PUNJAUB, THE, which according to its subtitle, is a brief account of the country of the Sikhs, its extent, history, commerce, productions, government, manufactures, laws, religion, etc., was written by Lieut-Colonel Henry Steinbach, a European officer in the Khālsā army, and was first published by Smith, Edder,& Co., Cornhill, London, in 1845. It was reprinted by the Languages Department, Punjab, in 1970. The author was an eye witness, during his seven year stay among the Sikhs (1838-45), to the cataclysmic events which overtook the Punjab following the death of Raṇjīt Siṅgh. After a sketchy note on the topography of the Punjab and its principal towns and a very brief survey of the rise of the Sikh power, Steinbach straightway proceeds to describing the death and funeral of Raṇjīt Siṅgh and the subsequent intrigues and murders up to the elimination of Hīrā Siṅgh and Paṇḍit Jallā and the installation of Jawāhar Siṅgh as the minister. He concludes his narration of events with : "the general opinion of the best informed authorities, namely, the European officers lately in the Lahore service, is that tranquility never can be permanently established in the Punjab until under the firm rule of the British goverment, whose interference, it is fully anticipated, will, ere long, become unavoidable." This seems to be the leitmotif of Steinbach's work. He stresses the desirability of annexing Punjab to the British dominions and pleads for decisive action to this end. The book also contains a general survey of the climate, produce, commerce, industry of the Punjab and costumes, manners, customs and religious beliefs of its people. Equally interesting is the author's detailed description of the government and army of the Punjab and the Sikh court. An appendix, apparently added by the publishers, traces briefly the history of the British connection with Raṇjīt Siṅgh from 1805 up to the Tripartite treaty of 1838. In several instances, Steinbach shows both his ignorance of and antipathy towards the people about whom he is writing. As examples of the former he reads the history of the Gurū period in terms of a continuing communal clash among Hindus, Muslims and Sikhs, and describes Harimandar as ‘a temple of Vishnu, one of the Sikh deities'. However, despite the subjectivity and bias of Steinbach, this short book of 140 pages is a useful contemporary source on a period that witnessed a great turmoil leading finally to the extinction of the Sikh State.
S. K. Bajāj