The geographical entity in the north-western region of India called Punjab, the land of five rivers, has been and still is an integral part of the common pool of Indian culture. Its arts and crafts also form an important part of the deep-rooted artistic tradition of India and are equally rich and significant.
The culture of Punjab prior to the partition of 1947 was a mixture of three strains one flowing frorn Kangra hills, the second from south-western area from Multan to Lahore, and the third from Peshawar w Lahore. Patiala and contiguous areas were not active culturally. The three aforesaid areas contributed to the culture of the five river land. Lyallpur, Jhang, Montegomary, Rawalpindi, Sialkot and Lahore were Muslim dominated areas. Religion naturally left its impress an culture. Its influence can be seen on almost all arts and crafts, specially glazed pottery and woodcarving. The artisans of Chiniot near Lyallpu were famous for their skill in these crafts.
Hindus and Muslims of this area dressed themselves in the same manner. The art, culture and costumes of this zone present a sharp contrast to those of the north-eastern areas of the Punjab. People in the north-western frontier zone wore Salwar (bottomwearl aod turban with a Kullah, Loose turbans, a long Kurta (Shirt) and a loose lungi (tahrnet or tamba) were in vogue in Multan, Jhang, Lahore and Amritsar.
Turban wrapped in a sophisticated manner known as Dogra-Pahari style was common in Lahore, Amritsar and the contiguous area up to Ambala. The combination of Patiala and Dogra styles of turbans was also common in these areas.
Amritsar, Gurdaspur, Hoshiarpur, etc. had a distinctive culture of their own owing to the deep influence of the Pahari culture of Kangra hills. The metalwork, jewellery, embroidery, mudwall paintings, wall paintings in the temples and mansions of the rich (Havelis), figurative woodcarving, folk songs, musical instruments and even the dishes have a typically Pahari character, here. The men and women of these areas speak a different dialect from those of the north-western frontier zone.
Lahore, on account of its being the capital as well as the government headquarters, could not develop a distinct culture of its own, for people from different places came to reside here. Its culture remained hybrid, a conglomeration of odd elements. Despite so much cultural diversity, there are points of common contact which unite the culture of the Punjab. This is evident from the architecture of ordinary dwelling houses, Punjabi poetry, folk songs, idiomatic expressions, jokes, etc. This aspect shall be dealt with in the following paragraphs.
As elsewhere in India, the culture of Punjab thrived in both urban and rural areas. Historical examples in classical style such as Buddhist relics, pottery, sculptures, etc., which flourished in urban areas exist in fragments in the museums of Taxile and Lahore. One may chance upon more architectural and sculptural ruins in Pakistan in archaeological and historical sites. A number of magnificent sculptures and stupas have been unearthed from Gandhara and Taxila. The temples of Malot and Bilot in Kafirkot and Dera Ismail Khan dating back to the 8th century A.D. are superb examples of classical art of Punjab having stylistic affinities with Gandhara and Kashmir, which is evident from the trefoil and triangular arches.
While Specimens of classical art forms in this part have been destroyed by centuries-long waves of barbarian invasions?their counterparts have remained more or less intact in the more secluded and sheltered parts of western Himalaya such as Chamba, Kulu, Simla hills, Kangra, etc. The earliest temples in these areas date back to the 7th century and are of wood and stone, namely Lakshna Devi temple in Brahmaur. Shakti Devi temple in Chhatrarhi, Markula Devi temple in Lahaul and the monolithic temple of Masrur in Kangra Valley, to name a few.
The glazed tile mosaics in Wazir Khan mosque in Lahore and Lahore fort are also in the refined tradition of urban culture. These are believed to have been executed in Jehangir’s period (early 17th century).
The mosque of Wazir Khan in the city of Lahore is a monument of great dignity and elegance. It is in Iranian-Mughal style, though founded by a Punjabi. The beautiful figurative Kashi or tile-work, stretching for several hundred yards and to a considerable height along the outer wall of the Lahore Fort, is the most spectacular achievement in a very different vein. These Lahore tiles were also used in the same period on the nearby mosque of Wazir Khan. This is the only specimen of urban culture without parallels in any areas of Punjab. This architecture is Persian in style and character, but the elephants, birds and flower motifs are similar to those on the tiles embellishing the outer wall of the Man Mandir palace of Gwalior, and have no affinity with abstract decorations on Persian mosques. The mosque of Wazir Khan in Lahore was built by Hakim Aliuddin in 1634 A.D. inside Delhi gate. Wazir Khan, a minister of Aurangzeb, a man of considerable parts, great munificence and fine taste as is evident from this mosque.