Haryana and Punjab share a capitol, Chandigarh, and were one state until 1966 at which point the predominantly Sikh, Punjabi speaking north was split from the Hindi speaking Hindu south, with some further areas becoming part of Himachal Pradesh.
The Punjab is primarily an agricultural state, producing one quarter of India's wheat, 10 per cent of its rice and a third of its milk. Tractors and modern irrigation systems are common and the state's per capita income is twice that of the average Indian. Ludhiana and Jalandhar are thriving industrial cities. The Hero bicycle - the world's most popular brand - is produced here, as are most of the country's woolen goods.
Amritsar is the state's largest city and was founded in 1577 by Ram Das, the fourth Sikh Guru. Centre of the Sikh religion and home of the famous Golden Temple, this city was the scene of a number of terribly violent events during the last century. In 1919 the infamous Jallianwalla Bagh massacre occurred, when British troops under General Dyer opened fire on a peacefully protesting group killing hundreds and injuring over a thousand (exact figures are disputed). After Partition Amritsar saw among the worst Hindu Muslim violence. In 1984, armed Sikh extremists under Bindranwale, campaigning violently for an independent Sikh state, took over the Golden Temple. Indira Gandhi ordered an attack on the temple, code named Operation Blue Star, which left
hundreds of soldiers and thousands of temple visitors dead and became one of the main reasons for her assassination later that year. Separatists occupied the temple again in 1987 but this time the Punjabi police effected their removal without interference from Delhi. Currently the region is experiencing relative stability and renewed prosperity.
Built in the late 1500's by Guru Arjan Singh, the beautiful Golden Temple stands in the middle of an artificial lake and is connected to the surrounding complex by a narrow causeway. Though it was extensively damaged during Operation Blue Star, it has been expertly restored. Many Sikh pilgrims visit here every year to see the Adi Granth, the original Sikh holy book, and to bathe in the cleansing waters of the temple tank, the Amrit Sarovar or "Pool of Immortality Giving Nectar".
Chandigarh, the capitol of both Punjab and Haryana, is a planned city designed by the Swiss-French architect Le Corbusier. It was constructed in the 1950's in order to provide an alternative state capitol to Amritsar, which would otherwise have been the natural choice except for its proximity to the Indo-Pak border. The city is laid out on a simple grid pattern with wide streets designed for a car culture, huge roundabouts very unsuitable for the traffic on an average Indian street, and numerous open areas meant for, but never developed into, parkland. Critics have suggested that the architect was designing as if he had never been to India, but Chandigarh residents are quite proud of their orderly city.
At Pinjore, in Haryana state, twenty kilometres from Chandigarh, are the Moghul Gardens, designed by Aurangzeb's brother, Fidai Khan. The Shish Mahal Palace is also here, an example of Moghul-Rajasthani style architecture.
Three thousand years ago this Indus Valley area was home to the socially advanced Harappan civilization. Around 1700 BC their fortified
towns were attacked and defeated by Aryan invaders and Punjab became the centre of Aryan power until 600 BC, when it shifted southeast to the Doab area between the Yamuna and the Ganges Rivers.
Actual battles that occurred in this area between ancient kings are recorded and mythologized in the Mahabarata. In the third century BC the area was taken over by the Mauryans and after them the Punjab was
under the control of Indo-Greeks. Much later, successive Muslim armies heading for Delhi from the Khyber Pass passed through this area.
In the late 15th/early 16th centuries the Sikh religion was founded. Both Hindus and Muslims gravitated toward the founder, Guru Nanak's, ideas of a casteless egalitarian religion which worshipped a single god and focused on meditation rather than ritual. Aurangzeb's persecution of the Sikhs worked to strengthen the group and under the tenth leader,
Guru Gobind Singh, they adopted the 'five kakkars' that distinguish Sikh men from others: uncut hair and beard (kesh), the sword (kirpan), a wooden or ivory comb (kangha), shorts (kachha), and the steel bracelet
(kara). These rules, as well as avoiding tobacco and the adoption by every Sikh male of the name Singh ("Lion") and by every female, Kaur ("Princess"), were aspects of membership in the orthodox Khalsa Brotherhood, formed by this last Guru. Guru Granth Sahib refers to Guru Gobind Singh's version of the Adi Grant which he compiled and then named as his successor.
When the Moghul Empire dissolved the Sikhs moved in to the vacuum. They were finally defeated by the British in 1840 and from then on occupied a central role in the British military presence, remaining loyal even through the events of the 1857 Mutiny.
After the violence of the post-Partition phase the Punjab settled
down to the building of its agricultural and industrial sectors but continued militant agitation resulted, in 1966, in the partial solution of splitting off of Punjab from Haryana.
The violent 1980's were followed by a relatively peaceful period that continues to the present.