Heer Ranjha Folklore

Heer was an extremely beautiful woman, born into a wealthy Jat family of the Sayyal clan in Jhang, Punjab. Ranjha (whose first name is Dheedo; Ranjha is the surname), also a Jat of the Ranjha clan, is the youngest of four brothers and lives in the village ‘Takht Hazara’ by the river Chenab. Being his father’s favorite son, unlike his brothers who had to toil in the lands, he led a life of ease playing the flute (‘Wanjhli’/’Bansuri’).

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After a quarrel with his brothers over land, Ranjha leaves home. In Waris Shah‘s version of the epic, it is said that Ranjha left his home because his brothers’ wives refused to give him food. Eventually he arrives in Heer’s village and falls in love with her. Heer offers Ranjha a job as caretaker of her father’s cattle. She becomes mesmerised by the way Ranjha plays his flute and eventually falls in love with him. They meet each other secretly for many years until they are caught by Heer’s jealous uncle, Kaido, and her parents Chuchak and Malki. Heer is forced by her family and the local priest or ‘mullah’ to marry another man called Saida Khera.

Ranjha is heartbroken. He wanders the countryside alone, until eventually he meets a ‘jogi’ (ascetic). After meeting Baba Gorakhnath, the founder of the “Kanphata”(pierced ear) sect of jogis, at ‘Tilla Jogian’ (the ‘Hill of Ascetics’, located 50 miles north of the historic town of Bhera, Sargodha District, Punjab), Ranjha becomes a jogi himself, piercing his ears and renouncing the material world. Reciting the name of the Lord, “Alakh Niranjan”, he wanders all over the Punjab, eventually finding the village where Heer now lives.
The two return to Heer’s village, where Heer’s parents agree to their marriage. However, on the wedding day, Heer’s jealous uncle Kaido poisons her food so that the wedding will not take place. Hearing this news, Ranjha rushes to aid Heer, but he is too late, as she has already eaten the poison and died. Brokenhearted once again, Ranjha takes the poisoned Laddu (sweet) which Heer has eaten and dies by her side.
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Heer and Ranjha are buried in Heer’s hometown, Jhang. Lovers and others often pay visits to their mausoleum.

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Peer Syed Waris Shah was a Punjabi Sufi poet of Chisti order, renowned for his contribution to Punjabi literature. He is best known for his seminal work Heer Ranjha, based on the traditional folk tale of Heer and her lover Ranjha. Heer is considered one of the quintessential works of classical Punjabi literature.

Waris Shah was born in Jandiala Sher Khan, Punjab,(Pakistan) into a reputed Sayyid family and was a descendant of Sayyid Muhammad Al-Makki through his son Sayyid Badruddin. His father was Gulsher Shah. Waris acknowledged himself as a disciple of Ustad of Kasur. Waris’s parents are said to have died when he was young, and he probably received his education at the shrine of his preceptor. After completing his education in Kasur, he moved to Malka Hans, a village twelve kilometers north of Pakpattan. Here he resided in a small room, adjacent to a historic masjid, now called Masjid Waris Shah. His mausoleum is a place of pilgrimage today, especially for those in love. The mausoleum complex was completed in 1978 and is a mixture of the Lahore School and Tughlaq Architecture.

Waris Shah is also called Shakespeare of the Punjabi language because of his great poetic love story, Heer Ranjha. it is said that through this story of romantic love, he tried to portray the love of man for God (the quintessential subject of Sufi literature).

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