The culture of Punjab is very diverse it encompasses the cuisines, tradition, values, science, and history of the Punjabi people. Its culture is supposed to be one of the oldest and richest cultures of the world.
Punjab means the land of five rivers as the word Punjab is made up of two words ‘Panj’+ ‘Aab’ where ‘Panj’ means five in Punjabi and ‘Aab’ mean rivers in Punjabi. Indus River (the largest river in this five river system), and the five other rivers to the south that eventually all join it or merge into it later downstream in the Punjab valley.
Punjab region has been inhabited by Indus Valley Civilisation, Indo-Aryan peoples, Indo-Scythians and has seen numerous invasions by the Achaemenid Empire, Greeks, Kushan Empire, Ghaznavids, Timurids, Mughals, Afghans, British, and others.
The foreign invaders mainly targeted the most productive central region of Punjab known as the Majha region, which is the bedrock of Punjabi culture and traditions.
The people of Punjab ethnically belong to a pluralistic pattern of life but they have a common identity. They have one common faith, Islam, and they proudly share its glorious traditions in their thought and conduct.
In their religious sensibility, in folklore, in regional and domestic culture and in their hopes and aspirations the people have a common identity. The dialects spoken in different regions of the land have a common vocabulary and a shared heritage. The people of Punjab also have a shared spiritual experience which has been disseminated by Tassawwaf and can be witnessed on the occasion of the remembrance festivals held on the Urs of great Sufi Saints.
In the 20th century, the majority of the people are Sikhs practicing Sikhism since the 16th century and a large number of people are distributed throughout the world. Glimpses of traditional Punjabi culture can be seen in the Western world (e.g. the U.S., the UK, the EU, Canada, Australia, Africa and the Middle East).
Punjabi culture is evident from Punjabi philosophy, poetry, spirituality, education, artistry, music, cuisine, and architecture. Immigrants in past many centuries came to Punjab for various economic reasons of their own and its fertile agricultural lands and abundance of water resources in its five large rivers flowing down from the Himalayas through the Punjab valley.
These immigrants influenced the people of Punjab and, in turn, were influenced by the then prevailing culture of Punjab. Today, Punjab remains the heartbeat of the nation and is at the center of all political and economic progress.
The traditional dress for women is the salwar suit which replaced the traditional Punjabi ghagra. The Punjabi suit is made up of a kurta or kameez and a straight cut salwar. The Patiala salwar is also very popular in India.
The traditional dress for Punjabi men is the kurta and tehmat, which is being replaced by the kurta and pajama, especially the popular muktsari style in India. It is called muktsari style because it originates from Muktsar in Punjab.
The traditional Punjabi kurta of the Punjab region is wide and falls to the knees and is cut straight. Punjabi phulkari kurta has the Phulkari embroidery of the Punjab region, Punjabi bandhani kurta is also very popular. The Punjabi version of the dhoti is known as Tehmat/Tamba or laccha.
The Punjabi Jutti is the Punjabi version of the shoe. They are in two form the Pothohari shoe with sharp pointed toes, and the Derawali shoe with silk embroidery and round tipped.
Punjabi wedding traditions and ceremonies are traditionally conducted in Punjabi and are a strong reflection of Punjabi culture. The Punjabi’s, known for their zest for life, vivaciousness and of course, the bhangra, know how to pull all stops when it comes to celebrating.
While the actual religious marriage ceremony, among Hindus, Sikhs, Muslims, Jains may be conducted in Sanskrit, Punjabi, Arabic, by the Pundit, Qazi, Granthi or Priest, there are commonalities in ritual, song, dance, food, and dress. The Punjabi wedding has many rituals and ceremonies that have evolved since traditional times, including many famous Punjabi dances.
This cuisine has a rich tradition of many distinct and local ways of cooking. Tandoori style of cooking commonly known as tandoor is traditionally associated to Punjab, tandoori cooking that is now famous in other parts of India, UK, Canada, and in many parts of the world.
Distinctively Punjabi cuisine is known for its rich, buttery flavors along with the extensive vegetarian and meat dishes. Main dishes include Sarson da saag and Makki di roti.
The popular recipes of Punjab are Chana masala, Chole, Paratha/Aloo Paratha, Halwa poori, Bhatoora, Falooda, Makhni doodh, Amritsari Lassi, Masala chai, Tea, Amritsari Kulchas, Phainis, Dahi vada, Dahi, Khoa, Paya, Aloo Paratha. Consumption poultry, lamb, and goat meat are high in Punjab area.
Khichdi made of mung beans and moth lentils and rice is also popular in Punjab, Paneer recipes like Shahi Paneer; Khoya Paneer, Paneer Kofta, Amritsari Paneer, Matar Paneer, paneer paratha are popular.
A traditional Punjabi Panjiri have a generous amount of almonds, walnuts, pistachios, dry dates, cashew nuts along with whole wheat flour, sugar, edible gum, poppy seeds and fennel seeds to make the traditional dish of ‘panjri’ or also known as ‘dabra’.
Other popular dishes are Baingan bharta, Punjabi Kadhi Pakora, Punjabi Lassi paneer and Punj Ratani Dal, lassi and butter milk is famous of Punjab.
There are many dances, normally performed at times of celebration, including harvests, festivals, and weddings in Punjabi culture. The particular background of the dances can be non-religious and religious. The overall style can range from the high energy “bhangra” men’s dance to the more reserved “jhumar,” the “gidha” women’s dance.
Main Punjabi musical art is Bhangra and Punjabi celebration of any kind is incomplete without the sound of dhol. Punjabi’s, in any part of the world, have to have dhol players in every happy occasion to have a wholesome Punjabi style celebration.
Famous Tourist attraction
- Harmandir Sahib or the Golden Temple and Jallianwala Bagh, Amritsar.
- The Rock Garden and Zakir Hussain Rose Garden, Chandigarh.
- Wagah Border ceremony.
- Anandpur Sahib.