MĀJHĀ, from mañjhlā, i.e., middle, is the traditional name given to the central region of the Punjab covering the upper part of the Bārī Doāb lying between the rivers Beās and Rāvī (whence the name Bārī) 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 Siālkoṭ, Gujrāṅwālā and Sheikhūpurā forming part of the upper Rachnā Doāb also in the Mājhā area. Strictly speaking, though, the north-eastern half of Rachnā Doāb is traditionally called Daṛap, and the south-western half forms part of the Sāndal Bār. Even the south-western half of Lahore district has a separate name, Nakkā. Taken as a whole, Mājhā forms a rough parallelogram with the rivers Beās and Sutlej forming the base and bounded by the Śivāliks in the east, the River Chenāb in the north, and roughly the line of 73º-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, Mājhā 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 Mājhā the bedrock of Punjabi culture and history.
Mājhā is also the birthplace and early home of Sikhism. The first six Gurūs, with the exception of the second, were born and brought up here. Even the second Gurū, Gurū Aṅgad, who was born in a village in the Mālvā, made Khaḍūr Sāhib in Mājhā his permanent seat. In Sikh times political and religious authority was centred in Lahore and Amritsar, both in Mājhā. Of the seven towns founded by the Gurūs, four (Goindvāl, Amritsar, Tarn Tāran and Srī Hargobindpur) lie in Mājhā which is dotted with scores of historical shrines, including those now in Pakistan, connected with the lives of the Gurūs. Four of the five Taruṇā Dal misls established themselves in this region while the fifth, Āhlūvālīā, occupied a major part of the neighbouring Doābā.
However, in the context of the present Punjab where bulk of the Sikh population is concentrated, Mājhā comprises only two of the 17 districts, Amritsar and Gurdāspur, of the state. With a richly productive soil and watered by the upper Bārī Doāb canal and thousands of wells and tube-wells, the two Mājhā 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 Ludhiāṇā, over 21 percent 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. Amritsar with a population of over seven lacs, retains its position as the major commercial city of Punjab. Only two other towns (Paṭhānkoṭ, a military station, and Baṭālā, an industrial centre) have a population of a little over 100,000 each. The remaining towns (only l8 against 113 in the rest of the Punjab), including the district town of Gurdāspur, have all population below 100,000 each. The literacy percentage (53.5 for Gurdāspur 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 Gurū Nānak Dev University located at Amritsar. The area is industrially backward. Besides Baṭālā, a centre of light and medium industry, Goindvāl is now being developed as a major industrial complex. A major hindrance in the further economic growth of Mājhā, however, has been, besides its being a border region, its internal disturbed condition during the early 1980's.
Major Gurmukh Siṅgh (Retd.)