The Punjabis are an ethnic group of Indo-Aryan peoples, originating from the Punjab region, found in Pakistan and northern India. Punjabi people have traditionally and historically been farmers and soldiers, which has transferred into modern times with their dominance of agriculture and military fields in Pakistan. In addition, as the most ardent supporters of a Pakistani state, Punjabis in Pakistan have a prominent and dominant role in politics and governance of Pakistan.
Punjabis are the largest ethnic group in Pakistan, 3rd biggest nation of South Asia's, 3rd largest community in Muslim Ummah and the 9th biggest Punjabi Speaking nation of the World.
The act of uniting by natural affinity and attraction of the various tribes, castes and the inhabitants of the Punjab into a broader common "Punjabi" identity and Punjabi nationalism started grooming from the onset of the 18th century, when Sikh Empire with Secular Punjabi Rule was established by the Maharaja Ranjit Singh, Prior to that the sense and perception of a common "Punjabi" ethnocultural identity and community did not exist, even though the majority of the various communities of the Punjab had long shared linguistic, cultural and racial commonalities.
During the late 18th century, due to lacking in unity by the natural affinity of the various tribes, castes and the inhabitants of the Punjab into a broader common "Punjabi" identity, after the decline of the Mughal Empire, led the Punjab region into a lack of governance. In 1747, the Durrani Empire was established by the Ahmad Shah Abdali in Afghanistan, therefore, Punjab saw frequent invasions by the Ahmad Shah Abdali, The great Punjabi poet Baba Waris Shah said of the barbaric and brutal situation that; "Khada Peeta Lahy Da, Baqi Ahmad Shahy Da" ("We Have Nothing With Us Except What We Eat And Wear, All Other Things Are For Ahmad Shah").
Actually, from centuries, Punjab was under continuous attack by the foreign invaders. Before invasions of Ahmad Shah Abdali, Mughals were the invaders of Punjab. Punjabi tribes, castes and the inhabitants of Punjab revolted against them, but in a personal capacity and without uniting by the natural affinity of Punjabi people.
However, Punjabi Sufi Saints were in a struggle to awaken the consciousness of the people of Punjab. Before Baba Waris Shah, Shah Hussain approved Dulla Bhatti’s revolt against Akbar as; Kahay Hussain Faqeer Sain Da - Takht Na Milday Mungay.
In the result of spiritual grooming and moral character building of Punjabi people by the Punjabi Saints and Punjabi poets like; Baba Farid - 12th-13th century, Damodar - 15th century, Guru Nanak Dev -15th - 16th century, Guru Angad - 16th century, Guru Amar Das - 15th - 16th century, Guru Ram Das - 16th century, Shah Hussain - 16th century, Guru Arjun Dev - 16th - 17th century, Bhai Gurdas - 16th - 17th century, Sultan Bahu - 16th-17th century, Guru Tegh Bahadur - 17th century, Guru Gobind Singh - 17th century, Saleh Muhammad Safoori - 17th century, Bulleh Shah - 17th-18th century, Waris Shah - 18th century and Frequent invasions by the foreign invaders and at last by the Ahmad Shah Abdali, stimulated the natural affinity of Punjabi people, taught the lesson to the various tribes, castes and the inhabitants of the Punjab and forced them to unite into a broader common "Punjabi" identity. Therefore, Punjabi nationalism started to initiate in the people of the land of five rivers to defend their land, to save their culture, to protect their wealth by ruling their land and by governing the people of their nation by their own self.
In the late 18th century, during frequent invasions of the Durrani Empire, the Sikh Misls were in close combat with the Durrani Empire, but they began to gain territory and eventually, the Bhangi Misl captured the Lahore. When Zaman Shah invaded Punjab again in 1799, Maharaja Ranjit Singh was able to make gains in the chaos. He defeated Zaman Shah in a battle between Lahore and Amritsar. The citizens of Lahore, encouraged by Sada Kaur, offered him the city and Maharaja Ranjit Singh was able to take control of it in a series of battles with the Bhangi Misl and their allies. Later Maharaja Ranjit Singh conquered the Kashmir valley, Ladakh, along with modern day Gilgit-Baltistan and Khyber Pakhtunkhwa and annexed it into greater Punjab region by establishing Sikh Empire with Secular Punjabi Rule which provided the boost to the already initiated Punjabi nationalism.
Traditionally, from the initiation of Punjabi nationalism, Punjabi identity is primarily linguistic, geographical and cultural. Punjabi identity is independent of race, color, creed or religion, and refers to those for whom the Punjabi language is the first language, those who reside in the Punjab region and associate themselves with the Punjabi Nation. Integration and assimilation are important parts of Punjabi culture, because, Punjabi identity is not based on tribal connections or race. More or less all Punjabis share the same cultural background.
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 of the Punjab. With the passage of time, tribal structures are coming to an end and are being replaced with more cohesion and holistic society. That is why community building and group cohesiveness on the new pillars of Punjabi society due to initiation of Punjabi nationalism is in the process.
The recent definition of Punjabi people, in Pakistani Punjab, is not based on racial classification, common ancestry or endogamy, but based on the geographical and cultural basis and thus makes it a unique definition. Religious homogeneity remains elusive as a predominantly Islamic Sunni-Shia population with Ahmadiyya and Christian minority. A variety of related sub-groups exist in Pakistan and is often considered by many Pakistani Punjabis to be simply regional Punjabis.
People from a few provinces of Pakistan have made Punjab their home in recent times and now their consecutive generations identify themselves as Punjabis. The largest community to assimilate in Punjabi culture and now identify themselves as Punjabis are Kashmiris. The second largest community after Kashmiris is the people of India, who identify themselves as Punjabis. The other communities to assimilate in Punjabis include Baloch who can be found throughout Punjab.
The welcoming nature of Punjab has led to the successful integration of almost all ethnic groups in Punjab over time. The Urdu, Punjabi and other language speakers who arrived in Punjab in 1947 have now assimilated and their second and third generations identify themselves as Punjabis even though it is not the same in Sindh Pakistan where they form distinct ethnic groups.
In Pakistan, Punjabis constitute the largest ethnic group, comprising more than 60% of the total population of the country. They reside predominantly in the province of Punjab, neighboring Azad Kashmir in the region of Jammu and Kashmir, in Islamabad Capital Territory and KPK. Punjabis are also found in large communities in rural Sind and in the largest city of Pakistan, Karachi.
In India, Punjabis represent 2.85% of the population. The majority of Punjabi-speaking people in India can be found in the Indian states of Punjab, Haryana, Himachal Pradesh, as well as in Delhi and the Union Territory of Chandigarh. Large communities of Punjabis are also found in the Jammu region of Jammu and Kashmir and the states of Rajasthan, Uttarakhand, and Uttar Pradesh.
The Punjab region within India maintains a strong influence on the perceived culture of India towards the rest of the world. Numerous Bollywood film productions use the Punjabi language in their songs and dialogue as well as traditional dances such as Bhangra. Bollywood has been dominated by Punjabi artists including Raj Kapoor, Dev Anand, Vinod Khanna, Dharmendra, Shammi Kapoor, Rishi Kapoor, Navalpreet Rangi, Akshay Kumar and Kareena Kapoor. Punjabi Prime Ministers of India include Gulzarilal Nanda, Inder Kumar Gujral, and Dr. Manmohan Singh. There are numerous players in the Indian cricket team both past and present, including Bishen Singh Bedi, Kapil Dev, Mohinder Amarnath, Navjot Sidhu, Harbhajan Singh, Yuvraj Singh Virat Kohli, and Yograj Singh.
The Punjabi Sikhs are largely concentrated in the state of Punjab forming 58% of the population with Punjabi Hindus forming 38%. Indian Punjab is also home to small groups of Punjabi Muslims and Punjabi Christian. 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 Malerkotla and Qadian, 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 Haryana, Punjabi Hindus form 87% of the population with Punjabi Muslims at 7% and Punjabi Sikhs at 5%.
In Himachal Pradesh, Punjabi Hindus constitute 95% of the population with Punjabi Muslims at 2%, Punjabi Sikhs, and Punjabi Buddhists at 1% each.
In Delhi, Punjabi Hindus account for 35% with Punjabi Muslims 13% and Punjabi Sikhs for 3.5%.
In Chandigarh, 80.78% people of the population are Punjabi Hindus, 13.11% are Punjabi Sikhs, 4.87 are Punjabi Muslims and minorities are Punjabi Christians, Punjabi Buddhists, and Punjabi Jains.
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 and Punjabi Sikh refugees who came to Delhi following the partition of India now speaks Hindi natively. Thus, there is no concrete official data on the ethnic makeup of Delhi and other Indian states.
The Punjabi people have immigrated in large numbers to many parts of the world. The United Kingdom has a significant number of Punjabis from both Pakistan and India as does Canada (specifically Vancouver and Toronto) and the United States, (specifically California's Central Valley). The Middle East has a large immigrant community of Punjabis, in places such as the UAE and Kuwait. There are 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.