
did not fall into Afghan's hands. The Afghans never expected such a
humiliating defeat at the hands of Sikhs. Nizam-ud.din of Kasur attacked
Siksh near Shahdara on the banks of Ravi, but his forces were no match
to sikhs. Here too, Muslims suffered the most. The retreating Afghans
and Nizam-ud-din forces plundered the town which antagonized the local
The Afghans struggled hard to dislodge Sikhs but in vain. Sikh cordon
was so strong that they made impossible for the Afghans to break it
and proceed towards Delhi. Ranjit singh became terror to them. The moment
Zaman Shah left, Ranjit singh pursued his forces and caught them unawares
near Gujranwala. They were chased further up to Jhelum. Many Afghan
were put to death and their war equipment was taken into possesion and
they were made to run for their lives. Shah Zaman was overthrown by
his brother and was blinded. He became a helpless creature and 12 years
later came to Punjab to seek refuge in Ranjit singh's darbar, who was
now the ruler of land. Destiny wished it like that.
Ranjit singh combined with Sahib
Singh of Gujrat (Punjab) and Milkha Singh of pindiwala and a large Sikh force,
fell upon the Afghan garrison while Shah Zaman was still in vicinity of Khyber
Pass. The Afghan forces fled towards north after having been routed by the Sikhs
leaving behind at Gujrat their dead including the Afghan deputy."(Bikramjit
Hasrat, Life and times of Ranjit Singh, p.36).
By this time the people
of the country had become aware of the rising strength of Ranjit singh, the
rising star on the horizon. He was the most popular leader of the Punjab and was
already yearnig to enter Lahore. The people of Lahore being extremely oppressed
raised their voices of wailing to the skies and were looking towards their
liberator. Muslims joined Hindus and Sikh residents of Lahore in making an
appeal to Ranjit Singh to free them from the tyrannical rule.
was written and was signed by Mian Ashak Mohammad, Mian Mukkam Din, Mohammad
Tahir, Mohammad Bakar, Hakim Rai, and Bhai Gurbaksh Singh. It was addressed to
Ranjit singh to free them from Bhangi sardars. Ranjit singh was invited to
liberate lahore as early as possible. He mobilised a 25000 Army and marched
towards Lahore on July 6, 1799.
It was a last day of Muharram when a big
procession was to be taken out in the town in the memory of the two grandsons of
Prophet Mohammad who were martyred in the battlefield without having a drop of
water. It was expected that Bhangi sardars will also participate in procession
and mourn with their Shia brethren. By the time procession was over Ranjit singh
had reached outskirts of city.
Early morning on July 7 1799, Ranjit singh's men had taken their positions.
Guns glistened and the bugles were sounded. Rani Sada kaur stood outside
Delhi gate and Ranjit singh proceeded towards Anarkali. ranjit singh
rode along the walls of the city and got the wall mined. A breach was
blown. . It created pani and confusion. Mukkam Din, who was one of the
signatories to the petition made a proclamation with the beat of drum
that town had been taken over by him and he was now head. He ordered
all the city gates to be opened. Ranjit singh entered the city with
his troops through the Lahori gae. Sada kaur with a detachment of cavalry
entered through Delhi gate. Before Bhangi sardars had any inkling of
it, a part of the citadel was occupied without any resistance. Sahib
singh and Mohar singh left the city and sought shelter at some safer
place. Chet singh was left either to fight, defend the town or flee
as he like. He shut himself in Hazuri Bagh with only 500 men. Ranjit
singh's cavalry sorrounded Hazuri Bagh and Chet singh surrendered and
he was given permission to leave the city along with his family.
singh was well entrenched in the town now. Immediately after taking possesion of
the city, he paid visit to Badashahi mosque. This gesture increased his prestige
and his status was in the eyes of people. He won the hearts of the subjects,
Hindus, Muslims, and Sikhs alike. It was July 7, 1799 when victorious Ranjit
Singh entered Lahore.