Punjabi people

ethnic group

caption= Guru NanakBulleh ShahMuhammad IqbalIftikhar Khan
Noor JehanFarida KhanumGurbaksh ChahalHrithik Roshan

poptime=100 to 120 million
popplace= flagicon|Pakistan Pakistan: 90,000,000 [ [http://www.statpak.gov.pk/depts/pco/statistics/other_tables/pop_by_mother_tongue.pdf Pakistan 1998 census - Population by mother tongue] ]
flagicon|India India: 30,000,000 [ [http://www.censusindia.gov.in/ Indian Census] ]
flagicon|United Kingdom United Kingdom: 1,634,120
flagicon|Canada Canada: 829,000 [ [http://www.canadainfolink.ca/chartsix.htm Canadian 2001 census - Population by mother tongue] ]

langs= • PunjabiHindicite web|url = http://www.culturopedia.com/Languages/official_languages.html| title = Languages of India|publisher = Culturopedia|accessdate = 2007-01-01] cite web|url = http://www.dailytimes.com.pk/default.asp?page=story_2-5-2003_pg3_4| title = Political economy of the three Punjabs|publisher = Daily Times|accessdate = 2007-01-01] • Urducite web |title=People of Pakistan |publisher= Encarta |url=http://encarta.msn.com/encyclopedia_761560851_3/Pakistan.html#s11]
rels=• IslamSikhismHinduismBuddhismChristianityJainism
related=• Indo-AryansSindhis • Gujjar •Dogras • Hindkowans • SeraikisRomani people
The Punjabi people (Punjabi: ਪੰਜਾਬੀ, پنجابی, also Panjabi people) are an Indo-Aryan ethnic group from South Asia. They originate from the Punjab region, which has been host to some of the oldest civilizations in the world including one of the world's first and oldest civilizations, the Indus Valley Civilization. The Punjabi identity is primarily cultural, ethnic and linguistic, with Punjabis being those whose first language is Punjabi, an Indo-Aryan tongue. In recent times, however, the definition has been broadened to include also emigrants of Punjabi descent who maintain Punjabi cultural traditions, even when they no longer speak the language.

Punjabis are found primarily in the Punjab provinces of Pakistan and Northern India which was divided between the two nations at independence from Britain. In Pakistan, Punjabis comprise the largest ethnic group at roughly 44% of the total population and reside predominantly in the province of Punjab. In India, Punjabi-speaking people can be found across the greater Punjab region which now comprises the states of Punjab, Haryana, Himachal Pradesh and Delhi and the Union Territory of Chandigarh. Besides these, large communities are also found in the Jammu region of Jammu and Kashmir and the states of Rajasthan, Uttaranchal and Uttar Pradesh.

There are also a number of Punjabi emigrant communities scattered around the world, especially in the United Kingdom, Canada, the United States, Kenya, Tanzania, Uganda, Persian Gulf countries, Hong Kong, Malaysia, Singapore, Australia and New Zealand.

Punjabis are ethno-linguistically and culturally related to the other Indo-Aryan peoples of South Asia. There are an estimated 120 million Punjabis around the world.


The exact point at which the Punjabis formed a distinct ethnic group remains speculative. The region having been the site of the ancient Indus Valley Civilization centred at Harappa became a centre of early civilization from around 3300 BC. Numerous invaders including the Persians, Scythians, Greeks, various Central Asians, Arabs, Afghans, and the British have all invaded and ruled the region, giving the Punjab a unique culture as the gateway to South Asia. An early Indo-Aryan-speaking people conquered the region and imparted their language and merged with the local population that some speculate as having been either an Indic language (a hypothesized parent family) or Aryan-speaking group, but this also remains speculative since the Indus script remains undeciphered. The Indo-Aryans are believed to have arrived in the region between 2000 and 1250 BC and eventually disseminated their languages throughout South Asia. [
Mature Harappan "Priest King" statue, Mohenjo-daro, wearing Sindhi Ajrak, late Mature Harappan period, National Museum, Karachi, Pakistan] An early Vedic civilization is believed to have emerged in the region and helped shape many aspects of northern Indian culture. Over time, the Greater Punjab region fragmented as various Eurasian invaders conquered sections of the region with the west (Pakistan) bearing the brunt of most invasions.

Various religious influences shaped the region and people as Buddhism emerged as an important faith in the region, due to the efforts of Ashoka, along with early Hinduism. Ultimately, two later religions largely supplanted both of these earlier faiths, Sikhism in Punjab (India) and Islam in Pakistan. After arrival of Muslims many people converted in western regions to Islam following the invasion of Arabs in 711 AD (see Muhammad bin Qasim) and Turkic tribes in the 11th century and much of the population converted. The role of Sufism is cited by Muslims in this regard. Memons are Sunni Hanafi Muslims, and they originated when a group of Hindus from Sindh belonging to the Kshatriya Lohana caste converted to Islam by Sufi missionaries of the Qadiri order.

Following the partition of India and the creation Pakistan, a process of population exchange and ethnic cleansing took place in 1947 as Muslims left East Punjab and headed to the Islamic republic of newly created Pakistan, and Hindus and Sikhs left West Punjab [. [http://www.cet.edu/earthinfo/sasia/SAhis.html South Asia: British India Partitioned] ] to stay in what remained as a part of India. As a result of these population exchanges, both parts are now religiously homogeneous.


The Punjab region, due to its location near Central Asia and the Middle East has been prone to numerous invasions that have left imprints upon the local Punjabi population that remain present in the numerous sub-groups. The Punjabi people are a heterogeneous group and can be subdivided into a number of tribal groups in Pakistan called "qaums" while they adhere to "caste" identities in India, each having their own subtle differences.

In terms of ancestry, the majority of Punjabis share many similar genes with other northern Indian populations, but also show a significant relationship with west Eurasian groups. In a 2004 Stanford study conducted with a wide sampling from India, including 112 Punjabis, and selected other countries, displayed the following:

:Results show that Indian tribal and caste populations derive largely from the same genetic heritage of Pleistocene southern and western Asians and have received limited gene flow from external regions since the Holocene. [ [http://hpgl.stanford.edu/publications/AJHG_2003_v72_p313-332.pdf The Genetic Heritage of the Earliest Settlers Persists Both in Indian Tribal and Caste Populations] ]

This study also found that roughly 60% of genetic markers in the Punjab were of West Asian origin, the highest amongst the sampled group of South Asians. Another study also showed that there has been limited gene flow in and out of north India, but the highest amount of genetic inflow from the west showed up in the Punjab region:

:Broadly, the average proportion of mtDNAs from West Eurasia among Indian caste populations is 17% (Table 2). In the northern States of India their share is greater, reaching over 30% in Kashmir and Gujarat, nearly 60% in Indian Punjab. [ [http://www.biomedcentral.com/1471-2156/5/26 Most of the extant mtDNA boundaries in South and Southwest Asia were likely shaped during the initial settlement of Eurasia by anatomically modern humans] ]

Some preliminary conclusions from these varying tests support a largely north Indian genetic base for most Punjabis accompanied by some of the highest degrees of west Asian admixture found in north India.

Geographic distribution

Punjabis in Pakistan

The Punjabis found in Pakistan are composed of clans and tribes (the aforementioned "qaums") often with a correspondence with traditional occupations. Pre-Islamic Punjabi Shaikhs, Kambohs, Gujjars, Jats and Rajputs (such as the Janjuas) predominate with the Gakhars, Awans, and Arains, comprising the main tribes in the north, while Gilanis, Gardezis, Syeds and Quraishis are found in the south. There are Pashtun tribes like the Niazis and the Shaikhs, which are very much integrated into Punjabi village life. Especially the members of the Niazi tribe, who see themselves as Punjabis first. They have big communities in Mianwali, Bakkar, Lahore, Faisalabad, Sahiwal and Toba Tek Singh. Punjabis in Pakistan, especially in major urban cities have diverse origins, with many post Islamic settlers tracing their origin to Afghanistan, Persia, Arabia, Kashmir and Central Asia. [ [http://countrystudies.us/pakistan/32.htm Country Studies - Pakistan] ]

Punjabis have been traditionally farmers and warriors which has transferred into modern times with a dominance of agriculture and the military in Pakistan. In addition, Punjabis in Pakistan have been quite prominent politically having had many elected Members of Parliament. As the most ardent supporters of a Pakistani state, the Punjabis in Pakistan have shown a strong predilection towards the adoption of the Urdu language, while still identifying themselves as ethnic Punjabis for the most part. Religious homogeneity remains elusive as a Sunni-Shia divide and a Christian minority have not completely wiped out diversity since the partition of British India. A variety of related sub-groups exist in Pakistan and are often considered by many Pakistani Punjabis to be simply regional Punjabis including the Seraikis (who overlap and are often considered transitional with the Sindhis) and Punjabi Pathans (which publications like "Encyclopædia Britannica" consider a transitional group between Punjabis and Pathans).

Punjabis in India

Indian Punjabis tend to belong to various caste, tribal and economic groups. Some major sub-groups of Punjabis in India include "(alphabetical order)": Ahirs, Aroras, Banias, Bhatias, Brahmins, Chhimbas, Gujjars, Jats, Kalals/Ahluwalias, Kambojs, Khatris, Labanas, Nais, Rajputs, Sainis, Sansis, Soods and Tarkhans/Ramgarhias. Most of these groups can be further sub-divided into clans and family groups.

Most of East Punjab's Muslims "(in today's states of Punjab, Haryana, Himachal Pradesh, Delhi and Chandigarh)" left for West Punjab in 1947. However, a small community still exists today, mainly in Malerkotla, the only Muslim princely state among the seven that formed the erstwhile Patiala and East Punjab States Union (PEPSU). The other six "(mostly Sikh)" states were: Patiala, Nabha, Jind, Faridkot, Kapurthala and Kalsia.

Punjabis in India have mainly Indo-Aryan and Indo-Scythian origin. The Punjab region within India maintains a strong influence on the culture of South Asia and the perceived culture of India towards the rest of the world. Numerous Bollywood film productions use the Punjabi language within its songs and dialogues as well as traditional dances and instruments such as the bhangra and the tabla. Prime Ministers of India including Gulzarilal Nanda and Inder Kumar Gujral in the past, and Dr. Manmohan Singh at present, are Punjabis, as are numerous players in the Indian cricket team (both past and present including Bishen Singh Bedi, Kapil Dev, Mohinder Amarnath, Navjot Sidhu, Harbhajan Singh, Yuvraj Singh, Yograj Singh).

The Punjabi Diaspora

The Punjabi people have emigrated in large numbers to many parts of the world. The United Kingdom has a significant number of Punjabis from both India and Pakistan as does Canada (specifically Vancouver and Toronto) and the United States, (specifically California's Great Central Valley). The Middle East has a large immigrant community of Punjabis, in places such as the UAE and Kuwait. There are large communities in East Africa including the countries of Kenya, Uganda and Tanzania. Punjabis have also emigrated to Australia, New Zealand and Southeast Asia including Malaysia, Thailand, Singapore and Hong Kong.

Culture and society


Punjabi Culture is the culture of the Punjab region. It is one of the oldest and richest cultures in world history, dating from ancient antiquity to the modern era. The Punjabi Culture is the culture of the Punjabi people who are now distributed throughout the world. The scope, history, sophistication and complexity of the culture are vast. Some of the main areas include, Punjabi Philosophy, poetry, spirituality, education, artistry, music, cuisine, science, technology, military warfare, architecture, traditions, values and history.


Science, history and Religion has played an important role in shaping Punjabi ethnic identity and it is not uncommon for Punjabis to generally treat their religious identity as synonymous with their ethnic identity or at least a combined identity that differentiates them from others. Punjabis belong largely to three major religions: Sikhism, Hinduism, Jainism and Islam.

Muslim Punjabis are largely concentrated in Pakistan, though a small Muslim Punjabi population exists in India. Sikhism is the major religion followed by Punjabis in India, with Hinduism being the largest minority religion and Jainism that is followed largely by Punjabi Banias and Bhabra people. In addition, Christianity is growing in both Punjabs.


The main language of the Punjabi people is Punjabi and its associated dialects. They may also speak Hindi, Urdu and English. There is significant Persian influence found in certain Punjabi dialects. In recent years, the respective Punjabi languages have absorbed a considerable number of loan words from surrounding areas/provinces as well as from English.


Punjabi Cuisine has an immense range of dishes and has become world-leader in the field so much so that many entrepreneurs that have invested in the sector have built large personal fortunes due to popularity of Punjabi Cuisine throughout the world.


Bhangra is one of the many Punjabi musical art forms that is increasingly being listened to in the west and is becoming a mainstream favourite. Punjabi music is being used by western musicians, in many ways, such as mixing it with other compositions to produce award-winning music. In addition, Punjabi Classical music is increasingly becoming popular in the west due to the beauty of sounds of the Punjabi language and its composition.

Punjabi Dances

Punjabi Dances, due to the long history of the Punjabi culture and of the Punjabi people there is a large number of dances. These dances are normally performed at times of celebration the most prominent being at Punjabi weddings, where the elation is usually particularly intense. The overall style can range from very high energy to more reserved, however the common elements make it particularly attractive to the viewers whether they be of Punjabi heritage or not, the allure is considered universal. Punjabi dances are designed for either men or women.


Punjabi wedding traditions and ceremonies are traditionally conducted in Punjabi and are a strong reflection of Punjabi culture. While the actual religious marriage ceremony, among Hindus, Sikhs, Muslims, Jains and Christians may be conducted in Sanskrit, Punjabi, Arabic, Pali/Prakrit or English by the Pundit, Granthi, Kazi or Priest, there are commonalities in ritual, song, dance, food, and dress. The Punjabi wedding has many rituals and ceremonies that have evolved since traditional times. Punjabi receptions of all sorts are known to be very energetic; filled with loud Bhangra music, people dancing, and a wide variety of Punjabi food.

Punjabi Poetry

. seealso|Punjabi Kisse

Prominent Punjabis

Photo gallery

ee also

*Punjab region
*Punjabi culture
*Punjabi language
*Punjabi cuisine
*Music of Punjab
*Punjabi dance
*Punjabi folklore
*Punjabi press
*Punjab (India)
*Punjab (Pakistan)
*History of the Punjab
*Hinduism in Punjab
*Punjab (British India)
*Pakistani American-Punjabis and other Pakistanis in the U.S.
*Indian American- Punjabis and other Indians in the U.S.
*Punjabi Mexican American - A crosscultural merger of the first Punjabis with Mexican/Hispanic residents in California.


References and further reading

* Gilmartin, David. "Empire and Islam: Punjab and the Making of Pakistan". Univ of California Press (1988), ISBN 0-520-06249-3.
* Grewal, J.S. and Gordon Johnson. "The Sikhs of the Punjab (The New Cambridge History of India)". Cambridge University Press; Reprint edition (1998), ISBN 0-521-63764-3.
* Denzil Ibbetson, "Punjab Castes: Race, Castes and Tribes of the People of Punjab". Cosmo Publications, ISBN 81-7020-458-5.
* Ibbetson, Denzil, (2002). "Panjab castes". Low Price Publications. ISBN 81-7536-290-1.
* Latif, Syed. "History of the Panjab". Kalyani (1997), ISBN 81-7096-245-5.
* Rose, H.A. Denzil Ibbetson, Edward Maclagan (reprint 1990). "Glossary of the Tribes and Castes of the Punjab and North West Frontier Province". Asian Educational Services, India, ISBN 81-206-0505-5.
* Sekhon, Iqbal S. "The Punjabis : The People, Their History, Culture and Enterprise". Delhi, Cosmo, 2000, 3 Vols., ISBN 81-7755-051-9.
* Singh, Gurharpal. "Ethnic Conflict in India : A Case-Study of Punjab". Palgrave Macmillan (2000).
* Singh, Gurharpal (Editor) and Ian Talbot (Editor). "Punjabi Identity: Continuity and Change". South Asia Books (1996), ISBN 81-7304-117-2.
* Singh, Khushwant. "A History of the Sikhs - Volume 1".Oxford University Press, ISBN 0-19-562643-5
* Steel, Flora Annie. "Tales of the Punjab : Told by the People (Oxford in Asia Historical Reprints)". Oxford University Press, USA; New Ed edition (2002), ISBN 0-19-579789-2.
* Tandon, Prakash and Maurice Zinkin. "Punjabi Century 1857-1947", University of California Press (1968), ISBN 0-520-01253-4.
* [http://countrystudies.us/pakistan/32.htm Pakistan] , [http://lcweb2.loc.gov/frd/cs/intoc.html India]
* [http://www.biomedcentral.com/1471-2156/5/26 DNA boundaries in South and Southwest Asia, BMC Genetics 2004, 5:26]
* [http://www.ethnologue.com/show_language.asp?code=pan Ethnologue Eastern Panjabi]
* [http://www.ethnologue.com/show_language.asp?code=pnb Ethnologue Western Panjabi]
* [http://www.censusindia.gov.in/ Indian Census]
* [http://www.statpak.gov.pk/depts/pco/statistics/other_tables/pop_by_mother_tongue.pdf Pakistan Census]
* [http://hpgl.stanford.edu/publications/AJHG_2003_v72_p313-332.pdf The Genetic Heritage of the Earliest Settlers Persists Both in Indian Tribal and Caste Populations, Am. J. Hum. Genet. 72:313–332, 2003]
*cite book|last=Talib|first=Gurbachan|authorlink=Gurbachan Singh Talib|title= Muslim League Attack on Sikhs and Hindus in the Punjab 1947|year=1950|publisher=Shiromani Gurdwara Prabandhak Committee|location=India [http://www.bharatvani.org/books/mla/ Online 1] [http://books.google.com/books?vid=OCLC03809888&id=9fQLAAAAIAAJ&q=Muslim+League+Attack+on+Sikhs+and+Hindus+in+the+Punjab+1947&dq=Muslim+League+Attack+on+Sikhs+and+Hindus+in+the+Punjab+1947&pgis=1 Online 2] [http://allaboutsikhs.com/books/gst/ Online 3] (A free copy of this book can be read from any 3 of the included "Online Sources" of this free “Online Book”)

External links

* [http://asnic.utexas.edu/asnic/subject/peoplesandlanguages.html Peoples and Languages in Pre-Islamic Indus Valley]

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