Ancient History Of Punjab
The history of the state can be traced back as early as pre-historic era which is consisted of three stages of stone ages. Archaeologists have found important evidences in different parts of Punjab. These evidences provide substantial amount of information about the presence of the three stages of Stone Age and also proto-historic culture which consists of the Copper and Bronze Age.
With advance in economic activity the human settlements had become larger in number and size in Punjab. Later the Rigveda ascertains that the settlement of Urban Harappan culture is found in a large area of Punjab. The ancient history of Punjab has been enriched by the rules of Persian,Greek,Mauryan, Sunga, Shaka, Parthian, Kushan,Gupta,Hun, Vardhana, Pala and many more.
Pre-historic records show that the early men were dependent upon the nature for his existence and stone for his early creative activity. This record gives us a description about the different Stone Age Period.History of Punjab is divided into three stages which are as follows: i. Palaeolithic Age (The Early Stone Age) ii. Mesolithic Age (The Middle Stone Age) iii. Neolithic Age (The New Stone age)
i. Palaeolithic Age (The Early Stone Age)
This age covers the greater part of the Ice Age and its characteristic feature is the use of stone tools for various activities like cutting meat, bone or chop fruits. This age began about 2,50,000 years ago. People of this age were hunters and food gatherers who did not know about the use of metals, so they used crude stones.
After the partition of India in 1947, India lost almost all Stone Age sites to Pakistan.
The Early Stone Age sites are found in the valley of river Soan or Sohan in Punjab (now in Pakistan) and also discovered at Daulatpur,Dher,Majra,Hoshiarpur, Dhang,Nalagarh, Pirthan, Khokra-ka-Choa, Rampura, Sirsa, Bhud and Dholbaha.
ii. Mesolithic Age (The Middle Stone Age)
The word ‘Meso’means in between or middle.Hence,Mesolithic Age was simply Middle Stone Age. People were skilled and use of stones were much better in this age than Palaeolithic Age. In this period,men began to hunt animals and catch fish with the aid or implements of bone and flint.No site in Punjab has so far been discovered of this age.
iii. Neolithic Age (The New Stone Age)
Human settlements of Neolithic Age began to develop in Punjab after 4000 BCE.
In some parts of Bahawalpur district, such settlements appeared between 3800 to 3200 BCE, with many sites in the delta of Hakra river. These settlements were possibly camps of semi-nomadic people, who depended primarily on pastoralism and secondarily on shifting cultivation.
A notable advance in agriculture was seen. In this age, the man learnt to produce fire, build houses of clay, caves and straw.He used two-wheel ox-cart.He also learnt to manufacture cloth made from the fiber of plants and hair of animals ornaments by using shell, semi-precious stones and metals. In 1963, some polished stones related to neolithic culture were discovered at Ror and Dibbar in Beas-Banganga valley.
Proto-history deals with the later period marked by the use of metals along with stone. It gives a description of Chalcolithic Age culture and Bronze Age culture. In Northern India, the Stone Age was succeeded by the Copper and Bronze Age.
Copper was the first metal discovered by man. Punjab also supports these proto-historic cultures.
The proto-historic people were agricultural communities which used copper and bronze, besides stone to manufacture their tools. These people invented plough, wheeled cart and used hand-made pottery wore ornaments of bronze and copper.
They domesticated oxen.Wheat and barley were largely cultivated. A settlement of this period was found in nearby areas of Chandigarh.
Indus Valley Civilisation (Harappan Civilisation)
The Harappan Civilisation was a Bronze Age Civilisation 2500 BC-1750 BC mainly in the North-Western regions of South Asia, extending from Afghanistan to Pakistan and North-West India. The settlements of the urban Harappan culture were found in a large zone extending over Punjab plains, with a number of defining features such as wheel made pottery of a distinctive kind, baked bricks, elaborate drainage system,masonry walls and tanks, planned cities and towns, standard weight and seals bearing a script.
The outermost sites are at Manda, Ropar and Chandigarh. The urban Harappan settlements were largely located in the Southern parts and in the belt along the Himalayas.
In 1921,Daya Ram Sahni excavated the proto-historic sites at Harappa in Montgomery district inWest Punjab (Pakistan), thus it is known as Harappan civilisation.
Some of the important sites pertaining to the Indus Valley Civilisation excavated in Punjab are given below: Rupnagar During 1952-53 an extensive mound was excavated at Rupnagar on the bank of Sutlej by YD Sharma. The Harappan remains in Rupnagar are ascribed to the period between 2000 BC to 1500 BC. These include earthenware, seals, beads, bangles, etc besides a cemetery.
Kotla Nihang Khan In 1929 the proto-historic site of Kotla Nihang Khan in Rupnagar district was discovered.
DherMajra This site of Bikhun or DherMajra lies at 8 km North-East of Rupnagar.
Bara A mound at Bara, (About 8 km of Rupnagar) revealed the accumulations of the late Harappan times.
Rohira A mound at Rohira (about 6 km from Ahmadgarh) was excavated which revealed that the houses were big and made up of bricks in the ratio of 1 : 2 : 4.
A large number of beads of steatite terracotta, bangle pieces of terracotta and bone were discovered.
Sanghol The excavation carried out at Sanghol indicates that the late Harappan culture flourished here in the past. A large number of terracotta figurines have been discovered at this site. The pottery and a variety of copper objects found at Sanghol have more or less similarity with those recovered at Rupnagar and Chandigarh. It gives us ample evidence or existence of an identical culture of this area.
Sunet It lies about 6 km from Ludhiana. Sunet was a large city in ancient times.
This was originally 1750 × 1200 ft in area when Alexander visited the state in 1878-79. A large number of important seals, coins, coin-moulds and human and animal figurines in terracotta have been discovered from this site.
Apart from the above sites, there were some other places of Punjab where explorations have been carried out like Mansa and Bathinda districts.On the basis of these explorations, it is inferred that Indus Valley Civilisation flourished in Punjab during the ancient past.
Emergence of Various Kingdoms and Empires in Punjab
The ancient history of Punjab records the emergence of various kingdoms and empires in Punjab. These include the advent of Aryans, Persians and Greeks, Indo-Greeks,Mauryans, Sungas, Shakas and Parthians, Kushans,Guptas,Huns, Vardhanas and Palas.
The Emergence of Aryans in Punjab (Vedic Period, 1500 BC-600 BC)
The Aryans came to Punjab when the great Indus cities were dispersed. They have descended into Punjab plains from the North-West. The Aryans settled village settlements here as they did not live in castles,mansions or cities. Rigveda, the most famous book of Aryans, is believed to have been composed by seers on the banks of rivers of Punjab. It is believed that mother of Lord Rama, belonged to Punjab.
Guru Gobind Singh Ji, in Dasam Granth has connected Ghuram in Patiala district with the birth place of Mata Kaushalaya,mother of Lord Rama. Cultivation during Vedic period extended to areas of the flood plains and strips of land on the margins of rivers and canals. Barley was the major crop in Aryans-Vedic period. The spoked wheel was a major development in transportation in this period. There were a number of crafts, including those of potter, the carpenter, the weaver and the trader, which were directly or indirectly linked with agrarian activity. The belt along the Himalayas, which was covered by denser vegetation became dotted with rural settlements in this period.
During this period, a greater part of Punjab was divided into a number of tribal republics like Trigartas, Kulutas, Kunindas, Yakdeyas,Malanas, etc. Coins found in excavation have confirmed the fact that, these tribal republics had their domination on Punjab. Eventually, Vedic religion became complicated with elaborate rituals and customs due to which the people gradually became interested in Buddhism and Jainism. This further led to the weakening of Aryan Supremacy.
The Persian and Greek Invasion
As Punjab was located at the outskirts of the Persian Empire, it became one of the wealthiest provinces of the Persian Empire. In 516 BCE, Persian king Gustasp was the first who completed the annexation of Punjab. In 321 BC Alexander, the son of Philip of Macedon and Olympias, conquered Punjab.Most of the chieftains of the provinces of Punjab submitted to Alexander’s power without resistance.
But Porus, the king of the Pauravas, the region between the Hydaspes ( Jhelum) and Acesines (Chenab) rivers, fought against Alexander in the Battle of Hydaspes. For this determination of Porus, Alexander returned the kingdom of Porus and also granted him a large land extending until Hyphasis (Beas). The invasion of Punjab by foreigners brought it into closer contact with the Western countries.Many Greeks and Persians settled in Punjab as officers, soldiers, traders and artisans. The fusion of culture was the most important effect of foreign invasions.
The history of the Indo-Greek kingdom covers a period from 2nd century BCE to the beginning of the 1st century BCE in Northern and North-Western India. There were 30 Indo-Greek kings, often in competition on different territories.Many of them are only known through their coins. The most known Indo-Greek king was Menander, who ruled Punjab from 160 BCE to 140 BCE. The discussion between him and the Buddhist philosopher Nagasena was compiled in ‘Milindapanha’.
Menander not only established his power but also extended his frontiers.His coins were found in the region extending from Kabul to Mathura near Delhi.He attempted to conquer the Ganges valley but he was defeated by the Sungas.
Menander (known in India as Milinda) established an independent kingdom centered at Taxila and later moved his capital to Sakala (modern Sialkot).
In Mudrarakshasa, Chandragupta Maurya was said to have first acquired Punjab and then combined forces with Chanakya and advanced upon the Nanda Empire. By defeating Dhana Nanda Chandragupta in the 4th century BC expanded the Mauryan Empire in Punjab.He fought with Alexander’s successor, Seleucus Nicator and defeated him with the help of Chanakya. Then Chandragupta occupied a large area of Afghanistan. The Sanskrit play Mudrarakshasa of Visakhadatta as well as the Jaina work Parisishtaparvan give a description about Chandragupta’s alliance with the Himalayan king Parvatka, identified with Porus.
Under the Mauryas, the area of modern Punjab was included in the larger province of Gandhara, whose capital was at Taxila (now in Pakistan). After the death of Chandragupta Maurya, his son Bindusara ascended the throne. In his time Greek ambassador,Deimachus visited the court of the king. The son of Bindusara, Asoka was made the provincial Governor of the province of Gandhara. After the war of Kalinga in 261 BC, Asoka became a follower of Buddhism.He worked for the welfare of his subjects and installed inscriptions in Kharoshthi script in the Western part of India and Brahmi in the Eastern part of India. Asoka died in 232 BC. After Asoka the Mauryan Empire became weakened which further led to the disintegration of Mauryan Empire.
Sungas, Shakas and Parthians
Pushyamitra Sunga captured Punjab from the Mauryas and established Sunga dynasty in Central and Eastern India. A large area of Punjab was the part of his empire. In North-Western India, the Mauryas were succeeded by Greeks, Shakas, Parthians and Kushanas. The Greeks were replaced by the Shakas.
The Punjab was one of the five seats of power of Shakas in India with Taxila as its capital. The Shakas were replaced by Parthians. They originally lived in Iran and later came to India. The most famous king of Parthians was Gondophernes. A large number of coins and coin-moulds of him were found at Sunet in Ludhiana district and Rohira in Sangrur district.
The Kushan kingdom was founded by King Heraios and greatly expanded by his successor, Kujula Kadphises. The fourth Kushan emperor, Kanishka I established a winter capital at Purushapura (Peshawar) and a summer capital at Kapisa (Bagram).
The Kushan kingdom linked the Indian Ocean maritime trade with the commerce of the silk road through the Indus valley. Kushans were the first rulers in India who issued gold coins on a wide scale.
The Kushan rulers of 1st and 2nd centuries AD maintained active trade complication with the Roman Empire which is evident from the imported Roman coins founded in Punjab, Kabul and neighbouring territories. The Kushan King Kanishka started Mahayana Buddhism by assembling a great Buddhist Council in Taxila.He laid the foundation of the Saka era of 78 AD. The travelogues of Chinese Pilgrims, Fa-Xian and Hiuen Tsang described the framed Buddhist seminary at Taxila and the status of Buddhism in the region of Punjab in this period.
Gupta Empire existed approximately from 320 to 600 CE and covered much of the Indian sub continent including Punjab. Srigupta was the founder of the Gupta dynasty and the most important ruler of this dynasty was Chandragupta I. The high points of this cultural creativity are magnificent architecture, sculptures and paintings. Science and political administration reached new heights during the Gupta era in Punjab. Samudragupta, son of Chandragupta I extended his kingdom in Nepal and Punjab in the North and Kanchipuram in the South.
He received homage from rulers of parts of East Bengal, Assam,Nepal, the Eastern part of Punjab and various tribes of Rajasthan.His son Chandragupta II controlled a vast empire which included Punjab.His daughter Prabhavatigupta was married to Rudrasena II of Vakataka dynasty, originated from the Deccan. The discovery of red polished pottery at Sunet in Ludhiana district and many other antiquities confirmed the fact that Punjab was part of mighty Gupta Empire.
After the death of Gupta ruler Skandagupta, Iranian-speaking Hun tribes invaded Northern India.Huns invaded Gandhara and Punjab from the Kabul valley after vanquishing the Kidarite principalities. The Alchon ruler Toramana established his rule over Gandhara andWestern Punjab and was succeeded by his son Mihirakula in AD 520, whose capital was Sakala or modern day Sialkot in the Pakistani Punjab.
The Huns suffered defeat at the hands of Yasodharman of Malwa in 528 CE and by 542 CE,Mihirakula had been driven off the plains of Northern India, taking refuge in Kashmir.
The Vardhana dynasty was founded at Thaneswar (Kurukshetra,Haryana) by Pushyabhuti in the beginning of 6th century CE. It occupied a large part of Punjab.
The most important king of Vardhana age was Harsha Vardhana who started Harsha era.During his time, Chinese traveller Hiuen Tsang visited India who spoke highly about the ancient town Sirhind in Punjab.
The Pala Empire was an Indian imperial power during the classical period of India, that existed from 750-1174 CE. The Palas were the followers of Hinayana and Tantric School of Buddhism. The empire reached its peak under their rulers, Dharmapala and Devapala.Dharmapala extended the empire into the Northern parts of the Indian sub continent.His empire stretched from Assam and Utkala in the East Punjab, Kamboja (modern day Afghanistan) in the North-West and Deccan in the South.