Punjab Province (British India)

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Punjab Province
Province of British India
Arms of British Punjab.jpg
Coat of arms
British Punjab 1909.svg
Punjab 1909.jpg

Maps of British Punjab
Demonym Punjabi
  Type British Colonial Government
   Motto Crescat e Fluviis
"Let it grow from the rivers"
Henry Montgomery Lawrence (first)
Evan Meredith Jenkins (last)
Sikandar Hayat Khan
Malik Khizar Hayat Tiwana
Historical era New Imperialism
30 March 1849
  Delhi Territory transferred to Punjab from North-Western Provinces
  North-West Frontier Province separated from Punjab
9 November 1901
  Delhi district separated from Punjab
14–15 August 1947
Political subdivisions Rawalpindi Division, [lower-alpha 1] Lahore Division, [lower-alpha 2] Multan Division, [lower-alpha 3] Jullundur Division, [lower-alpha 4] Delhi Division, [lower-alpha 5] and Princely States [lower-alpha 6]
Preceded by
Succeeded by
Sikh Empire flag.svg 1849:
Sikh Empire
Flag of the British East India Company (1801).svg 1858:
North-Western Provinces
Flag of the British East India Company (1801).svg 1862:
Cis-Sutlej states
North-West Frontier Province
British Raj Red Ensign.svg
West Punjab
Flag of Pakistan.svg
East Punjab Flag of India.svg
Today part of India

Punjab was a provincial colony of the British Raj, with its capital in the city of Lahore. Most of the Punjab region was annexed by the British EIC in April 1849 following the Second Anglo-Sikh War, and declared a province of British Colonial Rule, it was one of the last areas of the Indian subcontinent to fall under British control. In 1858, the Punjab, along with the rest of the Subcontinent, came under the direct rule of the British Crown. It had an area of 358,354.5 km2.


The province comprised four natural geographic regions – Indo-Gangetic Plain West, Himalayan, Sub-Himalayan, and the North-West Dry Area – along with five administrative divisions – Delhi, Jullundur, Lahore, Multan, and Rawalpindi – and a number of princely states. [1] In 1947, the Partition of India led to the province's division into East Punjab and West Punjab, in the newly independent dominions of India and Pakistan respectively.


The region was originally called Sapta Sindhu, [2] the Vedic land of the seven rivers flowing into the ocean. [3] The Sanskrit name for the region, as mentioned in the Ramayana and Mahabharata for example, was Panchanada which means "Land of the Five Rivers", and was translated to Persian as Punjab after the Muslim conquests. [4] [5] The later name Punjab is a compound of two Persian words [6] [7] Panj (five) and āb (water) and was introduced to the region by the Turko-Persian conquerors [8] of India and more formally popularised during the Mughal Empire. [9] [10] Punjab literally means "(The Land of) Five Waters" referring to the rivers: Jhelum, Chenab, Ravi, Sutlej, and Beas. [11] All are tributaries of the Indus River, the Chenab being the largest.


Geographically, the province was a triangular tract of country of which the Indus River and its tributary the Sutlej formed the two sides up to their confluence, the base of the triangle in the north being the Lower Himalayan Range between those two rivers. Moreover, the province as constituted under British rule also included a large tract outside these boundaries. Along the northern border, Himalayan ranges divided it from Kashmir and Tibet. On the west it was separated from the North-West Frontier Province by the Indus, until it reached the border of Dera Ghazi Khan District, which was divided from Baluchistan by the Sulaiman Range. To the south lay Sindh and Rajputana, while on the east the rivers Jumna and Tons separated it from the United Provinces. [1] In total Punjab had an area of approximately 357 000 km square about the same size as modern day Germany, being one of the largest provinces of the British Raj.

It encompassed the present day Indian states of Punjab, Haryana, Chandigarh, Delhi, and some parts of Himachal Pradesh which were merged with Punjab by the British for administrative purposes (but excluding the former princely states which were later combined into the Patiala and East Punjab States Union) and the Pakistani regions of the Punjab, Islamabad Capital Territory and Khyber Pakhtunkhwa.

In 1901 the frontier districts beyond the Indus were separated from Punjab and made into a new province: the North-West Frontier Province. Subsequently, Punjab was divided into four natural geographical divisions by colonial officials on the decadal census data: [12] :2 [13] :4

  1. Indo-Gangetic Plain West geographical division (including Hisar district, Loharu State, Rohtak district, Dujana State, Gurgaon district, Pataudi State, Delhi, Karnal district, Jalandhar district, Kapurthala State, Ludhiana district, Malerkotla State, Firozpur district, Faridkot State, Patiala State, Jind State, Nabha State, Lahore District, Amritsar district, Gujranwala District, and Sheikhupura District);
  2. Himalayan geographical division (including Sirmoor State, Simla District, Simla Hill States, Bilaspur State, Kangra district, Mandi State, Suket State, and Chamba State);
  3. Sub-Himalayan geographical division (including Ambala district, Kalsia State, Hoshiarpur district, Gurdaspur district, Sialkot District, Gujrat District, Jhelum District, Rawalpindi District, and Attock District;
  4. North-West Dry Area geographical division (including Montgomery District, Shahpur District, Mianwali District, Lyallpur District, Jhang District, Multan District, Bahawalpur State, Muzaffargarh District, Dera Ghazi Khan District, and the Biloch Trans–Frontier Tract).


Company rule

The Durbar, or assembly of native princes and nobles, convened by Sir John Lawrence at Lahore

On 21 February 1849, the East India Company decisively defeated the Sikh Empire at the Battle of Gujrat bringing to an end the Second Anglo-Sikh War. Following the victory, the East India Company annexed the Punjab on 2 April 1849 and incorporated it within British India. The province whilst nominally under the control of the Bengal Presidency was administratively independent. Lord Dalhousie constituted the Board of Administration by inducting into it the most experienced and seasoned British officers. The Board was led by Sir Henry Lawrence, who had previously worked as British Resident at the Lahore Durbar and also consisted of his younger brother John Lawrence and Charles Grenville Mansel. [14] Below the Board, a group of acclaimed officers collectively known as Henry Lawrence's "Young Men" assisted in the administration of the newly acquired province. The Board was abolished by Lord Dalhousie in 1853; Sir Henry was assigned to the Rajputana Agency, and his brother John succeeded as the first Chief Commissioner.

Recognising the cultural diversity of the Punjab, the Board maintained a strict policy of non-interference in regard to religious and cultural matters. [15] Sikh aristocrats were given patronage and pensions and groups in control of historical places of worship were allowed to remain in control. [15]

During the Indian Rebellion of 1857, the Punjab remained relatively peaceful, apart from rebellion led by Ahmad Khan Kharral. [16] In May, John Lawrence took swift action to disarm potentially mutinous sepoys and redeploy most European troops to the Delhi ridge. [17] Finally he recruited new regiments of Punjabis to replace the depleted force, and was provided with manpower and support from surrounding princely states such as Jind, Patiala, Nabha and Kapurthala and tribal chiefs on the borderlands with Afghanistan. By 1858, an estimated 70,000 extra men had been recruited for the army and militarised police from within the Punjab. [16]

British Raj

The Punjab in 1880 Pope1880Panjab3.jpg
The Punjab in 1880

In 1858, under the terms of the Queen's Proclamation issued by Queen Victoria, the Punjab, along with the rest of British India, came under the direct rule of the British Crown. [18] Delhi Territory was transferred from the North-Western Provinces to the Punjab in 1858, partly to punish the city for the important role the last Mughal emperor, Bahadur Shah II, and the city as a whole, played in the 1857 Rebellion. [19]

Sir John Lawrence, then Chief Commissioner, was appointed the first Lieutenant-Governor on 1 January 1859. In 1866, the Judicial Commissioner was replaced by a Chief Court. The direct administrative functions of the Government were carried by the Lieutenant-Governor through the Secretariat, comprising a Chief Secretary, a Secretary and two Under-Secretaries. They were usually members of the Indian Civil Service. [20] The territory under the Lieutenant consisted of 29 Districts, grouped under 5 Divisions, and 43 Princely States. Each District was under a Deputy-Commissioner, who reported to the Commissioner of the Division. Each District was subdivided into between three and seven tehsils, each under a tahsildar, assisted by a naib (deputy) tahsildar. [21]

In 1885 the Punjab administration began an ambitious plan to transform over six million acres of barren waste land in central and western Punjab into irrigable agricultural land. The creation of canal colonies was designed to relieve demographic pressures in the central parts of the province, increase productivity and revenues, and create a loyal support amongst peasant landholders. [22] The colonisation resulted in an agricultural revolution in the province, rapid industrial growth, and the resettlement of over one million Punjabis in the new areas. [23] A number of towns were created or saw significant development in the colonies, such as Lyallpur, Sargodha and Montgomery. Colonisation led to the canal irrigated area of the Punjab increasing from three to fourteen million acres in the period from 1885 to 1947. [24]

The beginning of the twentieth century saw increasing unrest in the Punjab. Conditions in the Chenab colony, together with land reforms such as the Punjab Land Alienation Act, 1900 and the Colonisation Bill, 1906 contributed to the 1907 Punjab unrest. The unrest was unlike any previous agitation in the province as the government had for the first time aggrieved a large portion of the rural population. [25] Mass demonstrations were organised, headed by Lala Lajpat Rai, a leader of the Hindu revivalist sect Arya Samaj. [25] The unrest resulted in the repeal of the Colonisation Bill and the end of paternalist policies in the colonies. [25]

During the First World War, Punjabi manpower contributed heavily to the Indian Army. Out of a total of 683,149 combat troops, 349,688 hailed from the province. [26] In 1918, an influenza epidemic broke out in the province, resulting in the deaths of an estimated 962,937 people or 4.77 percent of the total estimated population. [27] In March 1919 the Rowlatt Act was passed extending emergency measures of detention and incarceration in response to the perceived threat of terrorism from revolutionary nationalist organisations. [28] This led to the infamous Jallianwala Bagh massacre in April 1919, where Colonel Reginald Edward Harry Dyer ordered detachments of the 9th Gorkha Rifles and the 59th Scinde Rifles under his command to fire into a group of some 10,000 unarmed protesters and Baisakhi pilgrims, killing 379. [29]

Administrative reforms

The Montagu–Chelmsford Reforms enacted through the Government of India Act 1919 expanded the Punjab Legislative Council and introduced the principle of dyarchy, whereby certain responsibilities such as agriculture, health, education, and local government, were transferred to elected ministers. The first Punjab Legislative Council under the 1919 Act was constituted in 1921, comprising 93 members, seventy per cent to be elected and rest to be nominated. [30] Some of the British Indian ministers under the dyarchy scheme were Sir Sheikh Abdul Qadir, Sir Shahab-ud-Din Virk and Lala Hari Kishen Lal. [31] [32]

The Government of India Act 1935 introduced provincial autonomy to Punjab replacing the system of dyarchy. It provided for the constitution of Punjab Legislative Assembly of 175 members presided by a Speaker and an executive government responsible to the Assembly. The Unionist Party under Sir Sikandar Hayat Khan formed the government in 1937. Sir Sikandar was succeeded by Malik Khizar Hayat Tiwana in 1942 who remained the Premier till partition in 1947. Although the term of the Assembly was five years, the Assembly continued for about eight years and its last sitting was held on 19 March 1945. [33]


The struggle for Indian independence witnessed competing and conflicting interests in the Punjab. The landed elites of the Muslim, Hindu and Sikh communities had loyally collaborated with the British since annexation, supported the Unionist Party and were hostile to the Congress party led independence movement. [34] Amongst the peasantry and urban middle classes, the Hindus were the most active National Congress supporters, the Sikhs flocked to the Akali movement whilst the Muslims eventually supported the Muslim League. [34]

Since the partition of the sub-continent had been decided, special meetings of the Western and Eastern Section of the Legislative Assembly were held on 23 June 1947 to decide whether or not the Province of the Punjab be partitioned. After voting on both sides, partition was decided and the existing Punjab Legislative Assembly was also divided into West Punjab Legislative Assembly and the East Punjab Legislative Assembly. This last Assembly before independence, held its last sitting on 4 July 1947. [35]


Population history
Source: Census of India
[13] :8 [36] :6 [37] :86

The first British census of the Punjab was carried out in 1855. This covered only British territory to the exclusion of local princely states, and placed the population at 17.6 million. The first regular census of British India carried out in 1881 recorded a population of 20.8 million people. The final British census in 1941 recorded 34.3 million people in the Punjab, which comprised 29 districts within British territory, 43 princely states, 52,047 villages and 283 towns. [37]

In 1881, only Amritsar and Lahore had populations over 100,000. The commercial and industrial city of Amritsar (152,000) was slightly larger than the cultural capital of Lahore (149,000). Over the following sixty years, Lahore increased in population fourfold, whilst Amritsar grew two-fold. By 1941, the province had seven cities with populations over 100,000 with emergence and growth of Rawalpindi, Multan, Sialkot, Jullundur and Ludhiana. [37]

The colonial period saw large scale migration within the Punjab due to the creation of canal colonies in western Punjab. The majority of colonists hailed from the seven most densely populated districts of Amritsar, Gurdaspur, Jullundur, Hoshiarpur, Ludhiana, Ambala and Sialkot, and consisted primarily of Khatris, Jats, Arains, Sainis, Kambohs and Rajputs. The movement of many highly skilled farmers from eastern and central Punjab to the new colonies, led to western Punjab becoming the most progressive and advanced agricultural region of the province. The period also saw significant numbers of Punjabis emigrate to other regions of the British Empire. The main destinations were East Africa - Kenya, Uganda and Tanzania, Southeast Asia - Malaya and Burma, Hong Kong and Canada. [37]


The Punjab was a religiously eclectic province, comprising three major groups: Muslims, Hindus and Sikhs. By 1941, the religious Muslims constituting an absolute majority at 53.2%, whilst the Hindu population was at 30.1%. [lower-alpha 7] The period between 1881 and 1941 saw a significant increase in the Sikh and Christian populations, growing from 8.2% and 0.1% to 14.9% and 1.9% respectively. [37] The decrease in the Hindu population has been attributed to the conversion of Hindus mainly to Sikhism and Islam, and also to Christianity. [37]

Population trends for major religious groups in the Punjab Province of the British India(1881–1941) [37] [13] :46
% 1881
% 1891
% 1901
% 1911 [lower-alpha 8]
% 1921
% 1931
% 1941
Hinduism43.8%43.6%41.3%35.8%35.1%31.7% [lower-alpha 7] 30.1% [lower-alpha 7]
Other religions / No religion0.3%0.2%0.2%0.2%0.1%0.1%0.3%

Indo−Gangetic Plain West geographical division

Including Hisar district, Loharu State, Rohtak district, Dujana State, Gurgaon district, Pataudi State, Delhi, Karnal district, Jalandhar district, Kapurthala State, Ludhiana district, Malerkotla State, Firozpur district, Faridkot State, Patiala State, Jind State, Nabha State, Lahore District, Amritsar district, Gujranwala District, and Sheikhupura District. [12] :2 [13] :4

Religion in the Indo−Gangetic Plain West geographical division of Punjab Province (1901—1941) [13] :48
Hinduism Om.svg 43.79%42.62%41.37%36.04%33.54%
Islam Star and Crescent.svg 37.36%37.81%38.0%39.72%40.41%
Sikhism Khanda.svg 18.35%18.73%19.10%21.88%23.11%
Christianity Christian cross.svg 0.18%0.51%1.23%1.54%1.60%
Jainism Jain Prateek Chihna.svg 0.32%0.33%0.29%0.27%0.28%
Religion in the Districts & Princely States of the Indo−Gangetic Plain West geographical division (1941) [13] :42
Princely State
Islam Star and Crescent.svg Hinduism Om.svg [lower-alpha 7] Sikhism Khanda.svg Christianity Christian cross.svg Jainism Jain Prateek Chihna.svg Others [lower-alpha 10] Total
Pop. %Pop.%Pop.%Pop.%Pop.%Pop.%Pop.%
Hisar District 285,208652,84260,7311,2926,1265101,006,709
Loharu State 3,96023,923720027,892
Rohtak District 166,569780,4741,4661,0436,8470956,399
Dujana State 6,93923,727000030,666
Gurgaon District 285,992560,5376371,6732,6136851,458
Pataudi State 3,65517,72809128021,520
Karnal District 304,346666,30119,8871,2492,7893994,575
Jalandhar District 509,804311,010298,7416,2331,39571,127,190
Kapurthala State 213,75461,54688,3501,66738012,683378,380
Ludhiana District 302,482171,715341,1751,9131,27951818,615
Malerkotla State 33,88123,48230,320116310088,109
Firozpur District 641,448287,733479,48612,6071,6741281,423,076
Faridkot State 61,35221,814115,0702478000199,283
Patiala State 436,539597,488896,0211,5923,1011,5181,936,259
Jind State 50,972268,35540,9811611,29449361,812
Nabha State 70,373146,518122,4512214801344,044
Lahore District 1,027,772284,689310,64670,1471,9511701,695,375
Amritsar District 657,695217,431510,84525,9731,911211,413,876
Gujranwala District 642,706108,11599,13960,8291,4450912,234
Sheikhupura District 542,34489,182160,70660,0542211852,508

Himalayan geographical division

Including Sirmoor State, Simla District, Simla Hill States, Bilaspur State, Kangra district, Mandi State, Suket State, and Chamba State. [13] :48 [12] :2

Religion in the Himalayan geographical division of Punjab Province (1901—1941) [13] :48
Hinduism Om.svg 94.60%94.53%94.50%94.25%94.35%
Islam Star and Crescent.svg 4.53%4.30%4.45%4.52%4.27%
Sikhism Khanda.svg 0.23%0.46%0.44%0.49%0.60%
Christianity Christian cross.svg 0.20%0.26%0.26%0.14%0.10%
Jainism Jain Prateek Chihna.svg 0.03%0.02%0.02%0.02%0.03%
Religion in the Districts & Princely States of the Himalayan geographical division (1941) [13] :42
Princely State
Hinduism Om.svg [lower-alpha 7] Islam Star and Crescent.svg Sikhism Khanda.svg Christianity Christian cross.svg Jainism Jain Prateek Chihna.svg Others [lower-alpha 10] Total
Pop. %Pop.%Pop.%Pop.%Pop.%Pop.%Pop.%
Sirmoor State 146,1997,3742,33438810156,026
Simla District 29,4667,0221,032934114838,576
Simla Hill States 345,71610,8122,69316112612359,520
Bilaspur State 108,3751,498453730110,336
Kangra District 846,53143,2494,8097881013,899899,377
Mandi State 227,4634,328583110208232,593
Suket State 69,97488423400071,092
Chamba State 155,91012,3181071900383168,908

Sub−Himalayan geographical division

Including Ambala district, Kalsia State, Hoshiarpur district, Gurdaspur district, Sialkot District, Gujrat District, Jhelum District, Rawalpindi District, and Attock District. [13] :48 [12] :2

Religion in the Sub−Himalayan geographical division of Punjab Province (1901—1941) [13] :48
Islam Star and Crescent.svg 60.62%61.19%61.44%61.99%62.29%
Hinduism Om.svg 33.09%27.36%26.66%22.85%21.98%
Sikhism Khanda.svg 5.68%9.74%9.77%11.65%11.89%
Christianity Christian cross.svg 0.48%1.59%2.01%2.05%1.74%
Jainism Jain Prateek Chihna.svg 0.12%0.12%0.12%0.11%0.12%
Religion in the Districts & Princely States of the Sub−Himalayan geographical division (1941) [13] :42
Princely State
Islam Star and Crescent.svg Hinduism Om.svg [lower-alpha 7] Sikhism Khanda.svg Christianity Christian cross.svg Jainism Jain Prateek Chihna.svg Others [lower-alpha 10] Total
Pop. %Pop.%Pop.%Pop.%Pop.%Pop.%Pop.%
Ambala District 268,999412,658156,5436,0653,065415847,745
Kalsia State 25,04929,86612,23555188067,393
Hoshiarpur District 380,759584,080198,1946,1651,12501,170,323
Gurdaspur District 589,923290,774221,26151,5222561,153,511
Sialkot District 739,218231,319139,40975,8313,2501,4701,190,497
Gujrat District 945,60984,64370,2334,4491081,104,952
Jhelum District 563,03340,88824,6808931595629,658
Rawalpindi District 628,19382,47864,1279,0141,33782785,231
Attock District 611,12843,20920,1201,3921313675,875

North−West Dry Area geographical division

Including Montgomery District, Shahpur District, Mianwali District, Lyallpur District, Jhang District, Multan District, Bahawalpur State, Muzaffargarh District, Dera Ghazi Khan District, and the Biloch Trans–Frontier Tract. [13] :48 [12] :2

Religion in the North−West Dry Area geographical division of Punjab Province (1901—1941) [13] :48
Islam Star and Crescent.svg 79.01%80.00%78.95%78.22%77.85%
Hinduism Om.svg 17.84%13.58%14.23%12.80%13.21%
Sikhism Khanda.svg 2.91%5.62%5.64%6.73%6.74%
Christianity Christian cross.svg 0.23%0.79%1.17%1.18%1.17%
Jainism Jain Prateek Chihna.svg 0.01%0.01%0.01%0.01%0.01%
Religion in the Districts & Princely States of the North−West Dry Area geographical division (1941) [13] :42
Princely State
Islam Star and Crescent.svg Hinduism Om.svg [lower-alpha 7] Sikhism Khanda.svg Christianity Christian cross.svg Jainism Jain Prateek Chihna.svg Others [lower-alpha 10] Total
Pop. %Pop.%Pop.%Pop.%Pop.%Pop.%Pop.%
Montgomery District 918,564210,966175,06424,43249281,329,103
Shahpur District 835,918102,17248,04612,770132998,921
Mianwali District 436,26062,8146,865358231506,321
Lyallpur District 877,518204,059262,73751,9483581,396,305
Jhang District 678,736129,88912,23876350821,631
Multan District 1,157,911249,87261,62814,290552801,484,333
Muzaffargarh District 616,07490,6435,882227023712,849
Dera Ghazi Khan District 512,67867,4071,072871060581,350
Bahawalpur State 1,098,814174,40846,9453,04835117,6431,341,209
Biloch Trans–Frontier Tract40,084160200040,246


As with religion, Punjab was a linguistically eclectically diverse province and region. In 1837, Persian had been abolished as the official language of Company administration and replaced by local Indian vernacular languages. In the Sikh Empire, Persian continued to be the official state language. [38] Shortly after annexing the Punjab in 1849, the Board of Administration canvassed local officials in each of the provinces's six divisions to decide which language was "best suited for the Courts and Public Business". [39] Officials in the western divisions recommended Persian whilst eastern officials suggested a shift to Urdu. [39] In September 1849 a two-language policy was instituted throughout the province. The language policy in the Punjab differed from other Indian provinces in that Urdu was not a widespread local vernacular. In 1849 John Lawrence noted "that Urdu is not the language of these districts and neither is Persian". [39]

In 1854, the Board of Administration abruptly ended the two-language policy and Urdu was designated as the official language of government across the province. The decision was motivated by new civil service rules requiring all officials pass a test in the official language of their local court. In fear of potentially losing their jobs, officials in Persian districts petitioned the board to replace Persian with Urdu, believing Urdu the easier language to master. [40] Urdu remained the official administrative language until 1947.

Officials, although aware that Punjabi was the colloquial language of the majority, instead favoured the use of Urdu for a number of reasons. Criticism of Punjabi included the belief that it was simply a form of patois, lacking any form of standardisation, and that "would be inflexible and barren, and incapable of expressing nice shades of meaning and exact logical ideas with the precision so essential in local proceedings." [40] Similar arguments had earlier been made about Bengali, Oriya and Hindustani; however, those languages were later adopted for local administration. Instead it is believed the advantages of Urdu served the administration greater. Urdu, and initially Persian, allowed the Company to recruit experienced administrators from elsewhere in India who did not speak Punjabi, to facilitate greater integration with other Indian territories which were administered with Urdu, and to help foster ties with local elites who spoke Persian and Urdu and could act as intermediaries with the wider populace. [40]

As per the 1911 census, speakers of the Punjabi dialects and languages, including standard Punjabi along with Lahnda [lower-alpha 12] formed just over three-quarters (75.93 per cent) of the total provincial population.

Linguistic Demographics of Punjab Province
Language Percentage
1911 [12] :370
Punjabi [lower-alpha 13] 75.93%
Western Hindi [lower-alpha 14] 15.82%
Western Pahari 4.11%
Rajasthani 3.0%
Balochi 0.29%
Pashto 0.28%
English 0.15%

Indo−Gangetic Plain West geographical division

Including Hisar district, Loharu State, Rohtak district, Dujana State, Gurgaon district, Pataudi State, Delhi, Karnal district, Jalandhar district, Kapurthala State, Ludhiana district, Malerkotla State, Firozpur district, Faridkot State, Patiala State, Jind State, Nabha State, Lahore District, Amritsar district, and Gujranwala District.

Linguistic Demographics of the Indo−Gangetic Plain West geographical division
Language Percentage
1911 [12] :370
Punjabi [lower-alpha 15] 64.49%
Western Hindi [lower-alpha 14] 29.56%
Rajasthani 6.26%
Western Pahari 0.87%
English 0.11%
Pashto 0.07%

Himalayan geographical division

Including Nahan State, Simla district, Simla Hill States, Kangra district, Mandi State, Suket State, and Chamba State.

Linguistic Demographics of the Himalayan geographical division
Language Percentage
1911 [12] :370
Western Pahari 50.22%
Punjabi 45.15%
Western Hindi [lower-alpha 14] 1.39%
English 0.2%
Rajasthani 0.02%
Pashto 0.01%

Sub−Himalayan geographical division

Including Ambala district, Kalsia State, Hoshiarpur district, Gurdaspur district, Sialkot District, Gujrat District, Jhelum District, Rawalpindi District, and Attock District.

Linguistic Demographics of the Sub−Himalayan geographical division
Language Percentage
1911 [12] :370
Punjabi [lower-alpha 16] 88.77%
Western Hindi [lower-alpha 14] 8.81%
Western Pahari 1.49%
Pashto 0.5%
English 0.3%
Rajasthani 0.01%

North–West Dry Area geographical division

Including Montgomery District, Shahpur District, Mianwali District, Lyallpur District, Jhang District, Multan District, Bahawalpur State, Muzaffargarh District, and Dera Ghazi Khan District.

Linguistic Demographics of the North–West Dry Area geographical division
Language Percentage
1911 [12] :370
Punjabi [lower-alpha 17] 96.45%
Balochi 1.25%
Rajasthani 0.62%
Western Hindi [lower-alpha 14] 0.56%
Pashto 0.53%
English 0.05%
Western Pahari 0.01%

Castes and tribes

Punjab Province was diverse, with many castes, subcastes and tribes all forming parts of the various ethnic groups in the province, contemporarily known as Punjabis, Saraikis, Haryanvis, Hindkowans, Dogras, Paharis, and others.

Castes and Tribes of Punjab Province (1881–1911) [12] :478
Caste or Tribe1881189119011911
Pop. %Pop.%Pop.%Pop.%
Jat 4,167,0004,430,0004,942,0004,957,000
Rajput 1,662,0001,759,0001,798,0001,635,000
Chamar 1,066,0001,178,0001,208,0001,129,000
Brahman 1,069,0001,107,0001,123,0001,018,000
Arain 795,000889,0001,007,000978,000
Chuhra 1,052,0001,188,0001,189,000926,000
Arora 512,000570,000643,000674,000
Tarkhan 563,000618,000681,000646,000
Julaha 586,000625,000657,000635,000
Gujar 552,000614,000632,000610,000
Kumhar 467,000515,000569,000550,000
Baloch 310,000359,000468,000532,000
Khatri 393,000419,000436,000433,000
Awan 332,000369,000421,000426,000
Mochi 332,000380,000415,000419,000
Bania 437,000442,000452,000404,000
Kanet 346,000370,000390,000404,000
Jhinwar 426,000468,000460,000360,000
Nai 324,000357,000376,000350,000
Sheikh 336,000332,000321,000339,000
Lohar 291,000323,000351,000323,000
Mussalli N/AN/AN/AN/A57,000310,000
Teli 261,000301,000322,000296,000
Pathan 188,000195,000284,000292,000
Faqir 114,000313,000386,000280,000
Machhi 161,000189,000236,000280,000
Sayyid 200,000215,000238,000247,000
Mirasi 192,000229,000247,000227,000
Ahir 173,000196,000205,000209,000
Kashmiri 152,000196,000193,000178,000
Dagi & Koli 176,000170,000155,000175,000
Kamboh 130,000151,000174,000172,000
Ghirath 160,000174,000170,000171,000
Sunar 145,000163,000177,000158,000
Dhobi 124,000139,000147,000156,000
Meo 116,000121,000147,000130,000
Chhimba 103,000145,000152,000129,000
Qassab 92,000108,000118,000120,000
Saini 153,000125,000127,000113,000
Mali 66,000181,000113,000104,000
Mughal 92,000118,00098,00099,000
Rathi 85,000101,00088,00098,000
Maliar N/AN/AN/AN/A81,00090,000
Dhanuk 66,00074,00077,00083,000
Jogi-Rawal 90,00091,00076,00083,000
Mahtam 52,00057,00083,00082,000
Dumna 71,00069,00069,00079,000
Mallah 62,00077,00073,00078,000
Qureshi N/AN/AN/AN/A53,00071,000
Dogar 63,00070,00075,00068,000
Khoja 62,00090,00099,00063,000
Khokhar 36,000130,000108,00060,000
Bharai 56,00067,00066,00058,000
Labana 47,00055,00056,00058,000
Total population20,800,99522,915,89424,367,11323,791,841


Literacy Rate by Religious Community in Punjab Province (1941) [13] :65
Religion % Total Literacy % Total Male Literacy % Total Female Literacy
Jains 41.93%29.03%12.90%
Sikhs 17.03%12.13%4.90%
Hindus 16.35%11.89%4.46%
Christians 7.76%4.69%3.07%
Muslims 6.97%5.52%1.45%

Administrative divisions

Districts of Punjab with Muslim (green) and non-Muslim (pink) majorities, as per 1941 census Punjab-religion-2.jpg
Districts of Punjab with Muslim (green) and non-Muslim (pink) majorities, as per 1941 census
Punjab (British India): British Territory and Princely States
DivisionDistricts in British Territory / Princely States
Rawalpindi Division
Lahore Division
Multan Division
Jullundur Division
Delhi Division
Total area, British Territory97,209 square miles
Native States
Total area, Native States36,532 square miles
Total area, Punjab133,741 square miles


Within a few years of its annexation, the Punjab was regarded as British India's model agricultural province. From the 1860s onwards, agricultural prices and land values soared in the Punjab. This stemmed from increasing political security and improvements in infrastructure and communications. New cash crops such as wheat, tobacco, sugar cane and cotton were introduced. By the 1920s the Punjab produced a tenth of India's total cotton crop and a third of its wheat crop. Per capita output of all the crops in the province increased by approximately 45 percent between 1891 and 1921, a growth contrasting to agricultural crises in Bengal, Bihar and Orissa during the period. [41]

The Punjab Agricultural College and Research Institute became the first higher educational agricultural institution in the Punjab when established in 1906. Rapid agricultural growth, combined with access to easy credit for landowners, led to a growing crisis of indebtedness. [42] When landowners were unable to pay down their loans, urban based moneylenders took advantage of the law to foreclose debts of mortgaged land. [42] This led to a situation where land increasingly passed to absentee moneylenders who had little connection to the villages were the land was located. The colonial government recognised this as a potential threat to the stability of the province, and a split emerged in the government between paternalists who favoured intervention to ensure order, and those who opposed state intervention in private property relations. [41] The paternalists emerged victorious and the Punjab Land Alienation Act, 1900 prevented urban commercial castes, who were overwhelmingly Hindu, from permanently acquiring land from statutory agriculturalist tribes, who were mainly Muslim and Sikh. [43]

Accompanied by the increasing franchise of the rural population, this interventionist approach led to a long lasting impact on the political landscape of the province. The agricultural lobby remained loyal to the government, and rejected communalism in common defence of its privileges against urban moneylenders. [41] This position was entrenched by the Unionist Party. The Congress Party's opposition to the Act led to it being marginalised in the Punjab, reducing its influence more so than in any other province, and inhibiting its ability to challenge colonial rule locally. The political dominance of the Unionist Party would remain until partition, and significantly it was only on the collapse of its power on the eve of independence from Britain, that communal violence began to spread in rural Punjab. [41]


In the immediate aftermath of annexation, the Sikh Khalsa Army was disbanded, and soldiers were required to surrender their weapons and return to agricultural or other pursuits. [15] The Bengal Army, keen to utilise the highly trained ex-Khalsa army troops began to recruit from the Punjab for Bengal infantry units stationed in the province. However opposition to the recruitment of these soldiers spread and resentment emerged from sepoys of the Bengal Army towards the incursion of Punjabis into their ranks. In 1851, the Punjab Irregular Force also known as the 'Piffars' was raised. Initially they consisted of one garrison and four mule batteries, four regiments of cavalry, eleven of infantry and the Corps of Guides, totalling approximately 13,000 men. [44] The gunners and infantry were mostly Punjabi, many from the Khalsa Army, whilst the cavalry had a considerable Hindustani presence. [44]

During the Indian Rebellion of 1857, eighteen new regiments were raised from the Punjab which remained loyal to the East India Company throughout the crisis in the Punjab and United Provinces. [45] By June 1858, of the 80,000 native troops in the Bengal Army, 75,000 were Punjabi of which 23,000 were Sikh. [46] In the aftermath of the rebellion, a thorough re-organisation of the army took place. Henceforth recruitment into the British Indian Army was restricted to loyal peoples and provinces. Punjabi Sikhs emerged as a particularly favoured martial race to serve the army. [47] In the midst of The Great Game, and fearful of a Russian invasion of British India, the Punjab was regarded of significant strategic importance as a frontier province. In addition to their loyalty and a belief in their suitability to serve in harsh conditions, Punjabi recruits were favoured as they could be paid at the local service rate, whereas soldiers serving on the frontier from more distant lands had to be paid extra foreign service allowances. [48] By 1875, of the entire Indian army, a third of recruits hailed from the Punjab. [49]

In 1914, three fifths of the Indian army came from the Punjab, despite the region constituting approximately one tenth of the total population of British India. [49] During the First World War, Punjabi Sikhs alone accounted for one quarter of all armed personnel in India. [47] Military service provided access to the wider world, and personnel were deployed across the British Empire from Malaya, the Mediterranean and Africa. [47] Upon completion of their terms of service, these personnel were often amongst the first to seek their fortunes abroad. [47] At the outbreak of the Second World War, 48 percent of the Indian army came from the province. [50] In Jhelum, Rawalpindi and Attock, the percentage of the total male population who enlisted reached fifteen percent. [51] The Punjab continued to be the main supplier of troops throughout the war, contributing 36 percent of the total Indian troops who served in the conflict. [52]

The huge proportion of Punjabis in the army meant that a significant amount of military expenditure went to Punjabis and in turn resulted in an abnormally high level of resource input in the Punjab. [53] It has been suggested that by 1935 if remittances of serving officers were combined with income from military pensions, more than two thirds of Punjab's land revenue could have been paid out of military incomes. [53] Military service further helped reduce the extent of indebtedness across the Province. In Hoshiarpur, a notable source of military personnel, in 1920 thirty percent of proprietors were debt free compared to the region's average of eleven percent. [53] In addition, the benefits of military service and the perception that the government was benevolent towards soldiers, affected the latter's attitudes towards the British. [46] The loyalty of recruited peasantry and the influence of military groups in rural areas across the province limited the reach of the nationalist movement in the province. [46]

Communications and transport

In 1853, the Viceroy Lord Dalhousie issued a minute stressing the military importance of railways across India. [54] In the Punjab, however, it was initially strategic commercial interests which drove investment in railways and communications from 1860. [54]

Independent railway companies emerged, such as the Scinde, Punjab and Delhi railways to build and operate new lines. In 1862, the first section of railway in the Punjab was constructed between Lahore and Amritsar, and Lahore Junction railway station opened. Lines were opened between Lahore and Multan in 1864, and Amritsar and Delhi in 1870. [54] The Scinde, Punjab and Delhi railways merged to form the Scinde, Punjab & Delhi Railway in 1870, creating a link between Karachi and Lahore via Multan. The Punjab Northern State Railway linked Lahore and Peshawar in 1883. By 1886, the independent railways had amalgamated into North Western State Railway. [54]

The construction of railway lines and the network of railway workshops generated employment opportunities, which in turn led to increased immigration into cantonment towns. [54] As connectivity increased across the province, it facilitated the movement of goods, and increased human interaction. It has been observed that the Ferozpur, Lahore and Amritsar began to develop into one composite cultural triangle due to the ease of connectivity between them. [54] Similarly barriers of spoken dialects eroded over time, and cultural affinities were increasingly fostered. [54]


In 1854, the Punjab education department was instituted with a policy to provide secular education in all government managed institutions. [55] Privately run institutions would only receive grants-in-aid in return for providing secular instruction. [55] By 1864 this had resulted in a situation whereby all grants-in-aid to higher education schools and colleges were received by institutions under European management, and no indigenous owned schools received government help. [55]

In the early 1860s, a number of educational colleges were established, including Lawrence College, Murree, King Edward Medical University, Government College, Lahore, Glancy Medical College and Forman Christian College. In 1882, Gottlieb Wilhelm Leitner published a damning report on the state of education in the Punjab. He lamented the failure to reconcile government run schools with traditional indigenous schools, and noted a steady decline in the number of schools across the province since annexation. [56] He noted in particular how Punjabi Muslim's avoided government run schools due to the lack of religious subjects taught in them, observing how at least 120,000 Punjabis attended schools unsupported by the state and describing it as 'a protest by the people against our system of education.' [57] Leitner had long advocated the benefits of oriental scholarship, and the fusion of government education with religious instruction. In January 1865 he had established the Anjuman-i-Punjab, a subscription based association aimed at using a European style of learning to promote useful knowledge, whilst also reviving traditional scholarship in Arabic, Persian and Sanskrit. [58] In 1884, a reorganisation of the Punjab education system occurred, introducing measures tending towards decentralisation of control over education and the promotion of an indigenous education agency. As a consequence several new institutions were encouraged in the province. The Arya Samaj opened a college in Lahore in 1886, the Sikhs opened the Khalsa College whilst the Anjuman-i-Himayat-i-Islam stepped in to organise Muslim education. [59] In 1886, the Punjab Chiefs' College, later renamed Aitchison College, was opened to further the education of the elite classes.


Early administration

In 1849, a Board of Administration was put in place to govern the newly annexed province. The Board was led by a President and two assistants. Beneath them Commissioners acted as Superintendents of revenue and police and exercised the civil appellate and the original criminal powers of Sessions Judges, whilst Deputy Commissioners were given subordinate civil, criminal and fiscal powers. [60] In 1853, the Board of Administration was abolished, and authority was invested in a single Chief Commissioner. The Government of India Act 1858 led to further restructuring and the office of Lieutenant-Governor replaced that of Chief Commissioner.

Although The Indian Councils Act, 1861 laid the foundation for the establishment of a local legislature in the Punjab, the first legislature was constituted in 1897. It consisted of a body of nominated officials and non-officials and was presided over by the Lieutenant-Governor. The first council lasted for eleven years until 1909. The Morley-Minto Reforms led to an elected members complementing the nominated officials in subsequent councils. [61]

Punjab Legislative Council and Assembly

The Government of India Act 1919 introduced the system of dyarchy across British India and led to the implementation of the first Punjab Legislative Council in 1921. At the same time the office of lieutenant governor was replaced with that of governor. The initial Council had ninety three members, seventy per cent of which were elected and the rest nominated. [61] A president was elected by the Council to preside over the meetings. Between 1921 and 1936, there were four terms of the Council. [61]

First Council8 January 192127 October 1923 Sir Montagu Butler and Herbert Casson
Second Council2 January 192427 October 1926Herbert Casson, Sir Abdul Qadir and Sir Shahab-ud-Din Virk
Third Council3 January 192726 July 1930Sir Shahab-ud-Din Virk
Fourth Council24 October 193010 November 1936Sir Shahab-ud-Din Virk and Sir Chhotu Ram

In 1935, the Government of India Act 1935 replaced dyarchy with increased provincial autonomy. It introduced direct elections, and enabled elected Indian representatives to form governments in the provincial assemblies. The Punjab Legislative Council was replaced by a Punjab Legislative Assembly, and the role of President with that of a Speaker. Membership of the Assembly was fixed at 175 members, and it was intended to sit for five years. [61]

First Assembly Election

The first election was held in 1937 and was won outright by the Unionist Party. Its leader, Sir Sikandar Hayat Khan was asked by the Governor, Sir Herbert Emerson to form a Ministry and he chose a cabinet consisting of three Muslims, two Hindus and a Sikh. [62] Sir Sikandar died in 1942 and was succeeded as Premier by Khizar Hayat Khan Tiwana.

Premier Sir Sikandar Hayat Khan
Revenue Minister Sir Sundar Singh Majithia
Development Minister Sir Chhotu Ram
Finance Minister Manohar Lal
Public Works Minister Khizar Hayat Khan Tiwana
Education Minister Mian Abdul Haye

Second Assembly Election

The next election was held in 1946. The Muslim League won the most seats, winning 73 out of a total of 175. However a coalition led by the Unionist Party and consisting of the Congress Party and Akali Party were able to secure an overall majority. A campaign of civil disobedience by the Muslim League followed, lasting six weeks, and led to the resignation of Sir Khizar Tiwana and the collapse of the coalition government on 2 March 1947. [63] The Muslim League however were unable to attract the support of other minorities to form a coalition government themselves. [64] Amid this stalemate the Governor Sir Evan Jenkins assumed control of the government and remained in charge until the independence of India and Pakistan. [64]

Coat of arms

Arms of British Punjab Arms of British Punjab.jpg
Arms of British Punjab

Crescat e Fluviis meaning, Let it grow from the rivers was the Latin motto used in the Coat of arms for Punjab Province. As per the book History of the Sikhs written by Khushwant Singh, it means Strength from the Rivers.

See also

Related Research Articles

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  1. Including Attock District, Jhelum District, Rawalpindi District, and Shahpur District
  2. Including Amritsar District, Gujranwala District, Gujrat District, Gurdaspur District, Lahore District, Lyallpur District,
  3. Including Dera Ghazi Khan District, Jhang District, Mianwali District, Multan District, and Muzaffargarh District
  4. Including Firozpur district, Hoshiarpur district, Jalandhar district, Kangra district, and Ludhiana district
  5. Including Ambala district, Delhi district, Gurgaon district, Hisar district, Karnal district, Rohtak district, and Shimla. Later renamed Ambala Division in 1911, following separation of Delhi district from Punjab Province.
  6. Including Patiala State, Jind State, Nabha State, Bahawalpur State, Sirmur State, Loharu State, Dujana, Pataudi State, Kalsia, Simla Hill States, Kapurthala State, Mandi State, Malerkotla State, Suket State, Faridkot State, Siba State, Chamba State, and Kahlur (Bilaspur)
  7. 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 Including Ad-Dharmis
  8. Delhi district is made into a separate territory
  9. 1941 figure taken from census data by combining the total population of all districts (Lahore, Sialkot, Gujranwala, Sheikhupura, Gujrat, Shahpur, Jhelum, Rawalpindi, Attock, Mianwali, Montgomery, Lyallpur, Jhang, Multan, Muzaffargargh, Dera Ghazi Khan), one tehsil (Shakargarh – then part of Gurdaspur District), one princely state (Bahawalpur), and one tract (Biloch Trans–Frontier) in Punjab Province, British India that ultimately fell on the western side of the Radcliffe Line. See 1941 census data here: [13] :42
    Immediately following the partition of India in 1947, these districts and tract would ultimately make up the subdivision of West Punjab, which also later included Bahawalpur. The state that makes up this region in the contemporary era is Punjab, Pakistan.
  10. 1 2 3 4 5 6 Including Buddhism, Zoroastrianism, Judaism, Tribals, others, or not stated
  11. 1941 figure taken from census data by combining the total population of all districts (Hisar, Rohtak, Gurgaon, Karnal, Jalandhar, Ludhiana, Firozpur, Amritsar, Simla, Kangra, Ambala, Hoshiarpur, and Gurdaspur (minus Shakargarh Tehsil)), and princely states (Loharu, Dujana, Pataudi, Kalsia, Kapurthala, Malerkotla, Faridkot, Patiala, Jind, Nabha, Sirmoor, Simla Hill, Bilaspur, Mandi, Suket, and Chamba) in Punjab Province, British India that ultimately fell on the eastern side of the Radcliffe Line. See 1941 census data here: [13] :42
    Immediately following the partition of India in 1947, these districts and princely states would ultimately make up the subdivision of East Punjab, which also included Patiala and East Punjab States Union, Chief Commissioner's Province of Himachal Pradesh, and Bilaspur State. The states that make up this region in the contemporary era are Punjab, India, Chandigarh, Haryana, and Himachal Pradesh.
  12. 1 2 3 4 5 Western Punjabi languages and dialects including Saraiki, Hindko and Pahari-Pothwari, and other related languages or dialects
  13. Standard Punjabi: 58.34%
    Lahnda: [lower-alpha 12] 17.59%
  14. 1 2 3 4 5 Including Hindustani (Hindi and Urdu), Braj Bhasha, Haryanvi, and other related languages or dialects
  15. Standard Punjabi: 63.49%
    Lahnda: [lower-alpha 12] 1.0%
  16. Standard Punjabi: 74.01%
    Lahnda: [lower-alpha 12] 14.76%
  17. Lahnda: [lower-alpha 12] 60.31%
    Standard Punjabi: 36.14%