Legend of Heer Ranjha

Love and nothing but love is my name [Heer painted by Abdul RahmanChughtai, the master painter of Pakistan]



by Umair Ghani


First praise be to my Lord
Creator of us all,
Who created Love – foundation for us all

The overloaded passenger van was moving at rocket speed when the wailing voice of Allah Ditta Lonaywala “Assañwich Ishq de rull gyay haañ” struck my ears. Coming out of a noisy car stereo it makes me think of the spiritual reunion; of Heer and Ranjha and wonder if it were we who are lost in love!

I got off from the van a few kilometers ahead of Jhang city as the young conductor pointed towards a dusty street surrounded by a thick cluster of shrubs, “that will lead you to the tomb of Heer Ranjha”. I adjust my worn out travel bag on weary shoulders as I delve into another spiritual quest, into the realm of unrequited immortal love between the two legendary lovers of Punjab, Heer and Ranjha.

A deep hush greeted me when I glimpsed the green colored doom across a dense cluster of wild shrubs scattered in the adjoining graveyard. Climbing a few concrete steps I reached a marble floor guarded on all sides by iron fence and the white, blue, green tiled tomb stood humbly in the middle of it. Had I been here before in another place and time? A déjà vu engulfs my being! Everything looks so familiar, the environment, the canteen and the white and green colored mosque with its abandoned grace, a deep and pure silence occasionally broken by the sobbing young girl who placed her head on the marble slab of Heer Ranjha’s grave perhaps seeking some solace for the pain that her lost love caused. On right side of the tomb’s main entrance a limestone plaque reads, “Darbar Ashiq-e-Sadiq Mai Heer wa Mian Ranjha”. I read on and on, “Asihq-e-Sadiq [True Lovers] and felt some very sacred presence all around the place. Jo bhi kuchh hae, muhabbat ka phailao hae [everything here…is nothing but a span of love].

Annemarie Schimmel, a renowned orientalist writes “Heer Ranjha has been elaborated in more than a hundred versions, in Punjabi, Urdu, Sindhi and Persian. Originally some characters depicted in the Heer were from Punjab’s socio-religious mix, however, gradually the work took on more of an Islamic assertion and by the time version of Ahmed Gujjar came on the scene (1693) Ranjha got portrayed as a Muslim defending Sufi concept of love against asceticism of the Naths. Sufi poets elevated mortal love to the level of spiritual love and the qissa of Heer Ranjha took a pre-eminent place in Punjabi literature, the Syed of Jandiala, Suzanne McMahon writes, “Waris Shah’s Heer is widely regarded as the most brilliant rendering of Heer Ranhja.”It is the story of a young man and a young woman deprived of a societal sanction”.

[[Right] Here at this hujra (quarters) attached to a little mosque in village Malka Hans, wrote Waris Shah the qissa Heer Ranjha. Malka Hans is a town in district Pak-Pattan, previously a part of district Sahiwal]. Photo courtesy ATP

Heer [Izzat Bibi] was a courageous and daring young girl, the daughter of Chuchak Sial and Malki from Jhang. Her courage was elaborated in a qissa, a narration: Sardar Noora from Sambal community had a slave named Luddan. Due to maltreatment meted out to him, Luddan ran away with Sambal’s beautifully crafted boat and begged shelter from Heer. Heer helped him. Sardar Noora enraged by the incident approached her who gathered her friends and confronted Sardar Noora. Heer ultimately triumphs. When Heer’s brothers learn of this incident, they are furious and express their concern, “you fought alone sis, why you didn’t send for us?” Heer replies, “Why should have I? It was not Emperor Akbar who attacked us”.

Ranjha [Mian Umar] was the youngest of his brothers in Takht Hazara. After a row with his brothers, probably over distribution of inheritance; he left home and to seek his fortune wandered with a flute under his arm; finally reaching Heer’s village. On the way he encountered a narrow minded Mullah who didn’t allow him to spend the night in the mosque [saying ashiq, bhor, fakir te kutay – lovers, the insects, beggars and dogs were not allowed to enter the mosque]. Luddan, the former slave too refused the penniless wanderer to take him across river Chenab. Ranjha lured Luddan’s wives and Luddan agreed to take him across the river to get rid of the situation. On boat Ranjha slept on a comfortable couch which was the property of Heer. When she learnt that her couch had been defiled by some unknown Jat, she rushed to river Chenab to taunt Ranjha, but her anger evaporated with Ranjha’s words, “Vah Sajjana!” and they were lost in each other’s eyes.

“Ah Waris, nothing can help when eyes meet on the battlefield of love!”

Ranjha murmured to Heer “life is only a dream and you must abandon the pride of youth and beauty and be prepared to leave the world”. Heer was hypnotized by the way Ranjha spoke and while he played the flute, eventually she fell in love with him. Ranjha asked Heer to pledge for love and become immortal.

To claim nearness to her lover, Heer offered him a job to take care of their cattle. She promised to sacrifice everything for love and even to lay down her life.

Rañjha Ranjha kar di niñ maeñ
ape Rañjha hoi
Ranjha maeñ no har koi akho Heer na akho koi

Rhyming Ranjha Ranjha in my mind,
I myself have become Ranjha

They would meet secretly until they were caught by Heer’s jealous uncle Kaido who conspired with her parents and Heer was forced to marry one Saida Khera. On her wedding day Heer talked to Mullah [who was heavily bribed by Kaido to perform wedding ceremony] in presence of everyone, “I was married in presence of the prophet. When did God give you the authority to perform my marriage again and deny me the first marriage? You are bribed to sell your faith”, she added, “but I’ll keep my faith till my death. “You cannot wean away an addict from the drug. It is not possible for me to walk away from Ranjha. If it is our destiny to be together then who, other than God, can change it?” And then she adds rather philosophically: “True love is like a mark that a hot iron burns on to the skin or like a spot on a mango fruit. They never go away.”

[Right] The little mosque, which has hujra attached to it, exists even today]. The photo courtesy: ATP

Broken hearted, Ranjha left on his own until eventually he met a Jogi. Wherever he looked, he could only see his departed love and being emotionally scared he voluntarily became an ascetic too. Heer could not forget Ranjha either. She sent a message to him and he came in guise of a Jogi to take her away [they escaped with help from Saida’s sister Sehti]. When Heer’s parents became aware of the elopement they repented and asked her to come back so they could arrange her marriage to Ranjha. The lovers returned to Heer’s village, where her parents agreed to their marriage. On the wedding day, Kaido, the sinister uncle poisoned Heer so the wedding wouldn’t take place. She was buried in Ranjha’s absence. Ranjha learnt of her death, grieved and dejected he rushed to his love’s grave and prayed to be with her. Miraculously the grave parted and Ranjha laid himself down beside his beloved Heer in their eternal sleep. The beginning of Ishq-e-mijazi led them to the status of Ishq-e-Haqiqi and they were declared Pirs and Fakirs at the young age of 32 and 36 years respectively.

Syed Abid Hussein, caretaker of the tomb, finished the legend of Heer Ranjha and I recovered from the trance of an enchanting tale of love. A simple man, Syed Abid looked at me with gloomy eyes, “Is God not a lover?” he said, “Is universe not created out of love? Ishq has uncountable colors and forms. Is everything not Ishq?” I agreed. Ishq was everything, it was everywhere.

“Can my love for a woman lead me to God?” I asked.

“Sure it can! But only if it is true. Ishq is always divine in its essence. If you enter the realm of Ishq, sure it will lead to unknown dimensions. I’ve seen people coming here everyday for many years now. Few of them are true and commit to be burnt, bruised, tortured, and tested by their love. Very few, I assure you!”

A few paces away the young girl sat curled up with her head against marble slab of the grave. She had stopped sobbing somewhere in the middle of caretaker’s narration of Heer Ranjha, but her eyes were still soaked with silent tears flowing down across her neckline. She kept staring blankly into something unseen.
“Everywhere I searched for my love”, her choked voice echoed inside the tomb, “I was betrayed. I come to tell mother Heer [Mai Heer] only she can understand!”

With my back resting against the tiled wall I witnessed everything.

A bare-footed old woman walked in. Went to the grave and kissed it affectionately. Wrinkles filled her face like cracked lines over a parched soil. She performed some secret ritual by closing her eyes and clasping her hands for several minutes. Then like a whirling wind she began to dance in a trance. Her bare feet struck the floor with a loud thud, providing beat for her dance, yet I could see the rhythm was from within.

“Two bodies in one grave but body is nothing”, she talked as she danced. “Soul is everything. Soul is dance. I am a soul and I will dance!” Another loud thud and another swirl within her soul and another thud of the feet and so on. “Only two bodies are here!”
“And where are their souls?” I asked.
“Their souls have become Ishq and spread everywhere!”
“Why do you take my photos?”
“I am trying to capture Heer-Ranjha’s soul.”

“I know where you can find it” she said with a mysterious smile. “I am Mai Saleem, from the family of Heer [her maternal grand parents]”. She dropped down her dopatta and threw her thin hair in the wind. “Look! The women in our family never tie their hair.”

“Ishq is God!” She said and whirled around like a feather in the wind. Only a woman could know better, I thought. Annemarie Schimmel in her book “My Soul is a Woman: The Feminine in Islam” describes the spiritual experience of a woman’s love, “Women setting out on a long journey during the course of which they are separated from the world more and more everyday until their entire being is transformed into their lovers.”

Outside the darbar women prayed for offspring’s, love, happiness and prosperity. Some tied pieces of cloth (strips) to the iron bar above entrance gate as a reminder of their wish to Mai Heer. Young girls brought many colored bangles and strings and tied them to the wooden structures all around the Heer Ranjha’s grave, so they ask God to help them win their love. Sun gently went down the distant horizon, shedding golden light on everything in a blissful adieu kiss. I placed my bag on my back and stepped down the dusty trek. Abandoned course of river Chenab that once flowed close to darbar stretched far and wide. Echo of Heer’s eternal song reverberates all across the land:

Maaey niñ Maaey maenooñ Kherhian di gal naa aakh
Rañjhañrh mera, maeñ Ranjhañ di, ….

I know not but my Ranjha;
To whom I belong and who to me belongs.
Oh, poor folks!
You say: am crazy,
But am happy
Because he knows
Only he knows
What am I.

Umair Ghani is a Pakistani freelance photo-trekker & writer. Umair enjoys freedom of the road & the joy & thrill of adventure. Stung by his wanderlust and a passion for everything that’s beautiful, he began wandering in the Himalayas and the Karakorums and quit teaching for photography and writing. 
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52 replies to “Legend of Heer Ranjha

  1. This is all true. Any word which is 100% truth is the word of Allah so respect that. If love is true then it passes its message, Allah does this job for a true lover. HE HIMSELF becomes a friend and a messenger, always rememeber, this world is nothing except like a play, so Allah will allow true lovers to live happily ever after, on the day of Judgement, then every one will look at them with open eyes. And will be witness to their eternal reunion.

  2. Nice topic, beautiful writing and excellent effort. Thank you for doing this for us. Much appreciated!

    1. Assalamualaikum every body, i want to see the Heer Ranjha, Sassi Punnu, Sohni Mahiwal plz send address


  4. what to say!
    I’m speechless. While reading I was weeping……
    “je tu Rabb nu manouna pahle yar nu mana”.
    Do not know why did we separate ……..apart from that we all are like fishes in water yet all are thirsty. Allah, Krishna, Christ, Budhha, Nanak all are 1.
    Although we have to live whatever way, wherever we are, going by the time, I just pray to Almighty, have pity on us…….

    but the love
    the love

    jut the love………..oh my god

  5. I love Hazrat Muhammad (peace be upon him) and I love dear ALLAH.We should do all good deeds so that our life is spent in the path of ALLAH and His love.

    1. Shaan bhai mery Dada ji ka Laacha hai agr chahiey to aap ko bhaij doo us Laachey sy apny Tears (Aansoo) saaf kar laina.
      Ok Good Day
      Tumharaa Friend:

  6. i have personally went and visited the tomb of maiee heer. its fantastic. there is spell of love n undefinable feelings there. the story and everything laid down is true. love is miracle and the people who love n be loved by someone are blessed people

    1. Salam Bibi Shagufta: ki Haal ay tuhaada? Mai Heer Sahiba ney ty apni zindgi guzaar lai ay par hun tussi apni zindgai dy baary kujh sochooo? ALLAH TOUBA karyaa krooo, Panj Wakat di NAMAZ wi parhyaa kroo. aye munjdy kurhryaa naal fazool da Tym barbad no kro.

      Tuhaada Khairkhwa Banda -e- Nacheez
      Hafiz M. Zahid Ali

  7. In my opinion this piece of writing is simply superb. Very contemporary yet very nostalgic. Sometime, it made me happy yet sometime made me sad. And that is the beauty of Love in its realm. Heer and Ranjha, you will remain in our hearts forever !
    By the way, my friends, please do watch Heer Ranjha (1992) Hindi Movie *ing Anil Kapoor and Sri Devi, to cherish Heer & Ranjha even more !

    1. Hello Andy bhai kyaa kar rahey hoo aur kaha sy belong karty hoo? English Ham ko samjh nahi aati yaar tum punjabi mein yaa urdu mein baat krooo warna apny mulak chaley jawo yahaa per pakistani Aurtoo ko kyun tang kar rahey hooo. Kisy Ka’athey Angreez ki Sat. nikal saada mulk chad ky ja.

  8. i just heard this legend last night and the one which i was told, just enamoured me, i cannot express what i felt. beautiful.

  9. Its an old story of eternal love when earth was loaded within its carrying capacity. Yet this story of love is revisited each time in current age as well for love is eternal and so is the passion of love in lovers..

  10. ,.Noori
    ……Dil ka her aik gosha hai veeran, tere baghair.
    Chehre se mere dard ka aihsas ho na ho …

  11. Thank u for such an eternal love story… Please illustrate it more so that we get to know more about Heer Ranjha Qissa……

  12. A real Love story remaining forever in my heart. Whenever I visit the tomb of Mai Heer, I feel Love…

  13. .Ranjha – the Pride of Punjab, who thought, talked n taught abt love and love alone.
    Bad luck. cannot see the heritage of Punjab

  14. Heer Ranjha ….one of the most beautiful link between me and my Punjabi brethren beyond these artificial borders

    1. Harpreet, the borders between Indian Punjab and the Pakistani Punjab are artificially real and realistically artificial. I say so because geograpahically there were no borders between the two parts of Punjab before 1947. However, much water has flown down the bridges of the five rivers of Punjab since 1947 and the border at Wahga now is the real border and it will stay so.

      But even with these borders there is nothing that can or that should deterr the people on either side, if there were no complications from the two governments.

      Its better to have borders that ensure peaceful coexistence between the two countries instead of having no border with perpetual hostility. That’s more dsngerous a scenario than the present position which is based on realities.

      The heritage between the two parts of Punjab is a common heritage which people on both sides of the border rever and love very much and this spirit should be nurtured irrespective of which side of the border we live.

    1. Hello Sonia Gandhi Jee, apni Parhaai wal Dhyaan diya kroo. Munjdya naal panjgy bazi chad dewoo.

  15. Really True Story Heer Ranjha, Qalandar ba Murad
    from Ghulam Sarwar Ch. Jhangvi 0302-7501798

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  18. Breathtakingly beautiful story of the eternal lovers. Mai Heer grave yard is inspiring. Let’s pray for both souls to meet and live together in peach in the after life. Inshallah.

    1. Assalamualikum Nabila Bibi: kya haal hain aap ky aur apky khandaan ka kya haal hai?
      khush rahoo aur Mundey kuryoon sy door rahoo. Pyar aur Ishaq karna hai to ALLAH AUR US KY AAKHRI NABI (PBUH) sy kroo ta ky tumhari zindagi Sanwar jaye

      Your Brother
      Hafiz Muhammad Zahid Ali

  19. I wish I could visit mai heer’s tomb sometime. I pray Mai heer to call me.
    A wonderful write up which describes beautifully the presence of “heer ranjha” a divine communion.

    1. Thanx Taj Manchanda. Of course you are welcome to visit the tomb of Mai Heer’s tomb in Jhang city of Pakistan. If you have a firm mind, then you be rest asssured Mai Heer will definitely call you.
      BTW where are you from? Pakistan or
      somewhere else?

  20. Assalamualaikum Doctor Sahib, kya haal hain aapy, Dr. Sb: mery Jisam mein bohat Dard hota hai aur koi aisi Medicine Bata dein usy kha kr skooon mil jaye. saary Back sy Pathay Kichey jaty hian. plz koi Hal nikalein.

  21. Asslamualaikum bhai aaj maza aa gya aap logoo sy batein kar
    kaha suna maaf krna.
    Sorry sab logoo ko. Muhammad Zahid Ali +92-322-7771781

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