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CHAPTER VIII

Spiritual Aspects / Bonding

For people of Punjab, its rivers are not just geographical features. They feel divinely bonded with their rivers. These are Punjab’s veins and arteries which sustain their spirit, mind, soul and intellect. This spiritual relationship is so intense, exalting and powerful that any attempt at snatching of waters from its rivers is bound to stir strong emotions.
There is no other expanse of fertile land on the planet Earth which is as intimately and befittingly connected with its rivers as Punjab is with its perennial silvery streams. Punjab’s bonding — geographical, civilizational, historical, religious, social, political, economic — to its rivers is unique.

Name and identity of Punjab and its various regions are based on its rivers. Punjab is Punj – ab(five rivers) or Panjnad(five streams) , and areas lying between a pair of rivers are Doabs(two waters), viz:

i. Doaba Bist (between Satluj and Beas)
ii. Doaba Bari (between Beas and Ravi)
iii. Doaba Rachana (between Ravi and Chenab)
iv. Doaba Chaj (between Chenab and Jehlum)
v. Doaba Sind Sagar (between Jehlum and Sind)

Pre-Aryan civilization of Harappa and Mohenjo Daro developed on the banks of Punjab rivers from Jehlum to Beas(Ropar). Vedas were composed in Punjab and its rivers –Sindhu (Sind), Vitusa (Jehlum), Askiri (Chenab), Aravati (Ravi), Vipasa (Beas), Chutardri (Satluj) find mention therein. The Aryans spreaded over entire Punjab watershed about 5000 B.C. and overwhelmed the Harappan civilization. Sita in her second exile lived at the banks of Ravi. According to the legend, Lahore (on Ravi) and Qasur nearby were founded by her two sons Luv and Kush. Ramayana is also said to have been composed by Valmiki on the banks of Ravi. Sialkot (on Ravi) is the legendary capital of Bahika region of the Mahabharat epic and also the seat of chiefdom of Raja Salwan whose saintly son Puran Bhagat is immortalized in Punjab folklore. Dasuya on the Beas bank is mentioned in Mahabharat and it existed at Alexander’s conquest of this region.

Theatre of Alexander’s exploits from 327 B.C. onwards was Punjab river banks. After his victory over Porus on the banks of Jehlum(Greek hydaspes), Alexander asked Porus how he should treat him. “Like a king”, replied Porus. ”That I would do for my own sake but what I should do for you”, remarked Alexander. The injured and vanquished valiant seven footer said, “ All that I wished has been said in my first reply”. Alexander lost his famous mount Bucephalus near Jehlum and modern town Phalia is named after this horse. Alexander crossed acesines(Chenab), hydractes(Ravi) and hyphasis(Beas). His soldiers refused to proceed beyond. Alexander marched back to Macedonia striding across the vast water lands of Punjab.

The deserted masonry mound at Kalanaur on Ravi reminds us of the crowning of Akbar as the King of India. The domain of Shere-Punjab the last sovereign ruler of any part of India extended from Satluj to Sind and beyond. The British (Lord William Bentinck) signed the 25.10.1831 treaty with Maharaja Ranjit Singh on the banks of Satluj at Ropar.

Historically and militarily famous last battles for sovereignty of Punjab were fought at Sabraon on Satluj banks on 10/2/1846 under the unprecedented leadership of Sham Singh Attari and at Chilliawali on 13/1/1849 and Gujarat on 21.2.1849 on Chenab - Jehlum basin under valiant Sher Singh who was earlier governor of Chitral and Gilgit. Punjab’s soldiers’ bravery and courage won acclaim from the victorious English who annexed Punjab finally on 29/03/1849.

The Congress passed its pathbreaking resolution for Independence (Swaraj) on 26/1/1929 on the banks of the Ravi at Lahore and Ravi again witnessed the passage of Muslim League resolution for attaining Pakistan on 23/3/1940. Samadh of Maharaja Ranjit Singh is on Ravi and memorial to the great heroes of freedom struggle Bhagat Singh, Sukhdev and Rajguru hanged on 23-03-1931 and burnt that very night is on the banks of Satluj at Hussainiwala.
Many sacred and historic places of Sikhs are intimately connected with Punjab rivers: Gurdwara Dehra Sahib (on the site of Guru Arjun Dev’s martyrdom), Gurdwara Kartarpur (where Guru Nanak Dev forsook his mortal frame) are on the banks of Ravi. Amritsar Darbar Sahib Sarovar turns Ravi waters into Amrit (nectar) for the devotees. Bedrock of Sikhisim Gurdwara Bauli Sahib is on the Beas bank at Goindwal and upstream is the settlement of Sri Hargobindpur where Guru Hargobind built a beautiful mosque for the Muslims. Takht Sri Keshgarh, Anandpur Sahib and the related gurdwaras of historic importance are spread over Satluj.

The heroic romances of Heer-Ranjha ,Mirza-Sahiban, Sohni-Mahiwal had their locale on Chenab banks. Puran Bhagat of Qadiryar is set at Ravi .Waris Shah, Bulle Shah, Damodar and so many more versifiers inhaled the invigorating breeze of Jhana (Chenab) and other Punjab rivers. With his qissa of Heer,Waris Shah immortalized the folk romance of Heer and Ranjha and the lore of Jhana. Solidity of Punjabi spirit resonates in Amrita Pritam’s famous verse Aj Akhan Waris Shah nun (Today I call upon Waris Shah) –wailing at the human sufferings at the time of India’s partition in 1947.

The great poet Mohan Singh is literally intoxicated with the enthralling runoff of panj-panis (five rivers). Their powerful and persuasive impact on Punjabi living is evident in his verse sipahi da dil (soldier’s heart) and another soulful poem Guru Nanak Nun (addressing Guru Nanak) invoving Guru Nanak’s divine message to end communal fires across the land of five rivers in the wake of country‘s partition. Characters of Shiv Kumar Batalvi’s epic poem Luna in defence of the mistreated woman strode on the Ravi – Beas banks where Shiv himself grew up. Poet–chronicler of Anglo-Sikh wars Jang-Nama Shah Muhammed hailing from Amritsar district was soaked in the lore of tre-ab (three rivers-Ravi, Satluj, Beas).

Folk songs and vocal musical measures ‘var’, ghori,suhag, tappas, dholas, jugni, mahia, dohras, bait; folk dances bhangra, luddi, jhummer, gidha, kikli expressive of rapturous yearnings evolved on ever singing and dancing streams and brooks of Punjab.

Social and economic facets of Punjab life contingent on its rivers are so expansive and immense that these can not be quantified in units of currency. Instinct tells us that Punjabis affection for their rivers traces deep along the taproots of Punjab’s history and culture.

The above indicates how deeply and passionately Punjabis—a vibrant and self-affirming community of achievers — are associated with their rivers which define their character: love of their lands, faithfulness, sanctity of purpose, spirit of hardiness, boundless enthusiasm, jovial nature, dignity of honour and self respect.

Anybody dealing with Punjabis should have some insight into Punjabi psyche which makes them tick. Punjab’s impassioned poetry, folk lore, folk dances have etched into the Punjabi conscience a unique dream of spirituality. Punjabis now live all over the globe but Punjab remains their cultural heart. The common denominator is the silvery wreath of its rivers which embraces Punjab in its sweet hug. All these factors need to be taken into serious consideration while deciding about the fate of rivers Ravi, Beas and Satluj which constitute Punjab’s body and soul.

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