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Identification. The term "Punjabi" signifies both an inhabitant of the Punjab and a speaker of the predominant Language of that region, Punjabi. The name is from the Persian panj, "five," and ab, "river." The Punjab is defined by the Indus River and the five rivers to the south that flow out of the Himalayas to join it: the Jhelum, Chenab, Ravi, Beas, and Sutlej. These define five doabs, which differ culturally and linguistically. A doab is the land between two converging rivers. Culturally, Punjab actually extends southward still more, to the bed of the largely extinct Ghaggar, which also traces from the Himalayas to the Indus and joins it about where the Sutlej does. The Punjab culture region includes the states of Punjab in Pakistan and in India as well as portions of present-day North-West Frontier Province in Pakistan and Jammu, Rajasthan, and Himachal Pradesh in India.

Location. The region lies between 28° and 34° N and 70° and 74° E. It is mainly a nearly level plain, dropping in elevation from 300 meters in the northeast at the edge of the Siwalik range to about 100 meters at the point where the Indus becomes a single stream. Above the plain, the culture region includes the mountains of the Salt range in Pakistan and parts of the lower Himalayas in India. Its area is about 270,000 square kilometers. Of this, 205,344 square kilometers are in Pakistan Punjab and 50,362 square kilometers in Indian Punjab.

The climate is warm to temperate. The hottest season is May-June, when maximum daytime temperatures are about 40° C. The coolest months are January and February, when light nighttime frosts are common. Rainfall is monsoonal, with more than two-thirds falling in the summer rainy season. It is heaviest near the Himalayas. Along the Himalayan edge of the plains annual amounts of about 1 meter are normal. At Lahore, 100 kilometers out into the plain, rainfall is about 50 centimeters, and at Multan, about 500 kilometers from the mountains and in the center of the southeastern portion of the region, it is about 18 centimeters. There are two major agricultural seasons marked by two dry, hot harvest periods in April-May (rabi ) and September-October (kharif ). The Winter monsoon, although light, is vital for the wheat crop that provides the traditional staple of the region.

Demography. The combined population of Indian and Pakistan Punjab in 1981 was about 64.1 million, compared to about 36.6 million in 1961. Population densities in rural areas range from over 1,900 persons per square kilometer in the highly urbanized Lahore District in Pakistan to about 10 persons per square kilometer in the desert of the Thal Doab between the Indus and the lower portion of the Chenab (Mianwala District). Indian Punjab had about 333 persons per square kilometer.

Linguistic Affiliation. Punjabi is Indo-European with close relations to surrounding languages, particularly to Pahari to the east. It is divided into six major dialects, localized in the major doabs. The Majhi and Malwa dialects are considered the most "pure." Majhi occupies the upper half of the Bari Doab, the plain region between the Ravi and the Sutlej rivers, which includes the cities of Lahore and Amritsar. The Malwa tract is just south of this between the Sutlej and Ghaggar, centering on Bhatinda. The other dialects are Doabi, spoken around Jalandhar between the Beas and the Sutlej; Powadhi, spoken in the eastern portion of the doab between the Sutlej and Ghaggar, centering on Sirhind; Dogri in Jammu District of Jammu and Kashmir and Kangra District of Himachal Pradesh; and finally Bhattiani, extending southeast from the Malwa tract across the eastern tip of Haryana State and into Ganganagar District of Rajasthan. North and west of Majhi, Punjabi gives way to Lahnda, also called Western Punjabi, which is spoken all across the Western half of the Pakistani Punjab. While linguistically distinguishable, Lahnda speakers generally consider themselves Punjabi. Lahnda and Bhattiani have been attenuated further by large migrations to the canal colonies of Shahpur, Lyallpur, Montgomery, and Multan and to Ganganagar District in Rajasthan. These schemes comprised almost 2.5 million hectares of new agricultural land by 1930, and by far the largest numbers of settlers were Jat farmers from around Lahore, Amritsar, Ludhiana, and Jalandhar.

History and Cultural Relations

The Punjab is an ancient center of civilization. Historically it has been the main route of invasion and migration into India, going back beyond the Harappans. Harappa itself is on the Ravi in Punjab near present-day Montgomery, while Mohenjo Daro is on the Indus in Sindh just outside the natural gateway to Punjab that is formed as the Suliman range curves southward to squeeze the five rivers together. Remains of Numerous Harappan communities extend from there to Gujarat in the west and to the upper Jamuna in the east. Invaders since the Harappans have included the ancient Aryans who are responsible for the Rig Veda, Scythians, Greeks (Alexander the Great came as far as the Ravi), Arabs, Persians, Afghans, Pathans, Baluchis, Mongols, and Europeans. Each group has left its marks.

The chief historic cities of Punjab are Lahore, Amritsar, Ludhiana, Jalandhar, and Patiala. They are part of a line of commercial and military centers that lie along ancient routes from the Khyber Pass through the Ganges Plain. Along this route, rainfall is reliable, soils are deep, groundwater is accessible, and the climate is moderate. Cities in this belt south and east of Punjab include Delhi, Varanasi, Lucknow, Meerut, Allahabad, and Patna. These linkages keep Punjab in constant communication with surrounding regions. Punjabi culture has never been isolated.

Modern Punjabi culture has been shaped profoundly by the partitioning of India and Pakistan that accompanied independence in 1947. This event resulted in massive migrations that separated Muslims from Hindus and Sikhs, drove the Sikh cultivators who had been the backbone of the canal colonies to India, made Sikhs for the first time an actual majority in rural areas of central Indian Punjab, and initiated Divergent government policies that have had far-reaching effects on all areas of life.


Compared to surrounding regions, Punjab's population is evenly spread and dense, particularly in the central areas. In Indian Punjab the rural population is consistently 60-70 percent of the total. It is similar in the adjoining districts of Pakistani Punjab except for Lahore District, which is 84 percent urban. Urban settlements now are sprawling towns, growing rapidly in both Punjabs but faster in Pakistan. Formerly they were walled and compact, with many-storied houses and narrow lanes for defense and shade. The towns are educational and administrative centers, and they have active agriculture trading sectors as well as numerous and diverse types of manufacturing. The estimated 1981 populations of the principal towns were as follows: Lahore, 2,922,000; Lyallpur (Faisalabad), 1,092,000; Multan, 730,000; Sialkot, 296,000; Amritsar, 595,000; Ludhiana, 607,000; Jalandhar, 408,000; and Patiala, 206,000.

Villages in the Punjab plains are nucleated. In the older villagesapart from the canal colonies, where villages were laid out in blocks at crossroadshouses are built together in a compact area and the outer walls are joined together to make a common rampart, with limited points of entry. Houses abut one another along narrow lanes, sharing many common walls. One can reach much of the village by going over rooftops, but the only access to the rooftops is from the inside of houses. Close outside this wall are work areas and areas for storage, or perhaps a village mill. Beyond this the agricultural fields lie open; only valuable orchards would be fenced. At some distance in the fields there are always one or two cremation grounds and some ritual sites. In larger Villages, there are commonly separate sides or neighborhoods for upper-and lower-caste groups, and there may be concentrations of households of specific caste or lineage groups in a particular lane or area.

Stereotypically, and commonly, the main entry to a Village is through a masonry gateway, called the durwaza, which arches over the main road and limits the size of vehicles that can enter. It may be up to 20 meters long. Inside, along the roadway on both sides, it has wide raised plinths, where People can sit. The durwaza is always an important meeting place and the preferred stopping place for visiting artisans and traders.

The average population of a village in the central area is about 990 persons, but the distribution is highly skewed. About two-thirds of the villages are of less than average size.

Since independence many houses have been built outside the former rampart, and farmers have begun building houses directly in their fields, particularly at well sites. Many small new hamlets have also been established. The changes in settlement patterns reflect increased geographical mobility and regional integration. In India's Punjab all villages have been electrified and connected by paved roads. Almost all now have some kind of private motorized transport vans, motor rickshaws, or minibuses. Pakistani Punjab has a similar density of infrastructure in the central canal colonies, but it also has many areas that lack both electricity and paved roads.


Subsistence and Commercial Activities. The Punjab has long been one of the world's most important agricultural Regions. Pakistan's Punjab, which comprises 25.7 percent of its total land area, is its most important agricultural area by far. Its principal crops are cotton and wheat. Indian Punjab, although only about 1.7 percent of the total area of India, produces about 21 percent of India's wheat and 8.5 percent of its rice. The agriculture has several distinctive features, Beginning with heavy reliance on irrigation and exceptionally high cropping densities and levels of investment.

Punjab agriculturalists cannot be divided into subsistence and commercial sectors. Even farmers who sell most of what they grow still obtain most of what they consume from their own fields. The agricultural system involves intensive multicropping and most of the major commercial crops are also traditional food crops. The diet is simple, based on Winter and summer "typical" combinations of a bread made of grain from the last season with a pulse from the last season or a vegetable from the present season. Thus, for example, the typical meal in the cold months is a maize roti (a flat bread cooked on an iron skillet, without oil) with sarson ka sag (mustard greens with spices, onions, garlic, and clarified butter cooked into a thick soup). In the other months, the most common meal is wheat roti and a side dish such as curried lentils, chick-peas, potatoes, squash, or okra.

The main exceptions to the general rule that marketed crops are simply food crops produced in excess of the family needs are rice in Indian Punjab and cotton in Pakistani Punjab. Cotton is a historic cash crop grown for export; taking advantage of the dry climate and rich soils, it requires about the same amount of water as wheat and can be readily grown with canal irrigation. It has been largely abandoned in Indian Punjab because it carries about a 50 percent risk of loss. Rice was introduced as a response to widespread flooding in the Amritsar area in the mid-1960s, caused by new canals traversing the area. It has since spread to other areas as electrification has become available for private bore wells, but it has not been adopted into the diet.

From about 1965 to 1978, both parts of Punjab underwent a "green revolution." This is a blend of advanced University-based seed production, relatively small-scale machine and storage technologies, and a system of rural support institutions suited to family-owned peasant management. Since their consolidation in Punjab, these technologies and institutions have been steadily spreading outward. Punjabi migrants are prominent leaders of agricultural innovation in many surrounding regions. Punjab agriculture is also characterized by a large cattle population. Major animals are oxen (Bos indica), camels, and buffalo.

Cattle population densities are higher in Punjab than surrounding regions, and the cattle are generally larger and more productive, except that Haryana, to the south, is known for producing even larger oxen as plow animals. With mechanization accompanying the green revolution technologies, the densities have increased and the proportions have changed. The number of camels, oxen, and Indica cows has been reduced, and that of milk animals, mainly buffalo, has greatly increased. Their size and quality have also been increased by artificial insemination programs. Many farmers have also obtained new Indica-Jersey or Indica-Holstein cows.

Industrial Arts and Trade. Associated with this agricultural base is an extensive economic infrastructure, including agroprocessing and agroservice industries, along with light and medium manufacturing. Ludhiana is widely known for very large scale bicycle manufacturing as well as the production of agricultural tools of many types. The infrastructure includes a vigorous truck transport industry, major agricultural universities in both Punjabs, and, in Indian Punjab, an extensive system of cooperatives engaged in obtaining input Materials and distributing them to farmers as well as large-scale buying and transport of commodities on behalf of the national food-grain pools. Other cooperatives are engaged in sugar manufacturing, dairying, transport, and various smallscale industries such as the production of cotton and woolen textiles and clothing. Heavier production, both publicly and privately owned, includes farm tractors, railroad cars, cement, tools, and bicycles.

In Pakistani Punjab the agricultural infrastructure is weaker but heavy manufacturing is stronger. Major products include textiles, machinery, electrical appliances, surgical equipment, floor coverings, bicycles and rickshaws, and foodstuffs.

Division of Labor. Urban areas in Punjab have the full range of occupations that exist in any comparable economic system: doctors, lawyers, teachers, government workers, engineers, mechanics, construction workers, shopkeepers, bankers, truck drivers, street sweepers, and so on. There is a high degree of industrial and craft specialization. Women as well as men participate in the labor force and in the professions. The proportion of women is lower in Pakistani Punjab.

In rural areas, the main occupational groups are: agriculturalists (landowner/farmer), about 50 percent; agricultural laborers, about 30 percent; and specialized artisans, about 20 percentcarpenters, masons, blacksmiths, mechanics, millers, operators of cotton gins. Large villages also have one or two shopkeepers, teachers, tailors, a mail carrier or postmaster, religious professionals, and perhaps a medical practitioner of some kind. Agriculturalists now commonly hire themselves out with their equipment for custom work such as plowing or harvesting with a combine.

The household division of labor is based on sex and seniority. In better-off households, men usually deal with the main property from which the family obtains its income: land, a shop, or the husband/father's individual vocation. The wife or mother of the senior man heads the women's side of the household. She takes direct charge of the internal household budget, oversees stores, takes care of young animals, directs the activities of other women and girls in the house, manages household servants, and oversees the daily preparation and distribution of food and the care of children. Sons are under the care of their mothers until about school age, when they begin to accompany their fathers at their work. In laboring households, both men and women work, although usually at different tasks. Men receive higher pay and do work that is physically more difficult. It is becoming common for women to take salaried work, but it would be considered very odd for a woman to set up an independent household.


Kin Groups and Descent. The most important descent/kinship groups in Punjab, in order of comprehensiveness, are caste (jati ), clan (got ), village (pind ), division (patti ), and family (parivar ). In Punjab a caste is described as a group of families in an area, with common ancestry, who marry among themselves and have a common traditional occupation based upon a common type of inherited productive property.

Castes generally have origin stories that explain how they came into the area and/or into their present occupational position. Lower castes are described either as original landholders who were defeated and subordinated by later invaders (who became the present landholders), or alternatively as latecomers who were given their present occupation by the landholders in exchange for being allowed to settle. Higher castes are described as successful invaders or as a group given the land of an area by some past ruler for notable services.

In villages, castes commonly fall into higher and lower groups. Traditionally, members of the lower caste would have been considered unclean by the upper, and they might have been denied house sites and access to public wells on the upper-caste side of the village, and they also might have had to use different ritual specialists for marriages and other Lifecycle rituals. Exactly which castes are put in each group varies by area, but the upper castes usually are Brahmans, landowners, and skilled artisans, while the lower groups do work such as handling dead animals and sweeping up offal. Landowning castes include Jats, Rajputs, Sainis, Kambohs, Brahmans, Gujars, and Ahirs. The term "Rajput" literally means "son of a king," but most of the other names are purely ethnic in connotation. There is no caste group literally named "landowner" or farmer. Artisan castes include carpenters, masons, blacksmiths, barbers, operators of cotton gins, and perhaps weavers. The lower group contains leatherworkers and sweepers. People often do not actually perform the work their caste name suggests. Leatherworkers, for example, are a numerous group who usually do agricultural labor. People of lower castes often use different caste names according to religion; for example, a Mazhbi is a leatherworker who is a Sikh.

In Punjab, caste discrimination is not generally supported by religion. It is specifically rejected in all forms of Islam and Sikhism. Many local Hindu sects and movements, such as Radhoswami, reject it as well. Each jati is divided into an indefinite number of clans (got). A got is a group descended from a common ancestor, not specifically known, whose members are more closely related to each other than to other members of the caste. Gots are exogamous; one must not marry a person from the gots of any of one's four grandparents. People commonly use the name of their got as part of their personal name.

Villages are also exogamous, and people of one's village are addressed with kinship terms as though they were people of one's own family, irrespective of caste or got. A pattiliterally, a divisionis the largest group of families with actual common ancestry within a caste or got in a single village. A family (parivar) is the basic and most important unit of Punjab society. The complementary roles of men and women in the household division of labor are based upon complementary rights and duties in terms of the kinship system, particularly complementary rights over property (see below).

Kinship Terminology. The Punjabi kinship terminology distinguishes just four superior generations and four inferior generations, but there is no limit to the relationships that may be considered collateral.

In Ego's own generation, all males are addressed as bhai (brother) and all females are bhain (sister). These terms include all of those who would be called "cousin" in English, and many more. In the first ascending generation, the terminology distinguishes mother, mother's brother, and mother's sister, and each of their respective spouses, all of which are further distinguished from father, father's elder brother, Father's younger brother, and father's sister and their respective spouses. From an English speaker's point of view, Punjabi thus demarcates ten distinct relations where English has only "uncle" and "aunt." But the offspring of these relations are all either "brother" or "sister," according to sex.

The terms above +1 continue to separate the matrilateral and patrilateral sides: all the terms of the mother's side are built up on the stem -nan-. On the father's side the stem is -dad-. Prefixes and suffixes distinguish generation and sex only. Thus the father of the father is dada, mother of father is dadi. Dada also applies to any male relative through the dada or dadi, and dadi to any female through the dada or dadi. Thus dada is "grandfather," "great-uncle," and indeed all of their siblings, spouses, or siblings of spouses or spouses of Siblings of whatever remoteness. Nana and nani are those similarly related on the mother's side. Father of dada is pardada, his wife/sister is parnani, and these terms too are similarly extended. Their counterparts on the mother's side are parnana and parnani. The father or mother of parnana or parnani has no term (i.e., is not a relative). The term-pair superior to parnana-parnani on the father's side in turn is nakarnana-nakarnani. Above this no further relations are recognized on the father's side.

The system of terms for relatives below the generation of Ego is more complex. Each position is distinguished by generation, sex, and whether the person was brought into the Family by birth or marriage. Further, lines of descent through males only are separated from those through females; Beginning with distinguishing Ego's own sons and daughters from those of Ego's sister's on the one hand and Ego's brother's on the other. The line of direct descendants that remains with a man in his village is also separated out from all others. The terminology for men is the same as for women. In address, only terms for one's own and superior generations are used. Genealogical inferiors are addressed by name.

Marriage and Family

Marriage. Marriage is considered universal and necessary among all religious communities. Residence is patrilocaL The bride cornes to live with her husband in his natal village and house. Marriages are arranged by parents, with wide consultation. Although there is no formal rule, families who have more than one son who in turn have sons will generally Divide, and just one son and his family will remain with the Parents. If a family has so many sons that its property cannot be divided and still be useful, it is customary in Punjab, particularly among Jats, for some of the sons to remain single and stay in the house with one of the brothers who marries. Dividing the house in marriage has no necessary connection to the division of ancestral property.

Although laws in both Punjabs provide for legally registered marriages, these are seldom used. Marriages generally occur according to customary forms, whether Hindu, Sikh, or Muslim. The ceremonies vary by caste and region, but Generally they symbolically represent the ideal that a marriage is a free gift of the girl from the girl's family to the groom, with nothing taken back in exchange. Expenses of the wedding are borne by the girl's parents, and substantial gifts by way of dowry are given by the parents to the girl to take with her to her new house. They should be enough to provide for her upkeep (or the equivalent of it) for two or three years. By that time, having children will have established her permanently as part of her new household.

There is provision in the customary rituals for de facto divorce. Immediately after the marriage ceremony the girl Returns to her parental home, and she should be fetched by her husband to return. She may refuse. Otherwise, she may in any case come home and refuse to return. The husband's family should then return her property. Once children are born, however, divorce is effectively impossible, since there is no way parental rights or responsibilities can be abrogated or reassigned. The parents' relations to each other are set by their common offspring. On the other hand, if children are not born, the marriage will probably dissolve. Since the only oldage security most people have is that which is provided by descendants who inherit their property and maintain it for them, the groom's family will be forced to send the bride away (although adoption is also common and easy). If sent away, her parents will have an obligation to receive her back, although this will be considered awkward for her brothers and their wives. In any case, from a traditional point of view it will be less a matter of divorce than a matter of the marriage not being completed.

Polygamy is accepted, but rare. There are no organized or legal sanctions against intercaste marriages.

Domestic Unit. The domestic unit is the parivar, as discussed above. A parivar is a group of related people who have a common interest in some ancestral property, which they jointly operate. Ideally and most commonly a parivar will consist of a senior man, his wife, perhaps his aged parents and unmarried brothers or sisters, his children, and some or all of their wives and children. There is no domestic cycle, or a changing sequence of forms for the family as a whole. Rather, the family structure is considered constant, and the members move through it according to their individual life cycles.

Inheritance. As with marriage, Punjabis may choose to be governed in matters of inheritance by custom or by religious laws as formalized in governmental acts: Christian, Hindu, or Muslim. Most follow custom, which varies by caste and/or Region. This commonly makes all males equal sharers of their father's property from birth. If a man has one son, from the birth of that son they each have a half share in whatever was his ancestral property. If a second son is born, they all have a third, and so on. If there are four sons and one dies, all the survivors and the father divide his share equally. If a father sells his son's share or his own while the son is too young to formally agree, the son may, on reaching maturity, preempt the sale and reclaim the land by paying only the original Purchase price.

Women have no birthrights in property, but they have a right to maintenance. In addition, a son's most sacred obligation is considered to be to his mother. For Hindus this idea is embodied in the notion of a sacred cow, worshiped simply Because she is "like" mother. But the basic value is held by Muslims and Sikhs as well. For a son to refuse to care for his mother is almost unthinkable.

Within this general pattern, the customary laws of Different communities differ in the way possible applications or interpretations are ordered. For example, in Hindu law Generally, a son may demand a legal partition and take his share of the ancestral property at any time. In Jat customary law, the division will not take place unless the father agrees to it.

Socialization. Both Punjabs have modern school systems, although Indian Punjab's is more extensive. In 1981 rural Indian Punjab had a literacy rate of 38 percent; Pakistani Punjab had a rate of 17 percent. In addition to public education, each state has extensive religiously sponsored educational institutions. But in both, the main locus of socialization is still the family itself, and the discipline imposed by the knowledge that all family members are also part of a common economic enterprise, on which they are mutually dependent. Girls are trained in their economic tasks by accompanying their mothers; boys, after about age 5, accompany their fathers.

The different religious communities have various Concepts of initiation to adulthood, but there is no general Punjabi concept as such.

Sociopolitical Organization

Social Organization. Both Punjabs have a multitiered administrative system with a centuries-long history. The basic units in this system are village, block or circle, tehsil (subDistrict), district, and state. For the last 150 years, the district has been the most important unit of administration and the lowest unit controlled by the elite national administrative service officers. In the imperial period, these district commissioners combined all the administrative functions: police, revenue, and judicial. Since independence the functions have been separated in both countries. Both governments also recognize an important legal distinction between villages, which are under direct state administration and in which land revenue is collected, and towns, which are under chartered municipal committees and which collect a wide range of property and business taxes, but not land revenue. (Information on caste is provided above in the section on kinship.)

Political Organization. Early writers on Punjab often Reported that villages and caste groups in villages were governed by panchayats, village councils. Beginning in 1952, Indian Punjab built on this tradition by establishing an elected panchayat for every village. Representatives from the panchayats in turn met in panchayat samitis at block and district levels. This system grew to play an important role in the agricultural planning that produced Punjab's green revolution. But the panchayats had no power to change their own mandates or control their own elections. When Punjab came under central administrative control during the prime ministership of Indira Gandhi, the panchayats, along with other elected bodies, were legally disbanded. Although they had no legal power to continue on their own, many still did so informally.

Pakistani Punjab has not supported village-level government. Instead, in the 1960s the government established "Basic Democracies," a system of councils from the "circle" level up to the province that began with the election in each village of one "basic democrat" per 1,000-1,500 voters. The councils were remote from villages and dominated by large landlords and administrators. The result is that Pakistani Punjab continues to have a much less egalitarian distribution of power as well as resources, retaining a much clearer two-class system. Since independence both Punjabs have had provision for legislatures, although Pakistani Punjab, with the rest of Pakistan, has been under military rule for much of the time and the provincial assembly has been suspended. The chief executive is a governor, appointed by the president of Pakistan, assisted by an administrative secretariat. Indian Punjab established its legislature on the basis of direct elections, and electoral districts with large numbers of lower-caste voters are designated as "reserved" seats for members of those groups, to ensure minority representation. Except when under central rule, the chief executive of the state is the chief minister, elected by a majority of the legislative assembly. Both Punjabs have organized political parties, which go back historically to the late nineteenth century.

Both Punjabs also have active factional systems, Beginning at the village level and extending upward to motivate much of the statewide party activity. In villages, these groups are considered "secret" and are not publicly acknowledged. They reflect alliances among households, commonly focusing on efforts to gain or protect land or other major resources. At higher levels, local factions engage with regional political figures or other influential persons in a complex and fluid System of exchanges that shows little regard for ideology.

Finally, organized religious establishments have an important role in social and political mobilization. They provide a public forum to discuss government policies that government itself cannot control. Each year, many tens of thousands of people customarily travel to attend religious fairs at major shrines, and those who speak on such occasions normally apply precepts of the religion to events of the day, Including events involving government. In Indian Punjab, the most important forum of this type is the Sikh Gurdwara System. In Pakistani Punjab, mosques have similar functions.

Social Control and Conflict. There is no one system of Social control. Rather, each system of institutions has its own set of sanctions and its own discipline: commerce, household management, politics, the civil administration, kinship, law and customary law, and the religious organizations.

Generally, village life is highly competitive even while it is cooperative. Villagers know each other well. Thus conflicts seldom arise by miscalculation. Slights are assumed to be deliberate, and they usually are. Such conflicts tend to persist. Village factions serve to structure and manage them; there is seldom a means for resolving them.

According to a Punjabi saying, the sources of all conflicts are land, women, and water. More exactly, it is the need to control the means to perpetuate one's family and property. Thus the sources of conflict are indistinguishable from the bases of social control.

Religion and Expressive Culture

Religious Beliefs. As of the 1981 census, the population of Indian Punjab reported itself as being 37 percent Hindu, 61 percent Sikh, 1 percent Muslim, and a little more than 1 percent Christian, with smaller portions of Buddhists, Jains, and others. Pakistani Punjab is about 97 percent Muslim and 2 percent Christian, with small numbers of others.

Religious Practitioners. Each religion has its own taxonomy of practitioners, and in addition there are many kinds of folk or customary practitioners. For example, a jyotshi would be a Brahman who professed some kind of ability to foretell the future, by astrology or other means. A nai is a barber. Since the last Sikh Guru enjoined his followers to leave their hair and beards uncut, nais in principle have little work in Sikh villages. But they commonly serve as ritual managers of weddings, while their wives work as midwives. There are Muslim and Hindu sants who obtain reputations for holiness and may attract supporters for activities such as maintaining or rebuilding a local shrine or for curing diseases. And there are storytellers, poets, singers, and preachers who go from village to village or from one religious event to another throughout the region.

Ceremonies. Rural Punjabis of all religions share many ceremonies considered customary, associated with the Individual life cycle, village life, and the round of the seasons. Most of the specific ceremonies associated with marriages come under this heading, as do ceremonies of birth, naming, and death. An important sequence of annual rituals celebrates the successive roles a woman plays in her life. The Ceremony of tij is celebrated as the rains begin by young girls and their brothers in the house of their parents; in the fall harvest season karue is celebrated by newly married and older married women in the house of the young woman's parents or in-laws; and in March (in Punjab a time of pleasant weather and steady growth of the all-important wheat crop) behairi is celebrated by mothers and their young children in the house of the husband. On the night of Diwali, in October/November, all buildings and structures of a village are outlined in little oil lamps (diwas ) and people ask God for prosperity; and in midwinter there is a ceremony called "Tails" (meaning cattle), when men go in the evening to collect sweets from houses where boys have been born in the village, build a fire of dung (the traditional cooking fuel) at the village gate, pray to God for the health of the boys and more in the future, and distribute the sweets to the village children who come to collect them. Farmers commonly offer first fruits at village shrines, and almost any start of a venture or stroke of good fortune is an occasion for distributing sweets.

Arts . Punjab has generated distinctive forms of virtually all the arts, from dance to architecture, bawdy folk epics to sublime theological poetry. The best-known folk dance is lively and complex bhangra, named for bhang (marijuana). In architecture, the most distinctive major form is that of the Sikh Gurdwaras, which blend Mogul and Rajput elements. In Literature, the most famous and prominent forms are romantic epic poems. The main ones are Heer Ranjha, Sassi Punun, and Mirza Shahiban, all by Muslim authors. Older than these are thirteenth-century theological sufi poems of Shaik Farid. In the Sikh tradition, closely allied in sentiment and style to the sufi, the most notable groups of poems are by Guru Nanak (1469-1539) and Guru Arjun Dev (1563-1606). There are also numerous modern poets and writers on both secular and religious topics and an active film industry that relies heavily on melodrama, folksong, and dance.

Medicine. Punjabis support all the forms of medical practice available in India, and when they can afford it, generally prefer the Western.

Death and Afterlife. The main formalized beliefs Concerning death and the afterlife are those of the three major Religious traditions, but the Punjabi versions of these traditions are generally austere, individualistic, and pragmatic. Religion is viewed as a source of strength and inspiration to meet the obligations of this world more than as a gateway to another. Funeral practices vary according to religion.

See also Sikh; Zamindar


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Darling, Malcolm Lyall (1925). The Punjab Peasant in prosperity and Debt. 4th ed. 1947. Bombay: Oxford University Press. Reprint. 1978. Columbia, Mo.: South Asia Books; New Delhi: Manohar Book Service.

Eglar, Zekiye (1960). A Punjabi Village in Pakistan. New York: Columbia University Press.

Kessinger, Tom G. (1974). Vilayatpur, 1848-1968: Social and Economic Change in a North Indian Village. Berkeley and Los Angeles: University of California Press.

Leaf, Murray J. (1984). Song of Hope: The Green Revolution in a Panjab Village. New Brunswick, N.J.: Rutgers University Press.

Michel, Aloys A. (1967). The Indus Rivers: A Study of the effects of Partition. New Haven and London: Yale University Press.

Sims, Holly (1988). Political Regimes, Public Policy, and Economic Development: Agricultural Performance and Rural Change in the Two Punjabs. New Delhi: Sage Publications.


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Punjabi (Panjabi) Language spoken by 50 million people in the Punjab. It belongs to the Indo-Iranian family of Indo-European languages, and is one of the 15 languages recognized by the Indian Constitution. It has similarities to Hindi but possesses very few borrowings from Persian and Arabic.

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Punjabi (pŭnjä´bē), language belonging to the Indic group of the Indo-Iranian subfamily of the Indo-European family of languages. See Indo-Iranian languages.

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"Punjabi." The Columbia Encyclopedia, 6th ed.. . 20 Jul. 2017 <>.

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Punjabiabbey, cabby, crabby, flabby, gabby, grabby, Rabbie, scabby, shabby, tabby, yabby •namby-pamby •Abu Dhabi, Babi, Darby, derby, kohlrabi, Mugabe, Punjabi, WahhabiEntebbe, plebby •cobwebby •Achebe, baby, maybe •Naseby • crybaby • bushbaby •freebie, Hebe, phoebe •Libby • Digby •astilbe, Philby, trilby •Dimbleby • nimby • Whitby •frisbee, Thisbe •Grimsby • renminbi • honeybee •oribi •Bobbie, bobby, Gobbi, hobby, knobby, lobby, snobby, swabbie •Dolby • zombie • Crosby •corbie, warby •Albee • Formby • Port Moresby •adobe, dhobi, dobe, Nairobi, obi, Robey •Toynbee •booby, jube, newbie, Newby, ruby •would-be •chubby, clubby, cubby, grubby, hubby, nubby, scrubby, shrubby, stubby, tubby •rugby • bumblebee • brumby • busby •Niobe • Jacobi • Lockerbie • Allenby •Willoughby • wallaby • wannabe •Araby • tsessebi • herby

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