Punjab connect: Briton born in India took Punjaub to Australia

There is also a parish named Doab along with cattle stations called Ravi, Chenab and even Almora in Queensland.

punjab Updated: Jan 19, 2018 13:53 IST
Experts claim there are older archival references to Punjaub.(Photo courtesy:sbs.com.au)

With cattle stations and parishes named Punjaub, Doab, Ravi, Chenab and Malwa, Queensland in Australia has a strong Punjabi connection dating back to the 19th century. The Burke area in Queensland near the Gulf of Carpentaria has far too many references to lands and rivers of Punjab for it to be a mere coincidence.

The name of Punjaub was first applied for by Sydney Grandison Watson in 1877. A look into his family history shows that he was born in India to a British army officer serving in the East India Company. His father went on to become a lieutenant general and Sydney moved to Australia at the age of 20 in 1836.

But experts claim there are older archival references to Punjaub, even before Watson applied for the pastoral lease in its name. References in the Australian archives say the cattle station called Punjaub in Queensland was referred to as “the district of five rivers” or “the country of five rivers”. The same area in Queensland has other cattle stations or parishes named Doab, Little Doab, Ravi, Chenab, Almora and Indus. There was even a county named Malwa further south of this area in Burke.

Must read | Land of five rivers called Punjaub, in Australia!

It’s no coincidence that the two Doabs are in the neighbourhood of the Punjaub station. The literal meaning of Punjaub and Doab coincide with their geography. If Punjaub has five rivers flowing through it, both Doab and Little Doab have two rivers coursing through each of them.

Punjab means the land of five rivers, since ‘Punj’ relates to the number ‘five’ and ‘Aab’ means ‘water’. Similarly, Doab means the land of two rivers. Indigenous families in the nearby Mt Isa region still use the surname Punjaub.

History of the two Punjaubs

Spread over 715 sq km on the border of Queensland and Northern Territory, Punjaub was given its name 150 years ago.

Gurwinder Singh, who leads the Spatial Systems team in the Department of Natural Resources, Mines and Energy in Queensland, says, “The name of Punjaub was first used in the Burke Pastoral District on two runs, which were applied for by a gentleman named Sydney Grandison Watson in 1877. Watson’s application was received by the department of public land, Queensland, on October 11, 1877, and he applied for two leases, giving them the run names of Punjaub No 1 and Punjaub No 2.”

This means that at one stage in the 19th century, there were two Punjaubs in Australia.

Queensland’s Museum of Lands, Mapping and Surveying conducted a research into the family history of Watson and found that he was born in India in 1816. An article in the Australian Stockman’s Hall of Fame and Outback Research Centre reveals Sydney was born in India on June 22, 1816, and moved to Australia in 1836 at 20.

Gurwinder says, “Sydney’s father Archibald Watson was a Major in the East India Company military force and went on to become Lieutenant General. He was an influential man. Owing to his Indian background, Sydney named the two properties he was applying for in 1877, Punjaub No 1 and Punjaub No 2.”

Punjaub station was quite influential in the late 1800s and early 1900s, with the local post office running a weekly mail through it.

Parishes named after Doab

References to Doab date to 1929 when it was the name of a parish. “Though a parish is associated with a church but our land records show parishes were specified areas for administration, just like we have councils these days. Punjaub, Doab and Little Doab appear both as landholdings and parishes,” says Gurvinder.

“Records show Punjaub was named in 1887 and the pastoral runs and holdings of Little Doab and Doab were created after 1930,” he says. Doab is 92,000 acres, while Little Doab spans 20,000 acres. Punjaub is spread across 1,19,351 acres.

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(Manjeet K Singh is executive director of Melbourne-based SBS Radio)

First Published: Jan 19, 2018 13:51 IST