Punjab (Punjabi: ਪੰਜਾਬ; IPA: [pəɲdʒaːb]) is a state in the northwestern India, bordering Himachal Pradesh and Jammu and Kashmir to the northeast and north, and Chandigarh, Haryana and Rajasthan towards the southeast, south and southwest.
In 1947 when the British withdrew, India was divided along religious lines and some provinces, including Punjab, were split as well. This article covers the Indian state of Punjab. For the Pakistani state, see Punjab (Pakistan). For general background on the pre-partition region, see Punjab.
Sikhism is the main religion and is practiced by majority of the population. The holiest of Sikh shrines, the Golden Temple, is in Amritsar. Hinduism is also very common and many temples can be found in almost every city and town. There is a small Muslim minority left (most of the Muslim population migrated to the Pakistani side after Partition), and also some Jains and Christians.
The most common language spoken is Punjabi (Gurumukhi script). Hindi and English are also spoken, mainly among educated people and in major cities as Amritsar, Ludhiana, Chandigarh, Patiala, Jalandhar, but learning even a few words of Punjabi can be very helpful.
Chandigarh is the capital city. Chandigarh is also the capital of the state of Haryana, which used to be a part of Punjab. However, Chandigarh is not under the jurisdiction of either state but is administered by the central government and classified as a union territory.
Punjab comprises 5 divisions and 20 administrative districts, which regionally fall into three main parts:
- Majha — border area with Pakistan.
- Doaba — area that lies between the Beas River and the Satluj River. Consists of Jalandhar, Kapurthala, Hoshiarpur and Nawanshahr districts.
- Malwa — southern part of the state.
The nine most notable cities are:
- 1 Harike Wetland — this has a diversity of wetland animals and plants. It was Harike Pattan Bird Sanctuary and is known for its many species of migratory birds. It is habitat for several endangered species such as the Testudines Turtle and Smooth Indian Otter.
Punjab is well connected with other major cities of India: Amritsar, Jalandhar, Ludhiana and Ferozepur are major junctions of Indian Northern Railways.
- Cars - one of the best ways to get around. You can rent a car, but taxis are cheaper. It is safest to hire an experienced driver. Like most of India, navigating traffic in Punjab can be a hair-raising experience. Taxis usually don't have a problem driving to wherever you want within the district. It is common to see the owner of the car sitting in the back with a driver driving the car.
- Two-wheelers - the most popular mode of transport.
- Autorickshaw - an auto rickshaw, or auto or rickshaw or tempo in popular parlance, is a three wheeled vehicle for hire. They typically have no doors or seat belts. Generally yellow or green in colour and have a black or green canopy on the top. An auto rickshaw is generally characterized by a tin/iron body resting on three small wheels, a small cabin for the driver in the front and seating for three in the rear. Hiring an auto often involves bargaining with the driver.
- Bus - available in most towns in Punjab. They go all over the country. The bus service has improved considerably in last 2-3 years with introduction of deluxe and air-conditioned buses. Main entry routes are from Delhi via Ambala or via Delhi-Jind-Sangrur or Delhi-Hissar-Bathinda sections. NH44 (formerly NH 1) runs from Delhi to Panipat snd on to Ambala.
- Jallianwala Bagh, Amritsar
- Golden Temple, Amritsar.
- The Royal Punjabi Palaces and monuments of Patiala.
- Purana Quilla in Bathinda.
- Wagha Border. Between Amritsar, Punjab, India and Lahore, Punjab, Pakistan
- Bhakra Nangal Dam across the Sutlej River. Bilaspur_(Himachal_Pradesh)
- Mehdiana Sahib Gurudwara outside Manuke near Jagraon
- The Gurudwaras and historic monuments at Anandpur Sahib.
- Hussaini Wala Border, Firozpur.
- Chandigarh, the modern city designed by French architect Le Corbusier.
- The Royal Palaces of Faridkot.
- Historic monuments in Fatehgarh Saheb, Chamkaur Saheb and Sirhind, which saw a lot of action during Guru Gobind Singh's time as the 10th Guru of Sikhism.
- Historic monuments in Nabha and Sangrur.
- Ancient Fort at Bathinda, in Bathinda.
- The Gurudwara Bhabour Sahib, a Sikh place of worship, as well as several other holy places and an Ashram are located at Nangal.
- Shahpur kandi fort and Madhopur headworks near Pathankot.
- Ancient Buddhist and Hindu archeological sites at Sanghol in Fatehgarh Sahib and Dholbaha in Hoshiarpur district respectively.
- Indus Valley civilization site at Ropar
- Gurdwara Nanaksar and Gurdwara Mehdiana Sahib at Jagraon
There are many museums here [dead link]:
- Amritsar, Maharaja Ranjit Singh Museum
- Angol Sikh War Memorial, Ferozeshah
- Little Villages.
- Govt. Museum Hoshiarpur
- Sports Museum, National Institute of Sports, Patiala
- Sanghol Museum
- Art Gallery at Sheesh Mahal
- Qila Mubarak Patiala, Museum of Armoury & Chaneliers
- Guru Teg Bahadur Museum
Tourism is principally suited for those interested in culture, ancient civilization, spirituality, and epic history. Punjab has a rich history incorporating Sikhism and Hinduism. Punjab is home to the celebrated Punjabi culture, royal palaces, historic battles, shrines, temples and examples of Sikh Architecture.
Some of the smaller country towns are also a must for the person who wants to see the true Punjab, with their traditional homes, monuments, temples, farms, and everyday life.
- Visit the Golden Temple.
- Visit the Wagah Border.
- Visit the little towns.
Markets here are a shopper's haven, but only if you're not afraid to haggle and bump elbows in bazaars. Western-style malls and shopping emporia are creeping in on the outskirts, but there's little Indian about these sanitized shopping experiences, or the goods in them. Until a few years back, all shops closed on Sunday; while rules have been relaxed, many districts are still mostly shuttered.
Punjabi Jutti There is a wide variety of juttis (pronounced 'jeut-tii' in Punjabi or 'jeu-tea' in Hindi/Urdu) available for both men and women. They are usually made of fine leather and are delicately embroidered with threads or beads. Juttis are slip-on in style and are characterized by rising high to the Achilles' tendon in the back and covering the toes with a round or M-shaped heavily-embroidered upper shoe and leaving the top of the foot nearly bare. Some of them are hand-made and have been embroidered beautifully.
While credit cards are commonly accepted, you can not use them to pay at small street side shops. So you need to keep some cash handy. ATMs are available everywhere, so if you have an Indian bank account or credit card, you don't need to carry too much cash either. If you are a foreigner, it is a good idea to carry some cash to avoid charges while using your credit or debit card.
Keep some money in a different currency as well, You will find in some places giving a US$10 note will change how fast things move.
Foreigners will have to be very careful, as all these stores are road-side stalls. What may seem a good price that the person has quoted to you, it will actually be a rip off. Do not settle for anything more than one-fourth the quoted price. If they refuse a price just walk away, and they will call you back quoting a lower price. Normally, the more you buy, the less you will have to pay for each individual item.
You might be able to find a job in a local call centre or fast food restaurant. In particular, jobs for English-speakers are plentiful in Chandigarh.
While it is widely popular, there is a misconception in some Western countries that Punjabi cuisine is completely curry-based. One of the main features of Punjabi cuisine is its diverse range of dishes, whose level of spiciness can vary from minimal to very high. Home-cooked and restaurant-made Punjabi cuisine can vary significantly. Restaurant-style cooking uses large amounts of clarified butter, known locally as desi ghee, while home cooking is done with liberal amounts of butter and cream, and concentrates mainly upon masalas (blends of spices). There are also different regional preferences. For example, people in the area of Amritsar prefer stuffed parathas and milk products. The area is well known for the quality of its milk products. There are certain dishes which are exclusive to Punjab, such as mah di dal and saron da saag.
Punjabi cuisine can be non-vegetarian or completely vegetarian. Due to Sikh and Hindu religious beliefs, beef is a banned item, neither consumed nor sold in Punjab.
There are a variety of pulse, bean and/or lentil preparations that one should try. Common preparation generally includes being soaked overnight, or for at least 8 hours, and then gently simmered on the embers of a tandoor along with ginger, garlic and a few other garam masala (whole spices like cardamom, coriander, cumin, black pepper, cloves, cinnamon, mace, and bay leaf). These are then combined with a tangy masala base which could include tomato or dried mango (aamchur powder) or even pomegranate seeds (anar dana). The typical character of the bean or whole lentil preparation is that the shape of the vegetable remains intact, but the gentlest pressure would make it into a paste. Dollops of cream and butter are sometimes provided for a rich, finishing touch. Garnishing is usually done with shredded coriander leaves and ginger.
Some very popular Punjabi foods should not be missed. These include:
- Samosas - A fried or baked pastry with savory filling.
- Butter chicken
- Shahi paneer - Indian cheese
- Tandoori chicken or fish - Meat, traditionally roasted in a tandoor, that has been covered in a yoghurt and spice marinade.
- Paneer pakora - Indian-style cheese fritters
- Pakoras - Fried snacks that come in a variety of flavors and ingredients.
Punjabi breads are generally flat breads; only a few varieties are raised breads. The breads may be made of different types of flour and can be made in various ways such as being baked in a tandoor, dry baked on a tava, shallow fried, or deep fried.
The tandoor also allows for tasty chicken and meat preparations. Some that you might be familiar with include seekh kebab, tandoori chicken, reshmi tikka and malai tikka.
Sweet deserts are popular. They are given out on birthdays and other special events. Some popular ones include:
- Jalabee - Wheat batter that is shaped into pretzel or circle form, fried and soaked in syrup.
- Gulab jamun - A prepared milk solids dessert, often mixed with spices, rolled into a ball and fried at low heat. Commonly soaked in a sweet syrup with spices and garnished with nuts or fruit.
- Kulfi - A milk dessert similar to ice cream.
- Kheer - Rice pudding flavoured with spices and often also with nuts.
The sheer variety of Punjabi cuisine makes it difficult to create a comprehensive guide. If you see or smell something that seems good, do not hesitate to try it; you are unlikely to be disappointed.
Fast food chains
There are fast food restaurants in almost every city. McDonald's, Subway, Pizza Hut, Domino's, KFC and many others can be found. There are also many Indian fast food shops catering to Western-style food. However, you won't find any hamburgers, as no restaurant in Punjab serves beef.
Drinks found in Punjab are the same as the ones through out India, but often have a Punjabi twist to them.
- Chai is an Indian Tea. It is more popular than coffee, and street vendors called "chai wallahs" (sometimes spelled "chaiwalas") are a common sight in many Punjabi neighborhoods.
- Lassi is a traditional North Indian beverage, made by blending yoghurt with water, salt, and spices until frothy. Traditional lassi is sometimes flavored with ground, roasted cumin. The Lassi is sometimes made with a little milk and is topped with a thin layer of malai, a clotted cream, also known as Devonshire cream. Lassis are enjoyed chilled as a hot-weather refreshment. With a little turmeric powder mixed in, it is also used as a folk remedy for gastroenteritis.
- Sharbat is a popular Middle Eastern and South Asian "juice" that is prepared from fruits or flower petals. It is sweet and served chilled. It can be in concentrate form and eaten with a spoon or mixed with water to create a drink. It was popularised by the Mughal rulers, one of whom sent for frequent loads of ice from the Himalayas to get a cool refreshing drink.
- Desi Daroo, also known in different parts of the country under other names. It is made by fermenting the mash of sugar cane pulp in large spherical containers made of terra cotta, and nearly 100% alcohol. However, it is a dangerous drink, mainly because of the risk of alcohol or copper formaldehyde poisoning.
- Coffee, also known as Madras filter coffee or kaapi, is a sweet milky coffee made from dark roasted coffee beans and chicory. The most commonly used coffee beans are peaberry (preferred), Arabica, Malabar and robusta grown in the hills of Kerala (Malabar region), Karnataka (Kodagu, Chikkamagaluru) and Tamil Nadu (Nilgiris District).
- There are many types of liquor and beer available at most restaurants. Imported brands are also available in some of the higher-class restaurants but the price is much steeper. There are also some liquors and beers available locally that are of very poor quality. These are usually distinguished by the price: you'll get what you pay for. You can expect to pay up to 3 or 5 times the price of local liquors for IMFL. Usually, only a select few imports are available and Johnnie Walker is usually one of them. If you are taking a gift for people who you know drink and won't be offended, then bringing some kind of Scotch whisky is a good idea.
Power outages and water shortages happen not just every day, but often several times on the same day, with summers especially bad. Better places have water tanks and generators to alleviate the pain, but keep a flashlight handy at night and do your part by not wasting too much water.
- Laundry service is offered in most hotels, even budget accommodations. If you would rather save the money and do it yourself, buckets are found in almost all bathrooms - but perhaps rinse it out well first.
- Exercising outdoors is not recommended due to the high level of pollution and swimming in rivers is also not recommended. You'll want to look for a hotel with a gym or a pool (many offer day passes). Alternatively, an evening/morning walk can be taken in the parks.
There are many different daily newspapers. The following are in English:
- The Tribune - Punjab's oldest newspaper
- The Indian Express - National daily published in Chandigarh.
- Hindustan Times - National daily published in Chandigarh.
- The Times of India - National daily. Sub-Circulatories: The Times Of Chandigarh, The Economic Times , The Business Times
- The Pioneer- National daily published in Chandigarh.
- Business Line- Business daily newspaper.
Punjabi people are usually kind at heart. You will most likely not feel threatened while you are there, but take the usual precautions.
Make sure you pay attention to your surroundings. Pickpocketing is common in some parts. Put your wallet in your front pocket; don't carry a lot of things at one time; don't carry original copies of passports, visas, etc. Try not to use the ₹1000 and ₹500 notes, especially not in smaller shops. Many shops, except the big retails chains, don't accept credit and debit card so have some cash handy.
To be on the safe side, avoid being in crowded places and getting stuck in protests or rallies. Try to walk in groups especially at night or in isolated areas.
Be wary of the traffic; don't assume; be very careful on the road.
Public displays of affection are not usually tolerated, especially non-straight. Bribing the police is not recommended although is a common practice as power, bureaucracy, and corruption are rooted deep in the overall government structure.
- Prefix +91 If you are calling from outside India, each city has a separate 3-4 digit area code. Phone numbers are seven digits long but on occasion you will find a six digit number listed. That is probably an old listing. They made the changeover from six to seven digits a few years back, when they allowed private service providers to offer telephony. Just add a "2" to the old number and it should work just fine, however if that does not work try prefixing "5". All mobile numbers, however are 10 digits long and begin with "9", and should not be dialed with the city prefix. If you don't get through to a mobile number, try adding a "0" or "+91" before you dial it.
- Phone booths can be found all over the State. Though they are coin operated, there is usually someone to run the place. (Typically the phones are attached to a roadside shop) You need to keep putting ₹1 coins into the slot to extend the talk time, so keep a change of ₹1 coins handy with you. The person running the booth will usually have them. If you find a booth marked STD/ISD, you can call internationally or anywhere within the country. Fees will be charged according to the time spent and a meter runs to keep track of your time. You pay when you have finished your call. Often it is difficult to find one that is open early in the morning or late at night.
- Cell phone coverage in the state is excellent. There are many service providers offering a wide variety of prepaid and postpaid plans. Among them are Airtel, Spice Telecom [dead link] and Vodafone Essar. There are many other companies as well, these are just the main ones used. Majority of the networks are GSM so if you have a cell phone you bring with you, chances are it will run on this network. Some companies like Reliance Mobile, TATA Indicom offer CDMA networks also, but usually they insist that you but the CDMA handset from them only.
- Cybercafes are located at virtually every street corner and the rates are quite low. Just keep in mind that they have probably not kept pace with advances in hardware or software, so if you find yourself in one of them, don't be surprised if you are stuck with a really small monitor, Windows 98 and IE 5.0. Also data security is an issue. Change your password after you use it at a cybercafe.