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History of Culture in Punjab

Paper Type: Free Essay Subject: Cultural Studies
Wordcount: 3221 words Published: 23rd Aug 2021

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Because of the complexity and diversity of the Punjab region over time, there is a great deal of culture in this region. The main area covered by this paper is the state of Punjab in India, but an overview of the Punjab region will also be covered. The region’s ethnic group will be discussed in terms of its cultural climate and its cultural context. Moreover, the paper also covers the economic, religious and political changes in the region. The region’s rich culture will be compared and contrasted with my personal culture. In addition, a personal reflection will be conducted to see if there was an impact on the point of view during research and writing.


Stop for a moment and think about your upbringing. What music did you listen, what food did you eat, and what you worship. Now, where do work, what do you value, how do you communicate, what is your thought process like, how do act, and most importantly what do you do? All of this what is considered under the umbrella of culture.

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Culture, at its basic level of understanding sum up everything within a society, group or organization. Culture is a complex arrangement of belief and value system, government system, economic system, language, and ethics. Throughout history culture is experienced numerous changed due to economic, power, religion, recourses, and as well as philosophy and ideas. And no other culture has sustained so many cultural evolutions such as the India Punjab region. Under historical context, this region has been culturally occupied since 800 BCE, and still relevant region today.

Punjab Structure

Punjabis, people of Punjab, got the regions name from the cultural and historical region located northwest of the Indian sub-continent. Punjab comes from the Persian words “panj” which means five and “ab” refers to river, together the word means “Land of the Five Rivers.” The name was given to the lands on the east of the Indus River that divided the five rivers; Beas, Sutlej, Chenab, Ravi, and Jhelum (H.K. Manmohan & Surinder, 2018). Culturally, the Punjab geographical region extends beyond this area to incorporate components of the North West Frontier Province of the Islamic Republic of Pakistan, the foothills of the Himalayas mountains, and therefore the northern fringes of the Thar (Great Indian) Desert in Rajasthan (“Punjabis”, n.d.). However, as applied to this Indian state of the Punjab region, it is a misnomer: only two of these rivers, the Sutlej and the Beas, lie within the territory of Punjab since the partition of India in 1947, while the Ravi flows only on a part of its western border (H.K. Manmohan & Surinder, 2018).

Even though the region is split between India and Pakistan the population of the Punjab region all together is to be around 88 million people. About 68 million live in the Pakistan Punjab, and just over 20 million live in the Indian state of Punjab (“Punjabis”, n.d.). Punjab Province in Pakistan includes just about all of west Punjab that was assigned to Pakistan in 1947. The Indian east Punjab State extended from the international border with Pakistan to Delhi (“Punjabis”, n.d.).

With a vast population comes a vast economy. The Punjab economy consists of a services sector, manufacturing sector, and the heart of their economy is the agriculture. Some two – fifths of the population of Punjab is engaged in the agricultural sector, which accounts for a large part of the state ‘s gross product (H.K. Manmohan & Surinder, 2018). The Punjab region is known to produce a very large portion of India’s food and contributes to a serious share of the Central Pool’s control over wheat and rice stocks. The second largest sector in Punjab is the service sector, which includes trade, transport and storage, financial services, real estate, and public administration. Since the end of the 20th century, the manufacturing sector has expanded considerably (“Punjabi Culture and Traditions”, n.d.). The industries with the largest workforce include silk, wool, and other textiles; processed food and beverages; metal products and machinery; transport equipment; and furniture.

The heart of an economy is the structure of government that is behind it. Both Punjab regions are back by the different governments, but there the focus is the India state of Punjabi.  The structure of Punjab’s government, like other states of India, is decided by the national constitution of 1950 (H.K. Manmohan & Surinder, 2018). The state is conducted by a governor, who is appointed by the president of India. The governor is assisted and advised by a Council of Ministers, that is led by a chief minister and accountable to the unicameral legislative assembly (“About Punjab”, n.d.). At the top of the judiciary is that the supreme court, that is found in Chandigarh and is shared with the state of Haryana. Appeals from the supreme court are directed to the Supreme Court of India. Below the supreme court are district-level courts. The state is split into a dozen districts, that area is sorted into many revenue divisions. Every district is headed by a deputy commissioner. The district’s areas are furthermore divided into a variety of tehsils or subdivisions (“About Punjab”, n.d.). Lower administrative and revenue units embody circles, blocks, and villages, in addition to police districts and police stations.

As diverse the Punjab region reflects the different religions that are settled there. Early Hinduism took form within the region, Buddhism floral within the region, and followers of Islam obtained political power within the area for nearly six centuries (H.K. Manmohan & Surinder, 2018). Sikhism had its origins within the region, and the Sikh states survived until the twentieth century. The British colonialized the region within the nineteenth century and introduced Christianity to the region. By 1947, the slit of Indian and Pakistan caused the Hindus and Sikhs overpopulated the India Punjab region, whereas the Muslims found a home in Pakistan. Territory conflict between three of the religion resulted in a high number of deaths. Today the Punjab province in Pakistan accounts for 97% Muslim and 2% Christian, whereas 61% of the India Punjab State is Sikhs 37% is Hindu. Each region small percentage of other religions as well (“Punjabis”, n.d.). However, Hinduism, Islam, Buddhism, Sikhism, and Christianity area few of the religion that can be found in the Punjab region.

Punjabi is the name of the language and the people of the region of Punjab. Punjabi in Pakistan is written using the Persian-Arabic script introduced to the region during the Muslim conquests. India’s Punjabis use a different script (H.K. Manmohan & Surinder, 2018). Two – thirds of the Pakistani population speak Punjabi. In India, Punjabi is the mother tongue of less than 3% of the population. In 1966 Punjabi was raised to the status of one of the official languages of India (“Punjabis”, n.d.).

Cultural Life

Sarah A. Lanier, the author of the book Foreign to Familiar, categories cultures into few relationships, rather the culture is hot or cold climate, rather there is a direct or indirect communication, or if the culture is a relationship based or task orientation. All those comparisons show according to Lanier the behavioral analysis of the people as well as the connectivity of the people. In her book, Lanier differentiates hot and cold climate culture by acknowledging what each of the cultural value most. A hot culture climate value relationship while the cold climate culture value efficiency. 

The ethnic group of the Punjab India state is hot climate people. This is evident in their music, dancing, and yearly festivals. Music of Punjabi is full of passion and exuberance. The songs are melodious and energetic. Although Punjab’s music is becoming popular throughout the world and is currently featured in many Bollywood films, the true essence of culture lies in its folk music (Jain, 2018). Punjab people love dancing. They always work for some fancy footwork, no matter what the occasion is. Bhangra is the most famous of all dance forms, mainly performed by men. Giddha is another dance that is mainly practiced by Punjabi women (“Culture & Heritage”, n.d.). Even with the region divided, Punjabis have an understanding of traditional values.

However, the household structure becomes a cold climate culture. The family is the fundamental unit of Punjabi society. The common family is most common; children and their wives and children, along with unmarried adults, live in their parents ‘ households. Men supervise the family’s agricultural or business activities. Women under the direction of their mother – in – law or senior wife ensure that the household is run, that food is prepared and that children are cared for and raised (“Punjabis”, n.d.). Therefore, everyone in the family has a responsibility assigned to them to ensure efficiency within the household.

Lanier quoted from Edward T. Hall book Beyond culture explaining the difference between a high and low context culture. The difference being that high context culture has been around for a long time, and low context refers to a young or upcoming culture. For Punjabis, their culture has been around for a long time. Punjabis have a rich folklore and mythology with folklore, songs, ballads, epics, and romances. Much of the folk tradition is oral, transmitted by traditional peasant singers, mystics and wandering gypsies through the generations.

Along with the traditions of folklore, Punjabis also have traditional clothing that they wear. Punjab costumes are an indication of the people’s lively culture and lifestyle. Kurta, tahmat or pyjama and turban are the standard clothes for men in rural Punjab (Jain, 2018). The kurta is a long shirt or tunic hanging from the thighs. The tahmat is a long piece of cloth, wrapped like a kilt around the tail and legs. The pair of loose – fitting pants is the pyjama, from which the English word ” pajamas ” is derived from (Jain, 2018). Women wear the salwar, baggy pants in the ankles and together with the dupatta, a scarf. Sometimes a ghaghra, a long skirt from the times of Mogul, replaces the salwar (“Punjabis”, n.d.). Ornaments are decorated with hair, rings or jewels in the nose, and earrings, necklaces, and bangles are popular. (“Punjabi Culture”, 2013) All and all the Punjabis follow traditions to the exact, so when someone comes who is different they can stick out very easily. 

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Another category that Lanier compares culture in is rather the culture is a relationship based or task orientated. Just like the hot or cold climate culture analysis Punjabis are in-between when it comes to relationship base culture and task orientated. The family structure is task orientated culture because everyone has a basic responsibility that they are assigned to. Because of the gender difference men are seen as more authoritative than women, which is why they have to responsibility of a provider and an overseer of the family. Women are expected to marry and have children in the Punjab society as their main role. Marriages are arranged by the boy and girl’s parents and each community follows their own rituals and customs of marriage. Is not that the culture looks down upon women, but that is traditional thinking that has been passed down from generation to generation.

However, in the essence of the community the culture becomes a relationship based culture. This is evident in their festivals events that happen throughout the course of a year and as well as their traditional sports. There are many Punjabi festivals, including some religious festivals such as Eid-Milad-Un-Nabi, Jumu’ah, Laylat-ul-Qadr, and so on. Basant (kite flying) is another spring festival with enthusiasm and zest (“Punjabi Culture”, 2013). Lahori ‘s are famous throughout the country for their Basant Festival celebrations in the spring (“About Punjab”, n.d.). Other festivals in Punjab include Baisakhi, Teej, Kanak Katai, and many more throughout the year.

Sports are a common pastime for the Punjab region that falls under the relationship culture. Children’s games include hide – and – seek, kite flying and Indian cricket. Kabaddi, a team game of wrestling, is played by boys and men. Wrestling, partridge fighting, cockfighting, pigeon flying, and gambling are Punjabi men’s favorite pastimes (H.K. Manmohan & Surinder, 2018). Modern sports such as football, cricket and field hockey are widely practiced and watched. The state of Punjab in India has a government department that organizes and promotes sports and athletics, and the National Sports Institute is located in Patiala (“About Punjab”, n.d.).

A wedding is an area within the culture of the Punjabis that contains all the categories that Lanier compares cultures in. A Punjabis wedding has hot and cold culture climate, it is a high and low context culture, it is a relationship and task orientated culture. Punjabis weddings are based on traditions and strongly reflect the culture of Punjabi, followed by several pre-wedding customs and rituals (“About Punjab”, n.d.). Those are the characteristics that pass it as a cold climate culture, high context culture, and task orientated culture due to the fact the marriage are usually arranged. On the other hand, Punjabis weddings are very loud, energetic, full of music, colors, fancy dresses, food, and dance. Those are the characteristic that makes a Punjabi wedding a hot climate culture, low context culture, and a relationship based culture. In brief, the process of the wedding is what makes a Punjabis wedding cold climate culture, but the actual celebration of the wedding switches to being a hot climate culture.

Throughout the book, Sarah A. Lanier names many different categories of a culture, how the behavior of the people toward these different categories predict in which areas they can be categorized in.  However, the Punjab culture can be tricky due to the fact that the culture borderlines in every categories that Lanier presents in her book. The Punjab culture is not quite hot and not quite cold, and that’s the reality of culture, it is impossible to be far right nor far left.

Personal Reflection

Cultural differences vary from attitudes about religion to political expression to economic ideas to moral, artistic, musical and community standards. Before conducting research and writing the paper, the thought of finding the exact similarity between the Punjabi culture and my culture was not there. Both of our cultures had withstood the test of time. As much as we share the same values in agriculture, festivities and ceremonies, and a patriarchal family structure we differ in many other areas.

Being from the ethnic group Somali Bantu, where we differ from the Punjab culture is the marriage process. Like the Punjab culture, there is a arrange process conducted by the parents called aroos fadhi, but the couples can also run away and get married by a sheikh eventually focusing the parent to accept the union, and that process is called msafa. Along with that, the father of the groom has to pay a dowry to the parents of the bride. Another difference is that the Punjab culture is shared between two regions Pakistan and India, but the Bantus are throughout the African continent.

The language mostly spoken by Somali Bantu is Maay Maay, which is a distinct dialect of Af Somali and is not the native tough to all Bantu regions. The Punjab region shares the same language, Punjabi, and it is one of the official languages in both of the regions, but both regions use a different script for the language, unlike the Somali Bantu language. While the religion mostly practiced in my ethnic group is Islam and Christianity due to slavery in the 20th century, in the Punjab region, the religious beliefs vary from Christianity to Sikhism.

Art for the Somali Bantu takes the form of music and dance in the first place, as described Length in the religion and festivities sections. Important aspects of my culture are passed down through storytelling from one generation to the next, Singing, oral narratives of their history. Just like the Punjab region traditions are told from generation to the next, but the Punjabis are little advanced the Somali Bantus in the fact they acknowledge the importance of literature and actually write down the story for the next generation.

As similar to these two cultures, they also differ from each other. Culture is our difference that a society or group stand out from the rest. Both the Somali Bantu and the Punjabi have a different understanding of marriage, religion, and language and those difference are what makes both of the cultures unique.


Culture is the barometer of a group’s interaction with each other. It shows what people are thinking, how they feel and how they act. For example, a work of art is a manifestation of the inner life of the people: it reflects the way the group or people of a society see the world and themselves. Art can be used politically or socially to convey ideas and ideals, but it always reflects culture insofar as it is an expression of actual life. In the same way, food, language, religion, and politics are all examples of how culture is expressed. Ethics, virtues, values, and morals are part of a culture — and important aspects of organizational culture as well as group culture. Rather your culture is geographically located within two countries or one whole continent, the uniqueness of your culture will make you stand out. 



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