Punjab is a state in northwest India, forming part of the larger Punjab region. The state is bordered by the Indian states of Himachal Pradesh and Jammu and Kashmir to the northeast, Chandigarh to the east, Haryana to the south and southeast and Rajasthan to the southwest as well as the Pakistani province of Punjab to the west.
Indus Valley Civilization spanned around much of the Punjab region with cities such as Harrapa (modern-day Punjab, Pakistan) and Rupar (modern-day Punjab, India). The arrival of the Indo-Aryans led to the flourishing of the Vedic Civilization along the length of the Indus River to cover most of Northern India. This civilization shaped subsequent cultures in the Indian Subcontinent and Afghanistan. Punjab was part of the great ancient empires including the Gandhara Mahajanapadas, Nandas, Mauryas, Sungas, Kushans, Guptas, Palas, Gurjara-Pratiharas and Hindu Shahis. Agriculture flourished and trading cities (such as Jalandhar and Ludhiana) grew in wealth.
Due to its location, the Punjab region came under constant attack and influence from the west. Punjab faced invasions by the Persians, Greeks, Scythians, Turks, and Afghans. This resulted in the Punjab witnessing centuries of bitter bloodshed. Its legacy is a unique culture that combines Zorastrian, Hindu, Buddhist, Persian, Central Asian, Islamic, Afghan, Sikh and British elements. The city of Taxila, founded by son of Taksh the son Bharat who was the brother of Ram. It was reputed to house the oldest university in the world, Takshashila University, one of the teachers was the great Vedic thinker and politician Chanakya. Taxila was a great centre of learning and intellectual discussion during the Maurya Empire. It is a UN World Heritage site.
The geographical area of Punjab is 50,362 sq. km, in North-west of India. Its average elevation is 300 m from the sea level. Most of the Punjab is a fertile, alluvial plain with many rivers and an extensive irrigation canal system. The southwest of the state is semi-arid, eventually merging into the Thar Desert. The Siwalik Hills extends along the northeastern part of the state at the foot of the Himalayas.
The soil characteristics are influenced to a limited extent by the topography, vegetation and parent rock. The variation in soil profile characteristics are much more pronounced because of the regional climatic differences. Punjab is divided into three distinct regions on the basis of soil types; southwestern, central, and eastern.
The Punjab Climate is determined by the extreme hot and extreme cold conditions. The region lying near the foot hills of Himalayas receive heavy rainfall whereas the region lying at a distant from the hills, the rainfall is scanty and the temperature is high. The temperature range in Punjab is from –2 to 40 °C (min/max), but can reach 47 °C (117 °F) in summer and –4 °C in winter. Climatically, Punjab has three major seasons as under:
Hot weather (April to June) when temperature rises as high as 110 °F.
Rainy season (July to September). Average rainfall annual ranges between 960 mm sub-mountain region and 460 mm in the plains.
Cold weather (December to February). Temperature goes down as low as 40 °F.
According to India Today, Leading magazine in India, Punjab has been awarded best overall state since, 2003 and has been able to retain the top position every year. It also affords best quality of life to its residents.
Punjab has the best infrastructure in all of India. Although it has a huge shortage of electricity due to high demand, all major cities in Punjab benefit from this and have some of the lowest tariffs in India. All of Punjab’s villages have been provided electricity and connected to the state electrical power grid since 1974. Punjab (Land of the five rivers) is one of the most fertile regions on earth. The region is ideal for wheat-growing. Rice, sugar cane, fruits and vegetables are also grown. Indian Punjab is called the “Granary of India” or “India’s bread-basket”. It produces 14% of India’s cotton, 20% of India’s wheat, and 9% of India’s rice.The Firozpur District is the largest producer of wheat and rice in the state. In worldwide terms, Indian Punjab produces 2% of the world’s cotton, 2% of its wheat and 1% of the world’s rice. The largest grown crop is wheat. Other important crops are rice, cotton, sugarcane, pearl millet, maize, barley and fruit. In Punjab per hectare consumption of fertilizer is 177 kg as compared to 90 kg at national level. Also Punjab State has been awarded National Productivity Award for agriculture extension services for consecutively ten years from 1991-92 to 1998-99 and 2001 to 2003-04.
Excluding agriculture other major industries include the manufacture of scientific instruments, electrical goods, machine tools, textiles, tourism, sewing machines, sports goods, starch, fertilizers, bicycles, and the processing of pine oil and sugar.
Flora and Fauna
The Sivalik area is the richest area of Punjab in terms of floral and faunal diversity and has been identified as one of the micro-endemic zones of India. Amongst the Angiosperms, about 355 species of herbs, 70 tree species, 70 species of shrubs or under shrubs, 19 of climbers and 21 species of twiners have been recorded from the area. Apart from angiosperms, 31 species of Pteridophytes, 27 of bryophytes and one species of gymnosperms (Pinus roxburghii) have also been recorded. The area is also rich in faunal diversity including 396 species of birds, 214 species of Lepidoptera, 55 species of fish, 20 species of reptiles, and 19 species of mammals.
There are a number of wetlands, bird sanctuaries and zoological parks across Punjab. These include the Hari-ke-pattan National Wetland and Wildlife Sanctuary at Firozpur, the Kanjli Wetland, the Kapurtala Sutlej Water Body Wetland, the Ropar Zoological Park, Chhatbir, Bansar Garden, Sangrur, the Aam Khas Bagh, Sirhind, the Ram Bagh Garden, the Shalimar Garden, Kapurthala and the Baradari Garden at Patiala. Alligators are also commonly found in local rivers. The silkworm is reared with great skill and industry, and bees produce abundant wax and honey. Camels thrive in the hot southern plains, and herds of buffaloes on the grazing lands adjoining the rivers. Horses are reared in the north-east part of the Punjab.