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Famous love couples

PUNJAB LOVE LEGENDS

Punjab has always combated invaders. Therefore the truth of life became a reality like blood in one’s veins. All this inculcated in the lovers of Punjab not only an appreciation and periscopic sense of beauty but also the courage to gift life. The action became two dimentional: while on one hand mortal love gained the stature of worship of God; on the other hand, it lent courage to defy religious constraints.

The beautiful truth is that for centuries the saga of the folk lovers which immortalizes the memory of Heer, Sohni, Sahiban, Sassi, and others has been handed down from generation to generation. Their memories are still alive as they had died for love and not because their lovers had died for them at the alter of love. They rebelled against the conventional norms of society. These women who loved did not treasure their body or soul: they sacrificed everything for love.

The roots of this philosophy are embedded in the poetry of Waris Shah, who believed that the world existed on love. He says:

" Be thankful to God
For making love the root of the world
First he himself loved
Then he made the prophets
His beloved ones."

It is this belief which endowed the woman of Punjab with a romantic soul and filled it with the conviction of truth and gave her the courage to speak. Therefore we do not come across any love story which portrays a woman pining to death or quietly nursing her love within her bosom. In all the love tales the women are volatile and have dynamic characters.

HEER RANJHA
Waris Shah’s composition, the love story of Heer Ranjha takes a pre-eminent place, in what may be called the ‘qissa’ literature of Punjab. It is the story of the youngman and a youngwomen, which did not receive the sanction of society in the shape of marriage, a major theme of literature, music, dance and drama not only in Punjab, but everywhere in the world.

The story prformed in the form of an opera as well as a ballet is very typical. Heer was the daughter of a feudal landlord Chuchak Sial from Jhang. Before her sacrifice for Ranjha, she proved herself to be a very courageous and daring young girl. It is said that Sardar (Chief) Noora from the Sambal community, had a really beautiful boat made and appointed a boatman called Luddan. Noora was very ruthless with his employees. Due to the ill treatment one day Luddan ran away with the boat and begged Heer for refuge. Heer gave him moral support as well as shelter.

Sardar Noora was enraged at this incident. He summoned his friends and set off to catch Luddan. Heer collected an army of her friends and confronted Sardar Noora and defeated him. When Heer’s brothers learnt of this incident they told her,"If a mishap had befallen you why didn’t you send for us?" To which Heer replied," What was the need to send for all of you? Emperor Akbar had not attacked us."

It is the same Heer who, when she is in love with Ranjha, sacrifices her life for him and says, " Saying Ranjha, Ranjha all time I myself have become Ranjha.

No one should call me Heer, call me Dheedho Ranjha."

When Heer’s parents arranged her marriage much against her wishes, with a member of the house of Khaidon, it is Heer who plucks up courage during the wedding ceremony and reprimands the Kazi (priest)." Kazi, I was married in the presence of Nabi (Prophet). When did God give you the authority to perform my marriage ceremony again and annul my first marriage? The tragedy is that people like you are easily bribed to sell their faith and religion. But I will keep my promise till I go to the grave."

Heer is forcibly married to Khaidon but she cannot forget Ranjha. She sends a message to him. He comes in the garb of a jogi (ascetic) and takes her away. When Heer’s parents hear about the elopement they repent and send for both of them promising t get Heer married to Ranjha. But Heer’s uncle Khaidon betrays them and poisons Heer.

In this love tale Heer and Ranjha do not have the good fortune of making a home. But in the folklore sung by the ladies, Heer and Ranjha always enjoyed a happy married life.

It was Heer’s strong conviction, which has placed this tragic romantic tale on the prestigious pedestal along with Punjab’s religious poetry.

SASSI PUNNU
Sassi was another romantic soul, the daughter of King Adamkhan of Bhambour. At her birth the astrologers predicted that she was a curse for the royal family’s prestige. The king ordered that the child be put in a wooden chest with a ‘taweez’ tied on her neck and thrown into the river Chenab. The chest was seen floating by Atta, the washer man of Bamboon village. The dhobi believed the child was a blessing from God and took her home and adopted her as his child. Many, many years passed by and the king did not have another child, so he decides to get married again. When he heard that the daughter of Atta, the washer man, was as beautiful as the angels, the king summoned her to the palace. Sassi was still wearing the tabiz (amulet), which the queen mother had put around her neck when she was taken away to be drowned. The king recognized his daughter immediately on seeing the tabiz. The pent-up sufferings of the parents flowed into tears. They wanted their lost child to return to the palace and bring joy and brightness to their lives, but Sassi refused and preferred to live in the house where she had grown up. She refused to leave the man who had adopted her.

Sassi did not go to the palace but the king presented her with abundant gifts, lands and gardens where she could grow and blossom like a flower. As all the rare things of the world were within her reach she wanted to acquire knowledge and sent for learned teachers and scholars. She made sincere efforts to increase her knowledge. During this time she heard about the trader from Gajni, who had a garden mad with a monument, the inner portion of which was enriched with exquisite paintings. When Sassi visited the place to offer her tributes and admire the rich art, she instantly fell in love with a painting, which was a masterpiece of heavenly creation. She soon discovered this was the portrait of Prince Pannu, son of King Ali Hoot, the ruler of Kicham.

Sassi became desperate to meet Punnu, so she issued an order that any businessman coming from Kicham town should be presented before her. There was a flutter within the business community as this news spread and someone informed Punnu about Sassi’s love for him. He assumed the garb of a businessman and carrying a bagful of different perfumes came to meet Sassi. The moment Sassi saw him she couldn’t help saying," Praise to be God!"

Punu’s Baluchi brothers developed an enmity for Sassi. They followed him and on reaching the town they saw the marriage celebrations of Sassi and Pannu in full swing, they could not bear the rejoicing. That night the brothers pretended to enjoy and participate in the marriage celebrations and forced Punnu to drink different types of liquor. When he was dead drunk the brothers carried him on a camel’s back and returned to their hometown Kicham.

The next morning when she realized that she was cheated she became mad with the grief of separation from her lover and ran barefoot towards the city of Kicham. To reach the city she had to cross miles of desert land, the journey that was full of dangerous hazards, leading to the end of world.

Her end was similar to the end of Kaknoos bird. It is said that when this bird sings, fire leaps out from its wings and it is reduced to ashes in its own flames. Similarly Punnu’s name was the death song for Sassi who repeated it like a song and flames of fire leapt up and she was also reduced to ashes.

SOHNI MAHIWAL
Sohni was the daughter of a potter named Tula, who lived in Punjab near the banks of the Chenab River. As soon as the Surahis (water pitchers) and mugs came off the wheels, she would draw floral designs on them and transform them into masterpieces of art.

Izzat Biag, the rich trader form Balakh Bukhara, came to Hindustan on business but when he saw the beautiful Sohni he was completely enchanted. Instead of keeping mohars (gold coins) in his pockets, he roamed around with his pockets full of love. Just to get a glimpse of Sohni he would end up buying the water pitchers and mugs everyday.

Sohni lost her heart to Izzat Baig. Instead of making floral designs on earthenware she started building castles of love in her dreams. Izzat Baig sent off his companions to Balakh Bukhara. He took the job of a servant in the house of Tula, the potter. He would even take their buffaloes for grazing. Soon he was known as Mahiwal (potter).

When the people started spreading rumors about the love of Sohni and Mahiwal, without her consent her parents arranged her marriage with another potter.

Suddenly, one day his barat (marriage party) arrived at the threshold of her house. Sohni was helpless and in a poignant state. Her parents bundled her off in the doli (palanquin), but they could not pack off her love in any doli (box).

Izzat Baig renounced the world and started living like a fakir (hermit) in a small hut across the river. The earth of Sohni’s land was like a dargah (shrine) for him. He had forgotten his own land, his own people and his world. Taking refuge in the darkness of the night when the world was fast asleep Sohni would come by the riverside and Izzat Baig would swim across the river to meet her. He would regularly roast a fish and bring it for her. It is said that once due to high tide he could not catch a fish, so he cut a piece of his thigh and roasted it. Seeing the bandage on his thigh, Sohni opened it, saw the wound and cried.

From the next day Sohni started swimming across the river with the help of an earthen pitcher as Izzat Baig was so badly wounded, he could not swim across the river. Soon spread the rumors of their romantic rendezvous. One-day Sohni’s sister-in-law followed her and saw the hiding place where Sohni used to keep her earthen pitcher among the bushes. The next day her sister-in-law removed the hard baked pitcher and replaced it with an unbaked one. At night when Sohni tried to cross the river with the help of the pitcher, it dissolved in the water and Sohni was drowned. From the other side of the river Mahiwal saw Sohni drowning and jumped into the river.

This was Sohni’s courage, which every woman of Punjab has recognized, applauded in songs: "Sohni was drowned, but her soul still swims in water..."

MIRZA SAHIBAN
Mirza–Sahiban, a love-lore is a treasure of Punjabi literature. It is a romantic tragedy. Sahiban was another love-lorn soul. Shayer Pillo raves about her beauty and says," As Sahiban stepped out with a lungi tied around her waist, the nine angels died on seeing her beauty and God started counting his last breath…"

Mirza and Sahiban who were cousins and childhood playmates, fell in love with each other. But when this beauty is about to be wedded forcibly to Tahar Khan by her parents, without any hesitation she sends a taunting message to Mirza, whom she loves, to his village Danabad, through a Brahmin called Kammu.

"You must come and decorate Sahiban’s hand with the marriage henna."

This is the time you have to protect your self respect and love, keep your promises, and sacrifice your life for truth. Mirza who was a young full-blooded man, makes Sahiba sit on his horse and rides away with her. But on the way, as he lies under the shade of a tree to rest for a few moments, the people who were following them on horseback with swords in their hands catch up with them.

Sahiba was a virtuous and a beautiful soul who did not desire any bloodshed to mar the one she loved. She did not want her hands drenched in blood instead of henna. She thinks Mirza cannot miss his target, and if he strikes, her brothers would surely die. Before waking up Mirza, Sahiban puts away his quiver on the tree. She presumes on seeing her, her brothers would feel sorry and forgive Mirza and take him in their arms. But the brothers attack Mirza and kill him. Sahiban takes a sword and slaughters herself and thus bids farewell to this world.

Innumerable folk songs of Punjab narrate the love tale of Sassi and Punnu. The women sing these songs with great emotion and feeling, as though they are paying homage to Sassi with lighted on her tomb. It is not the tragedy of the lovers. It is the conviction of the heart of the lovers. It is firmly believed that the soil of the Punjab has been blessed. God has blessed these lovers to. Though there love ended in death, death was a blessing in disguise, for this blessing is immortalized.

Waris shah who sings the tale of Heer elevates mortal love to the same pedestal as spiritual love for God saying," When you start the subject of love, first offer your invocation to God". This has always been the custom in Punjab, where mortal love has been immortalized and enshrined as spirit of love.

Just as every society has dual moral values, so does the Punjabi community. Everything is viewed from two angles, one is a close up of morality and the other is a distant perspective. The social, moral convictions on one hand give poison to Heer and on the other make offerings with spiritual convictions at her tomb, where vows are made and blessings sought for redemption from all sufferings and unfulfilled desires.

But the Sassis, Heers, Sohnis and others born on this soil have revolted against these dual moral standards. The folk songs of Punjab still glorify this rebelliousness.

"When the sheet tear,
It can be mended with a patch:
How can you darn the torn sky?
If the husband dies, another one can be found,
But how can one live if the lover dies?"

And perhaps it is the courage of the rebellious Punjabi woman, which has also given her a stupendous sense of perspective. Whenever she asks her lover for a gift she says,

" Get a shirt made for me of the sky
And have it trimmed with the earth"