Gujranwala - Encyclopedia

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GUJRANWALA, a town and district of British India, in the Lahore division of the Punjab. The town is situated 40 m. N. of Lahore by rail. It is of modern growth, and owes its importance to the father and grandfather of Maharaja Ranjit Singh, whose capital it formed during the early period of the Sikh power. Pop. (1901) 29,224. There are manufactures of brassware, jewellery, and silk and cotton scarves.

The District comprises an area of 3198 sq. m. In 1901 the population was 756,797, showing an increase of 29% in the decade. The district is divided between a low alluvial tract along the rivers Chenab and Degh and the upland between them, which forms the central portion of the Rechna Doab, intermediate between the fertile submontane plains of Sialkot and the desert expanses of Jhang. Part of the upland tract has been brought under cultivation by the Chenab canal. The country is very bare of trees, and the scenery throughout is tame and in the central plateau becomes monotonous. It seems likely that the district once contained the capital of the Punjab, at an epoch when Lahore had not begun to exist. We learn from the Chinese Buddhist pilgrim, Hsuan Tsang, that about the year 630 he visited a town known as Tse-kia (or Taki), the metropolis of the whole country of the five rivers. A mound near the modern village of Asarur has been identified as the site of the ancient capital. Until the Mahommedan invasions little is known of Gujranwala, except that Taki had fallen into oblivion and Lahore had become the chief city. Under Mahommedan rule the district flourished for a time; but a mysterious depopulation fell upon the tract, and the whole region seems to have been almost entirely abandoned. On the rise of Sikh power, the waste plains of Gujranwala were seized by various military adventurers. Charat Singh took possession of the village of Gujranwala, and here his grandson the great Maharaja Ranjit Singh was born. The Sikh rule, which was elsewhere so disastrous, appears to have been an unmitigated benefit to this district. Ranjit Singh settled large colonies in the various villages, and encouraged cultivation throughout the depopulated plain. In 1847 the district came under British influence in connexion with the regency at Lahore; and in 1849 it was included in the territory annexed after the second Sikh war. A large export trade is carried on in cotton, wheat and other grains. The district is served by the main line and branches of the North-Western railway.

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