In the olden days, the Punjab was bounded in the north by Himalayan and Sub-Himalayan ranges, in the West by the Safed Koh and the Sulaiman Mountains, in the East by the river Yamuna and Agra Division, and in the South by Rajasthan and the Sind deserts.
The Punjab is a land of the five rivers, the Jhelum, the Chenab, the Ravi, the Beas and the Satluj. It is also a land of five Doabs, namely, the The Bist Jalandhar Doab, situated between the Satluj and the Beas; the Bari Doab, between the Beas and the Ravi; the Rachna Doab, between the Ravi and the Chenab; the Chaj Doab, between the Chenab and the Jhelum and the Sind Sagar Doab between the Jhelum and the Indus. The territory between the Ravi and the Beas is known as Majha; between the Beas and the Satluj is Doaba and the area between the Satluj and the Ghaggar is called Malwa.
The Punjab had to suffer at the hands of foreign invaders from 6th and 5th century BC to 18th century AD. According to H.A. Phadke, the North West India was invaded by the Persian emperors – Cyrus (558-529 BC), Darius (522-486 BC) and Xerxes (486-465 BC). Darius annexed Punjab, west of the Indus and Sindh in 518-517 BC. Alexander, the Great, invaded India in 327-326 BC. He was followed by Huns (Nomad tribes of Central Asia) in the 4th and 5th century AD and the Arab expedition in 837 AD. Imad-ud-Din Muhammad-bin-Kasim captured Sind in 712 AD, while Alptigin, a slave of King Abdul Malik (D- 863 AD) attacked India in 9th century AD. Sabuktigin (977-997 AD), the Turkish ruler of the Kingdom of Ghazni, invaded India (3 times); Sultan Mamud Ghazni (997- 1030 AD) 17 times; the Mongols attacked India 25 times in the 13th & 14th century AD; Timur or Timur Lane in 1398-1399 AD; Mughal emperor Zahir-ud- Din Babar (5 times); Nadir Shah, the ruler of Persia in 1739 AD: Ahmad Shah Abdali or Durrani (9 times) from 1747 to 1768 AD; Taimur Shah from 1774 to 1788-89 AD (5 times); and Shah Zaman of Afghanistan from 1793 to 1798-99 AD (4 times).
All the invaders came mainly from North West through the passes of the mountains of the Suleiman and Kirthar Ranges and, therefore, Punjab played the role of the gateway to India. It became the field of foreign invasions and suffered the most, while the rest of India was just bruised.
Maharaja Ranjit Singh occupied Lahore on July 7, 1799, and laid the foundation of the Sikh Kingdom in the North West of India. He ruled over his kingdom for forty years from 1799 to 1839 AD with its Capital at Lahore. The territory of his kingdom stretched from river Satluj in the East to Khyber Pass in the North West and Kashmir in the North to Sind in the South. Maharaja Ranjit Singh was the hero of his times. He closed the gateway/passes to the invaders through the Suleiman mountains and never allowed them to enter India or attack the country thereafter.
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