Total population
c.145 million[1][2]
Regions with significant populations
 Pakistan        106,466,922[3][a][4]
 India          36,161,924 [5][b][6]
 United Kingdom 700,000[7]
 Canada 668,240[8][c]
 United States 253,740[9]
 Australia 132,496[10]
 Malaysia 56,400[11]
 Philippines 50,000[12]
 New Zealand 34,227[13]
 Norway 24,000[14]
 Bangladesh 23,700[15]
 Germany 18,000[16]
   Nepal 10,000[17]
Others See Punjabi diaspora
Majority: Punjabi and its dialects
Minority: Urdu (in Pakistan) and Hindi (in India)
West Punjab (Pakistan):
Star and Crescent.svg Islam (97%)
Christian cross.svg Christianity (2.31%) • HinduismSikhism

East Punjab (India):
Khanda.svg Sikhism (57.7%)
Om.svg Hinduism (38.5%) • IslamChristianity[18][19]
Related ethnic groups
Other Indo-Aryan peoples

The Punjabis (Punjabi (Shahmukhi): پنجابی, Punjabi (Gurmukhi): ਪੰਜਾਬੀ) or the Punjabi people, are an Indo-Aryan ethnolinguistic group associated with the Punjab region in South Asia, specifically in the northern part of the Indian subcontinent presently divided between Pakistani Punjab and Indian Punjab. They speak Punjabi, a language from the Indo-Aryan language family.[20] The term Punjab means the five waters from Persian: panj ("five") and āb ("waters").[21] The name of the region was introduced by the Turko-Persian conquerors[22] of the Indian subcontinent.

The historical Punjab region (see Partition of Punjab for important historical context) is often referred to as the breadbasket in both India and Pakistan.[23][24] The coalescence of the various tribes, castes and the inhabitants of the Punjab region into a broader common "Punjabi" identity initiated from the onset of the 18th century CE. Prior to that the sense and perception of a common "Punjabi" ethno-cultural identity and community did not exist, even though the majority of the various communities of the Punjab region had long shared linguistic, cultural and racial commonalities.[25][26][27]

Traditionally, Punjabi identity is primarily linguistic, geographical and cultural. Its identity is independent of historical origin or religion and refers to those who reside in the Punjab region or associate with its population and those who consider the Punjabi language their mother tongue.[28] Integration and assimilation are important parts of Punjabi culture, since Punjabi identity is not based solely on tribal connections. More or less all Punjabis share the same cultural background.[29][30]

Historically, the Punjabi people were a heterogeneous group and were subdivided into a number of clans called biradari (literally meaning "brotherhood") or tribes, with each person bound to a clan. However, Punjabi identity also included those who did not belong to any of the historical tribes. With the passage of time, tribal structures are coming to an end and are being replaced with a more cohesive[31] and holistic society, as community building and group cohesiveness[32][33] form the new pillars of Punjabi society.[34] In relative contemporary terms, Punjabis can be referred to in four most common subgroups; Punjabi Muslims, Punjabi Hindus, Punjabi Sikhs, and Punjabi Christians.[35]

Geographic distribution

Sikh era Punjab

In the 19th century, Maharaja Ranjit Singh established a Punjabi Sikh Empire[36] based around the Punjab. The main geographical footprint of the country was the Punjab region to Khyber Pass in the west, to Kashmir in the north, to Sindh in the south and Tibet in the east. The religious demography of the Kingdom was Muslim (70%), Sikh (17%), Hindu (13%).[37] The population was 3.5 million, according to Amarinder Singh's The Last Sunset: The Rise and Fall of the Lahore Durbar. In 1799 Ranjit Singh moved the capital to Lahore from Gujranwala, where it had been established in 1763 by his grandfather, Charat Singh.[38]

The Punjab region was a region straddling India and the Afghan Durrani Empire. The following modern-day political divisions made up the historical Punjabi kingdom:

Map showing the Punjabi Sikh Empire

After Ranjit Singh's death in 1839, the empire was severely weakened by internal divisions and political mismanagement. This opportunity was used by the East India Company to launch the First and Second Anglo-Sikh Wars. The country was finally annexed and dissolved at the end of the Second Anglo-Sikh War in 1849 into separate princely states and the province of Punjab. Eventually, a Lieutenant Governorship was formed in Lahore as a direct representative of the Crown.[44]: 221 

Partition of Punjab

The Punjab region, with its rivers

The 1947 independence of India and Pakistan, and the subsequent partition of Punjab, is considered by historians to be the beginning of the end of the British Empire.[45] The UNHCR estimates 14 million Hindus, Sikhs and Muslims were displaced during the partition.[46] To date, this is considered the largest mass migration in human history.[47]

Until 1947, the province of Punjab was ruled by a coalition comprising the Indian National Congress, the Sikh-led Shiromani Akali Dal and the Unionist Muslim League. However, the growth of Muslim nationalism led to the All India Muslim League becoming the dominant party in the 1946 elections. As Muslim separatism increased, the opposition from Punjabi Hindus and Sikhs increased substantially. Communal violence on the eve of Indian independence led to the dismissal of the coalition government, although the succeeding League ministry was unable to form a majority. Along with the province of Bengal, Punjab was partitioned on religious lines – the Muslim-majority West becoming part of the new Muslim state of Pakistan, and the Hindu and Sikh East remaining in India. Partition was accompanied by massive violence on both sides, claiming the lives of hundreds of thousands of people.[48] West Punjab was virtually cleansed of its Hindu and Sikh populations, who were forced to leave for India, while East Punjab and Delhi were virtually cleansed of their Muslim population.

By the 1960s, Indian Punjab underwent reorganisation as demands for a linguistic Punjabi state increased (in line with the policy of linguistic states that had been applied in the rest of India). The Hindi-speaking areas were formed into the states of Himachal Pradesh and Haryana respectively, leaving a Punjabi speaking majority in the state of Punjab. In the 1980s, Sikh separatism combined with popular anger against the Indian Army's counter-insurgency operations (especially Operation Bluestar) led to violence and disorder in Indian Punjab, which only subsided in the 1990s. Political power in Indian Punjab is contested between the secular Congress Party and the Sikh religious party Akali Dal and its allies, the Bharatiya Janata Party. Indian Punjab remains one of the most prosperous of India's states and is considered the "breadbasket of India."

Subsequent to partition, West Punjabis made up a majority of the Pakistani population, and the Punjab province constituted 40% of Pakistan's total land mass. Today Punjabis continue to be the largest ethnic group in Pakistan, accounting for half of the country's population. They reside predominantly in the province of Punjab, neighboring Azad Kashmir and in Islamabad Capital Territory. Punjabis are also found in large communities in the largest city of Pakistan, Karachi, located in the Sindh province.

Punjabis in India can be found in the states of Punjab, as well as Haryana, Himachal Pradesh, Delhi and the Union Territory of Chandigarh. Large communities of Punjabis are also found in the Jammu region of Jammu and Kashmir and in Rajasthan, Uttarakhand and Uttar Pradesh.

Punjabis in Pakistan

Punjabi-inhabited areas of Pakistan and India (brown)

While the total population of Punjab is 110 million,[49] ethnic Punjabis are numbered as 106,466,922[50][d][4][51] which makes up 44.7%[52][53][54][55] of the national population of 238 million[56][e] Pakistanis; this makes Punjabis the largest ethnic group in Pakistan by population. The Punjabis found in Pakistan belong to groups known as baradari. In addition, Punjabi society is divided into two divisions, the zamindar groups or qoums, traditionally associated with farming and the moeens, who are traditionally artisans. Some zamindars are further divided into groups such as the Rajputs, Jats, Shaikhs or Muslim Khatris, Gujjars, Awans, Arains and Syeds. People from neighbouring regions, such as Kashmiris, Pashtuns and Baluch, also form size-able portion of the Punjabi population. A large number of punjabis descend from the groups historically associated with skilled professions and crafts such as Sunar, Lohar, Kumhar, Tarkhan, Julaha, Mochi, Hajjam, Chhimba Darzi, Teli, Lalari, Qassab, Mallaah, Dhobi, Mirasi etc.[57][page needed]

Religious homogeneity remains elusive as a predominant Sunni population with Shia, Ahmadiyya and Christian minorities. 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).

The recent definition of Punjabis, in Pakistani Punjab, is not based on racial classification, common ancestry or endogamy, but based on geographical and cultural basis.[citation needed]

Punjabis in India

The Punjabi-speaking people make 2.74% of India's population as of 2011.[58] The total number of Indian Punjabis is unknown due to the fact that ethnicity is not recorded in the Census of India. Sikhs are largely concentrated in the modern-day state of Punjab forming 57.7% of the population with Hindus forming 38.5%.[59] Ethnic Punjabis are believed to account for at least 40% of Delhi's total population and are predominantly Hindi-speaking Punjabi Hindus.[60][61][62]

Like the Punjabi Muslim society, these various castes are associated with particular occupations or crafts.

Indian Punjab is also home to small groups of Muslims and Christians. Most of the 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 Qadian, and 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. In addition, Meo Muslims in southern Haryana (part of erstwhile East Punjab) also didn’t leave, and form a majority in the Nuh district.

The Indian censuses record the native languages, but not the descent of the citizens. Linguistic data cannot accurately predict ethnicity: for example, Punjabis make up a large portion of Delhi's population but many descendants of the Punjabi Hindu refugees, largely from West Punjab, who came to Delhi following the partition of India now speak Hindi as their first language. Thus, there is no concrete official data on the ethnic makeup of Delhi and other Indian states.[62]: 8–10 

Punjabi diaspora

The Punjabi people have emigrated in large numbers to many parts of the world. In the early 20th century, many Punjabis began settling in the United States, including independence activists who formed the Ghadar Party. The United Kingdom has a significant number of Punjabis from both Pakistan and India. The most populous areas being London, Birmingham, Manchester and Glasgow. In Canada (specifically Vancouver,[63] Toronto,[64] and Calgary[65]) and the United States, (specifically California's Central Valley). In the 1970s, a large wave of emigration of Punjabis (predominately from Pakistan) began to the Middle East, in places such as the UAE, Saudi Arabia and Kuwait. There are also 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. Of recent times many Punjabis have also moved to Italy.

Punjabi State

According to Pippa Virdee, the 1947 partition of India and Pakistan has shadowed the sense of loss of what used to be a homeland nation for the Punjabi people in the Indian subcontinent and its diaspora.[66] Since the mid 1980s, there has been a drive for Punjabi cultural revival, consolidation of Punjabi ethnicity and a virtual Punjabi nation.[67] According to Giorgio Shani, this is predominantly a Sikh ethno-nationalism movement led by some Sikh organizations, and a view that is not shared by Punjabi people organizations belonging to other religions.[68]

History of Punjab

One of the first known kings of ancient Punjab, King Porus who fought with Alexander the Great

Indigenous population flourished in this region, leading to a developed civilization in 5th to 4th millennium BC,[69] the ancient Indus Valley Civilization. Also, Buddhist remnants have been found like that of the Mankiala and the Gandhara civilisation. The remains of the ancient city of Taxila,[70] and many ornaments that have been found in this region, suggests that,[71] one of the centres of Indus Valley Civilization was established at many parts of Punjab, most notably Taxila and Harappa,[72] Punjab became a center of early civilization from around 3300 BC. During the Vedic Era The earliest text of Rigveda were composed in greater Punjab (northwest India and Pakistan) region.[73]

According to historians, this region was ruled by many small kingdoms and tribes around the 4th and 5th BCE. The earliest known notable local king of this region was known as King Porus[74][75] and he fought a famous Battle of the Hydaspes[76] against Alexander. His kingdom, known as Pauravas, was situated between Hydaspes (modern Jhelum) and Acesines (modern-day Chenab).[74] These kings fought local battles to gain more ground. Taxiles (Ambhi), another local king from Punjab, wanted to defeat his eastern adversary Porus in a turf war and he invited Alexander the Great to defeat Porus. This marked the first intrusion of the West in the Indian subcontinent and Indus valley in general. But such was the valor of Porus and his kingdom forces in Punjab, that despite being defeated, he was appreciated by Alexander the Great for his skill and valor and he was granted further territories in the North.[citation needed] The other local kings did not like the fact that Porus was now an ally of Western forces. In less than ten years an Indian king Chandragupta Maurya[77] defeated the forces and conquered the Northern Indian regions up to the Kabul River (in modern-day Afghanistan). Alexander mostly ruled this land with the help of local allies like Porus.[78]

Centuries later, areas of the Punjab region were ruled by local kings followed by the Ghaznavids, Ghurids, Delhi Sultanate, Mughals and others. Islam arrived in Punjab when the Muslim Umayyad army led by Muhammad bin Qasim conquered Sindh in 711 AD, by defeating Raja Dahir. Some of the Muslims are said to have settled in the region and adopted the local culture. Centuries later, the Ghaznavids introduced aspects of foreign Persian and Turkic culture in Punjab.

Map showing the sites and extent of the Indus Valley Civilisation. Harappa was the center of one of the core regions of the Indus Valley Civilization, located in central Punjab. The Harappan architecture and Harrapan Civilization was one of the most developed in the old Bronze Age.

The earliest written Punjabi dates back to the writing of Sufi Muslim poets of the 11th Century. Its literature spread Punjab's unique voice of peace and spirituality to the entire civilization of the region.

Regions of North India and Punjab were annexed into the Afghan Durrani Empire later on in 1747, being a vulnerable target.[79] However, in 1758, the Marathas captured most of Punjab including Lahore during its northwest expansion campaign. After conquering Peshawar and Attock, the Marathas defeated the Durrani Empire in the Battle of Lahore fought in 1759.The region was lost to the Durranis, however, after the Third Battle of Panipat. The grandson of Ahmed Shah Durrani (Zaman Shah Durrani), lost it to Ranjit Singh, a Punjabi Sikh. He was born in 1780 to Maha Singh and Raj Kaur in Gujranwala, Punjab. Ranjit took a leading role in organising a Sikh militia and got control of the Punjab region from Zaman Shah Durrani. Ranjit started a Punjabi military expedition to expand his territory.[80] Under his command the Sikh army began invading neighbouring territories outside of Punjab. The Jamrud Fort at the entry of Khyber Pass was built by Ranjit Singh.[81] The Sikh Empire slowly began to weaken after the death of Hari Singh Nalwa at the Battle of Jamrud in 1837. Two years later, in 1839, Ranjit Singh died and his son took over control of the empire. By 1850 the East India Company took over control of the Punjab region after defeating the Sikhs in the Second Anglo-Sikh War,[82][83] establishing their rule over the region for around the next 100 years as a part of the British Raj. Many Sikhs and Punjabis later pledged their allegiance to the British, serving as sepoys (native soldiers) within the Raj.[44]: 163 


The Punjabi people first practiced Hinduism, the oldest recorded religion in the Punjab region.[84] An ancient Indian law book called the Manusmriti, developed by Brahmin Hindu priests, shaped Punjabi religious life from 200 BC onward.[84] Later, the spread of Buddhism and Jainism in India saw many Punjabi Hindus adopting the Buddhist and Jain faiths. However, the gradual decline of Buddhism in the Indian subcontinent coinciding with the establishment of the Gupta Empire during the early 4th century CE resulted in Punjab becoming a predominantly Hindu society once again through religious syncretism,[85] though Jainism continued as a minority religion.[86][87]

The arrival of Islam in medieval India first in the 8th century CE resulted in the conversion of some Punjabi Hindus to Islam particularly in southern and western regions,[88][84] while the rise of Sikhism in the 1700s saw some Punjabis, both Hindu and Muslim, accepting the new Sikh faith.[84][89] A number of Punjabis during the colonial period of India became Christians, with all of these religions characterizing the religious diversity now found in the Punjab region.[84]

The region of Punjab is the birthplace of one monotheistic religion that is known as Sikhism.[90][91] Also many well known followers of Sufism[92] were born in Punjab.[93]

Due to religious tensions, emigration between Punjabi people started far before the partition and dependable records.[98][99] Shortly prior to the Partition of India, Punjab had a slight majority Muslim population at about 53.2% in 1941, which was an increase from the previous years.[100] With the division of Punjab and the subsequent independence of Pakistan and later India, mass migrations of Muslims from Indian Punjab to Pakistan, and those of Sikhs and Hindus from Pakistan to Indian Punjab occurred. Today the majority of Pakistani Punjabis follow Islam with a small Christian minority, and less Sikh and Hindu populations, while the majority of Indian Punjabis are either Sikhs or Hindus with a Muslim minority. Punjab is also the birthplace of Sikhism and the movement Ahmadiyya.[101]

Following the independence of Pakistan and the subsequent partition, a process of population exchange took place in 1947 as Muslims began to leave India and headed to the newly created Pakistan and Hindus and Sikhs left Pakistan[102] for independent India.[103] As a result of these population exchanges, both parts are now relatively homogeneous, as far as religion is concerned.

Population trends for major religious groups in the Punjab Province of British India (1881–1941)[94]
% 1881
% 1891
% 1901
% 1911
% 1921
% 1931
% 1941
Islam 47.6% 47.8% 49.6% 51.1% 51.1% 52.4% 53.2%
Hinduism 43.8% 43.6% 41.3% 35.8% 35.1% 30.2% 29.1%
Sikhism 8.2% 8.2% 8.6% 12.1% 12.4% 14.3% 14.9%
Christianity 0.1% 0.2% 0.3% 0.8% 1.3% 1.5% 1.5%
Other religions / no religion 0.3% 0.2% 0.2% 0.2% 0.1% 1.6% 1.3%

Punjabi Muslims

Punjabi Muslims are found almost exclusively in Pakistan with 97% of Punjabis who live in Pakistan following Islam, in contrast to Punjabi Sikhs and Punjabi Hindus who predominantly live in India.[19]

The Arab Umayyad army brought Islam to the region led by Muhammad bin Qasim who conquered Sindh and Southern Punjab in 712, by defeating Raja Dahir. The Umayyad Caliphate was the second Islamic caliphate established after the death of Muhammad. It was ruled by the Umayyad dynasty, whose name derives from Umayya ibn Abd Shams, the great-grandfather of the first Umayyad caliph.

Growth of Islam in Punjab started during the reign of a variety of Muslim dynasties and kingdoms in the Punjab region, including Ghaznavids under Mahmud of Ghazni,[104][105][106] the Delhi Sultanate, the Mughal Empire and finally the Durrani Empire. The Ghaznavids had earlier conquered and converted many Hindu-Buddhist kingdoms of Afghanistan. The province became an important center and Lahore was made into a second capital of the Ghaznavid Empire. The Delhi Sultanate and later Mughal Empire ruled the region. Missionary Sufi saints whose dargahs dot the landscape of Punjab region also played the dominant role in bringing about conversion. Sufis also comprised the educated elites of the Punjab for many centuries. Early classical Punjabi epics, such as Heer Ranjha, Mirza Sahiban, etc. were written by the Sufis like Waris Shah.[107][self-published source] Muslims established Punjabi literature, utilized Shahmukhi as the predominant script of the Punjab, as well as made major contributions to the music, art, cuisine and culture of the region. The Mughals controlled the region from 1524 until 1739 and would also lavish some parts of the province with building projects such as the Shalimar Gardens and the Badshahi Mosque, both situated in Lahore. The Muslim establishment in the Punjab occurred over a period of several centuries lasting until towards the end of the British Raj and the division of the Punjab province between Pakistan and India in August 1947. After the independence of Pakistan in 1947, the minority Hindus and Sikhs migrated to India while the Muslim's settled in Pakistan.[108][109] Today Muslims constitute only 1.53% of Eastern Punjab in India as now the majority of Muslims live in Western Punjab in Pakistan.

Punjabi Muslims in Pakistan use the Shahmukhi script (modified Perso-Arabic script) to write in Punjabi.[110]

Punjabi Hindus

Today, Punjabi Hindus are mostly found in Indian Punjab where they make around 38.5% of the population[59] and in neighboring states like Haryana, Himachal Pradesh and Delhi, which together forms a part of the historical greater Punjab region. Many of the Hindu Punjabis in the Indian capital Delhi are immigrants or descendants of immigrants from various parts of Western Pakistani Punjab. Some Punjabi Hindus can also be found in the bordering areas of Jammu and Rajasthan as well as the recent cosmopolitan migrants in other big cities like Mumbai. There has also been continuous migration of Punjabi Hindus to western countries like USA, Canada, Australia, New Zealand, European Union, UAE and UK.

In Punjab province of Pakistan, there are 2.2 lakh Hindus forming about 0.2% of the province's population.[111] Hindus live mainly in the Southern Punjab districts of Rahim Yar Khan and Bahawalpur.[112]

Punjabis Hindus speak different dialects including Lahnda, as well as Majhi (Standard Punjabi) and others like Doabi and Malwi. Some still have managed to retain the Punjabi dialects spoken in Western Punjab, but many have also adopted Hindi. Punjabi Hindus in India use Nāgarī script to write the Hindi and Punjabi languages.[110]

Punjabi Sikhs

Sikhism from Sikh, meaning a "disciple", or a "learner", is a monotheistic religion originated in the Punjab region of the Indian subcontinent during the 15th century.[113][114] The fundamental beliefs of Sikhism, articulated in the sacred scripture Guru Granth Sahib, include faith and meditation on the name of the one creator, unity and equality of all humankind, engaging in selfless service, striving for social justice for the benefit and prosperity of all, and honest conduct and livelihood while living a householder's life.[115][116][117] Being one of the youngest amongst the major world religions, with 25-28 million adherents worldwide, Sikhism is the fifth- largest religion in the world.

The Sikhs form a majority of close to 58% in the modern day Punjab, India.

Gurmukhi is the writing script used by Sikhs and for scriptures of Sikhism. It is used in official documents in parts of India and elsewhere.[110] The tenth Guru of Sikhs, Guru Gobind Singh (1666 – 1708) established the Khalsa Brotherhood, and set for them a code of conduct.[118][119]

Punjabi Christians

Christian missionaries accompanied the Portuguese India, India, and British when they arrived in India. Catholicism was brought by the Portuguese and French, while Protestantism was mainly brought by the British in the later 18th and 19th century.[citation needed]

The total number of Punjabi Christians in Pakistan is approximately 2,800,000 and 300,000 in Indian Punjab. Of these, approximately half are Roman Catholic and half Protestant. Many of the modern Punjabi Christians are descended from converts during British rule; initially, conversions to Christianity came from the "upper levels of Punjab society, from the privileged and prestigious", including "high caste" Hindu families, as well as Muslim families.[120][121][122] However, other modern Punjabi Christians have converted from the Chuhra group. The Churas were largely converted to Christianity in North India during the British Raj. The vast majority were converted from the Hindu Chura communities of Punjab, and to a lesser extent Mazhabi Sikhs; under the influence of enthusiastic army officers and Christian missionaries. Consequently, since the independence they are now divided between Pakistani Punjab and Indian Punjab. Large numbers of Mazhabi Sikhs were also converted in the Moradabad district and the Bijnor district[123] of Uttar Pradesh. Rohilkhand saw a mass conversion of its entire population of 4500 Mazhabi Sikhs into the Methodist Church.[124] Sikh organisations became alarmed at the rate of conversions among high caste Sikh families,[125] and as a result, they responded by immediately dispatching Sikh missionaries to counteract the conversions[citation needed].


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 poetry, philosophy, spirituality, artistry, dance, music, cuisine, military weaponry, architecture, languages, traditions, values and history. Historically, the Punjab/Punjabis, in addition to their rural-agrarian lands and culture, have also enjoyed a unique urban cultural development in two great cities, Lahore[126] and Amritsar.[127]

Role of women

Sophia Duleep Singh, a prominent British Punjabi Suffragette and granddaughter of Maharaja Ranjit Singh of Punjab (1876–1948)

In the traditional Punjabi culture women look after the household and children. Also women in general work in agricultural fields and manage the finances of the household. There are notable poets and painters among Punjabi women including Amrita Pritam and Amrita Shergill.[128][129]


Punjabi is the most spoken language in Pakistan and eleventh most spoken language in India. According to the Ethnologue 2005 estimate,[130] there are 130 million native speakers of the Punjabi language, which makes it the ninth most widely spoken language in the world. According to a 2008 estimate,[131][original research?] there are approximately 76,335,300 native speakers of Punjabi in Pakistan,[citation needed] and according to the 2011 Census of India, there are over 31,144,095 Punjabi speakers in India.[6] Punjabi is also spoken as a minority language in several other countries where Punjabis have emigrated in large numbers, such as the United Kingdom (where it is the second most commonly used language[132]) and Canada, in which Punjabi has now become the fourth most spoken language after English, French and Chinese, due to the rapid growth of immigrants from Pakistan and India.[133] There are also sizeable communities in the Philippines, United States, Kenya, Tanzania, Uganda, Persian Gulf countries, Hong Kong, Malaysia, Singapore, Australia and New Zealand.

There are an estimated 102 million Punjabi speakers around the world.[134] If regarded as an ethnic group, they are among the world's largest. In South Asia, they are the second largest ethnic group after the Bengali people.

The main language of the Punjabi people is Punjabi and its associated dialects, which differ depending on the region of Punjab the speaker is from; there are notable differences in the Lahnda languages, spoken in the Pakistani Punjab. In the Pakistani Punjab, the vast majority still speak Punjabi, even though the language has no governmental support. In the Indian Punjab, most people speak Punjabi. English is sometimes used, and older people who lived in the undivided Punjab may be able to speak and write in Urdu. The Punjabi languages have always absorbed numerous loanwords from surrounding areas and provinces (and from English).


Sarson da saag, popular vegetable dish of the Punjabi people

Punjabi cuisine has a wide range of dishes and enjoys world wide popularity. Many entrepreneurs have built large personal fortunes by investing in the sector promoting Punjabi cuisine which uses a uniquely appealing spice palette.[135][136] Punjabi cuisine has become popular in the world due, not only to its intrinsic quality, but also due to the Punjabi diaspora promoting popularity and visibility in the western world including the UK, Canada and the U.S. Some of the most popular dishes include Butter Chicken, Tandoori chicken, Dal makhni, chicken tikka lababdar, Saron da saag and stuffed or un stuffed naans (a type of unleavened bread).


Bhangra describes dance-oriented popular music with Punjabi rhythms, developed since the 1980s. The name refers to one of the traditional and folkloric Punjabi dances. Bhangra dance is commonly practiced in Punjab, India. Bhangra music is appreciated all over the globe. Sufi music and Qawali, commonly practiced in Punjab, Pakistan; are other important genres in the Punjab region.[137][138]


Owing to the long history of the Punjabi culture and of the Punjabi people, there are a large number of dances normally performed at times of celebration, the time of festivals known as Melas and the most prominent dances are at Punjabi weddings, where the elation is usually particularly intense. Punjabi dances are performed either by men or by women. The dances range from solo to group dances and also sometimes dances are done along with musical instruments like Dhol, Flute, Supp, Dhumri, Chimta etc. Other common dances that both men and women perform are Karthi, Jindua, and Dandass.[139] "Bhangra" dance is the most famous aspect of Punjabi dance tradition. Its popularity has attained a level where a music is produced with the intent of aiding people to carry out this form of dancing.

Wedding traditions

Punjabi wedding traditions and ceremonies are conducted in different languages based on traditions/religions and are a strong reflection of the culture. Many local songs known as boliyan are a part of the wedding ceremonies.[140] While the actual religious marriage ceremony among Muslims, Sikhs, Hindus, and Jains may be conducted in Arabic, Punjabi, or Sanskrit, by the Qari, Pandit or Granthi, there are also many similarities in ritual, song, dance, food, make-up and dress.

Punjabi weddings have many rituals and ceremonies that have evolved since traditional times. The Punjabi weddings in India hold receptions of all sorts and are known to be very energetic with loud Bhangra music, people dancing, and a wide variety of Punjabi food. Punjabi weddings held in Pakistan are similar but some Muslim marriages hold many religious traditions.

Folk tales

The folk tales of Punjab include many stories[141] which are passing through generations and includes folk stories like Heer Ranjha, Mirza Sahiban,[142] Sohni Mahiwal etc. to name a few.


Vaisakhi, Jashan-e-Baharan, Basant, Kanak katai da mela ( Wheat cutting celebrations ) and many more. The jagrātā, also called jāgā or jāgran, means an all night vigil. This type of vigil is found throughout India and is usually held to worship a deity with song and ritual. The goal is to gain the favour of the Goddess, to obtain some material benefit, or repay her for one already received. The Goddess is invoked by the devotees to pay them a visit at the location of the jagrātā, whether it be in their own homes or communities, in the form of a flame.[143]

Traditional dress

Punjabi traditional dress in India

A Dastaar is an item of headgear associated with Sikhism and is an important part of the Punjabi and Sikh culture. The symbolic article of the nation represents honour, self-respect, courage, spirituality, and piety. Wearing a Sikh dastaar, or turban, is mandatory for all Sikh men. Prior to Sikhi, only kings, royalty, and those of high stature wore turbans, but Sikh Gurus adopted the practice to assert equality and sovereignty among people.[144]

Punjabi suit

A Punjabi suit that features three items - a qameez (top), salwar (bottom) and dupatta (scarf)[145] is the traditional female attire of the Punjabi people.[146] A qameez is a usually loose-fitted outer garment from upper thigh to mid-calf length. Along with the qameez, Punjabi women wear a salwaar that consists of long trousers drawn at the waist and tapered to the ankle.[147] The other complementary feature of the Punjabi suit is the dupatta; often used to cover the chest and head.[147] Among the Punjabi people, the dupatta has long been a symbol of modesty.[148] In Pakistan, both women and men wear the shalwar kameez.

Kurta Pajama

A Kurta pajama that comprises two items - a kurta (top) and pajama (bottom) is the traditional male attire of the Punjabi people inhabiting India.


Various types of sports are played in Punjab. They are basically divided into outdoor and indoor sports. Special emphasis is put to develop both the mental and physical capacity while playing sports. That is why recently sports like Speed reading, Mental abacus, historical and IQ tests are arranged as well. Indoor sports are specially famous during the long summer season in Punjab. Also indoor sports are played by children in homes and in schools. Gilli-danda is vary famous indigenous sports among children along with Parcheesi. Pittu Garam is also famous among children. Stapu is famous among young girls of Punjab. Also many new games are included with the passage of time. The most notable are Carrom, Ludo (board game), Scrabble, Chess, Draughts, Go, Monopoly. The Tabletop games games include billiards and snooker. Backgammon locally known as Dimaagi Baazi( Mental game) is famous in some regions as well.

The outdoor sports include Kusti (a wrestling sport), Kabaddi, Rasa Kashi (Tug Of War), Patang (Kite Flying) and Naiza Baazi or Tent pegging (a cavalry sport).Gatka, is also taken as a form of sports. Punjab being part of the Indian subcontinent, the sport of cricket is very popular. New forms of sports are also being introduced and adopted in particular by the large overseas Punjabis, such as Ice hockey, Soccer, Boxing, Mixed martial arts, Rugby union as part of the globalisation of sports.

Notable people

See also