MAJHA, from manjhla, i.e. middle, is the traditional name given to the central region of the Punjab covering the upper part of the Bari Doab lying between the rivers Beas and Ravi (whence the name Bari) and comprising the present Gurdaspur and Amritsar districts of India and Lahore district of Pakistan, although it is not uncommon to include the Pakistan districts of Sialkot, Gujranwala and Sheikhupura forming part of the upper Rachna Doab also in the Majha area. Strictly speaking, though, the northeastern half of Rachna Doab is traditionally called Darap, and the southwestern half forms part of the Sandal Bar. Even the southwestern half of Lahore district has a separate name, Nakka.
Taken as a whole, Majha forms a rough parallelogram with the rivers Beas and Sutlej forming the base and bounded by the Sivaliks in the east, the River Chenab in the north, and roughly the line of 73Â°-30\’East longitude in the west. It has a continental sub-humid climate and winter monsoons in addition to summer monsoons. Being an alluvial plain with sub-soil water and water table favourable for irrigation, Majha in the past has been the most productive and densely populated region of the Punjab; but, for the same reasons, it has also been the most alluring for foreign invaders who ravaged it time and again for many centuries.
It was perhaps this frequent alternation of affluence and adversity that made the people of the region hardy and fearless, yet tolerant and god-fearing, qualities that made Majha the bedrock of Punjabi culture and history. Majha is also the birthplace and early home of Sikhism. The first six Gurus, with the exception of the second, were born and brought up here. Even the second Guru, Guru Angad, who was born in a village in the Malva, made Khadur Sahib in Majha his permanent seat. In Sikh times political and religious authority was centred in Lahore and Amritsar, both in Majha. Of the seven towns founded by the Gurus, four (Goindval, Amritsar, Tarn Taran and Sri Hargobindpur) he in Majha which is dotted with scores of historical shrines, including those now in Pakistan, connected with the lives of the Gurus.
Four of the five Taruna Dal misls established themselves in this region while the fifth, Ahluvalia, occupied a major part of the neighbouring Doaba. However, in the context of the present Punjab where bulk of the Sikh population is concentrated, Majha comprises only two of the 17 districts, Amritsar and Gurdaspur, of the state. With a richly productive soil and watered by the upper Bari Doab canal and thousands of wells and tube-wells, the two Majha districts produce a variety of crops, principal among them being rice, wheat and maize.
Although in density of population these districts rank after Jalandhar and Ludhiana, over 21 per cent of the total population of Punjab lives here according to the 1991 census. Most of the population is rural, with agriculture as the main occupation. Amri tsar with a population of over seven lacs, retains its position as the major commercial city of Punjab. Only two other towns (Pathankot, a military station, and Batala, an industrial centre) have a population of a little over 100,000 each. The remaining towns (only 18 against 113 in the rest of the Punjab), including the district town of Gurdaspur, have all population below 100,000 each.
The literacy percentage (53.5 forGurdaspur and 47.3 for Amritsar district), however, compares well with the average (49.2 per cent) for the whole of Punjab. The premier educational institution of the region is Guru Nanak Dev University located at Amritsar. The area is industrially backward. Besides Batala, a centre of light and medium industry, Goindval is now being developed as a major industrial complex. A major hinderance in the further economic growth of Majha, however, has been, besides its being a border region, its internal disturbed condition during the early 1980\’s.
1. Census of India 1991 – Reports
2. Latif, Syad Muhammad, History of the Punjab. Delhi, 1977