Hailing from the ‘land of the five waters,’ I am a proud Punjabi. The post today is a tribute to my heritage and my culture.
As I began writing this I did some digging, it is amazing what I learned even today about the land of my forefathers. Punjab has a rich history beginning at the Indus Valley Civilization (3300 BC) one the earliest in human history. The land was referred to as the Sapt Sindhu in the Vedas which chronicle the socio-cultural lifestyle of the people of this region. The Rigveda alludes to a battle fought on the banks of the river Ravi ‘The Battle of Ten Kings’ the place that the battle was fought later became the site of the ancient city of Harappa, and the kingdom established here came to be called ‘Bharata.’ Buddhist texts talk of Gandhara and Kamboja (two of the sixteen great kingdoms) believed to have comprised the upper Indus regions including Kashmir, eastern Afghanistan and most of the western Punjab which is now part of Pakistan. Alexander we all read in our primary school history defeated King Puru (Porus) but what is lesser known was that the battle with Puru demoralized the Greek advance as vast numbers of Greek soldiers were killed by Puru’s elephants and valiant warriors. The Greeks turned back from what is now modern day Jalandhar. Punjab’s timeline shows the glorious rules of Chandergupt Maurya, Kanishka, Srigupt, Harshvardhan, and Mahraja Ranjit Singh.
The lands of my ancestors has always been at the crossroads of Asian history and has seen the invasions of the Persians, Greeks, Huns, Turks, Afghans, Mongols and then the Mughals. All using it as the entry way to plunder the wealth that the ‘Golden Bird’ was so famous for. With the excesses of the British the land bled and partition tore it asunder. The largest mass migration and retributive genocide in human history resulted from this and is a blight on the History of both India and Pakistan. Despite the many invasions and many millennia of adversities what no one could take away from Punjab was the indomitable spirit of its people. The never say die, tireless and open-minded folk who to many come across as brash and bold, we had to be for how else could we survive.
We are the most tolerant of people, the birthplace of Sikhism and Islamic reform movement Ahmadiyya all faiths have found home here throughout history. Punjabis are Sikhs, Hindus, Muslims, Christians and all ideologies are welcome here in one of the richest cultures dating back to antiquity. The scope of our culture is vast and fine minds that have brought poetry, philosophy, spirituality, Sufism, architecture, dance, music, food and cuisine, languages, traditions and values to the world we have in abundance and then some more
Honest labor and work, sewa and community service are the tenets that define us and make us what we are. If Leonardo da Vinci had drawn the Vitruvian Man based on a true blood Punjabi he would not have encircled it rather he would replace the square with a heart, for a Punjabi is all heart. We are generous to a fault and will open our homes to those that ask and even those that will never ask. You will be family from the moment we pull you into our circle, we will hug you and let you know that you’re loved whether you want to know or not.
We have our quirks and are extremely proud of them all. We love our whisky, our butter chicken, our ghee laden paranthas and our paneer tikka even on a pizza. In the blink of an eye we will down a Limca to ‘digest’ our calorie laden repast. Vegetarianism confounds us most and we can be affronted by anyone daring to serve us ‘ghas–phus’ (grass and leaves.) If you say you do not ‘drink’ we look at you perplexed and make it our personal mission to tempt you into the land of spirits. So out we will come, full guns blaring with single malts and Blue Labels, these according to us no one can resist. Try it once like the imp we insist.
Gregarious, glittery and loud we love to celebrate, parties, weddings anything that needs celebrating. Punjabis in the house and then just watch the magic happen. We love to dress up bright and shiny, and no self-respecting Punjaban will ever repeat an outfit (heaven forbid) and the men will carry off the shervani in colors that will dazzle. Jewelry is big and bold, no delicate baubles for us we love our sparkling beauties and couldn’t be bothered with symbolism. We love our dance and despite our girth we will do the ‘bhangra’ energetically, the ‘gidda’ gracefully. We will sing soulfully and sinfully ruin a melody, we will be the life of every party. Warm and full of beans nothing delights us more than love and laughter. We love swearing and will lovingly call our sons ‘ullu da patha’ (son of an owl) strangely to us it means you are a fool while in western culture an owl is a wise bird. Our other swear words though interesting may not pass the censors and so I shall refrain from them for the sake of propriety.
We love a good jest and can take one on ourselves, a comeback a rejoinder that will rest assured not be any less. We are a proud people who can take a lot and love a lot but test us to a limit for history has proven that we will never, never bend.