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Heer
Part I

INNI KAUR

 

 

 






Author’s Note: Inspired by Waris Shah’s epic love poem, ‘Heer‘, I have dared to pen my own Heer. My head bows at the altar of love. With love and devotion, I have told their story as I see it. Ranjha is noble as is Heer. Prayer is immersed in these two beings. Their love is pure. Their love is sacred. And that is the reason why it has maintained its freshness through the centuries.

 

 

Mountains crumble
Hearing sighs of lovers
Snakes recoil
Hearing sighs of lovers
Stars fall
Hearing sighs of lovers

Remain resolute are lovers.




The essence of the universe is love. It is said, when the Creator fell in love, the universe was created. And the stories of those who have truly loved need to be told with reverence.

Heer’s voice haunts me. I feel her within me. She and I are one, and therefore I write her story.

What would Heer be without Ranjha? What would Ranjha be without Heer?

Their incredible love-story …

Ranjha lives in Takht Hazara, a pleasant place on the banks of the River Chenab. The young men of this region are known for their handsome looks. Youngest of eight brothers, Ranjha is the darling of his father. His long black curls, god-like physique, still eyes, near-perfect nose and mesmerizing flute-playing are the talk of the village. He is the heart-throb of every girl.

His life is blissful, until his father dies. His brothers bribe the Qazi and get the fertile lands. Ranjha’s share is the barren portion of the lands. But, he cares not, for his world is music.

However, tired of his sister-in- law’s repetitive reprimands, he leaves home with nothing but his flute under his arm. Traveling for days, he reaches a mosque as beautiful as the Holy Mecca. Hungry and cold, he sits outside the mosque and plays his flute.

Strange things begin to happen. People throng around the mosque. Every heart opens; every heart yearns to hear more. Except the heart of the Mullah.

“Who is this infidel with long hair? This is not a place for rogues. Cut off your long hair so that you may be acceptable in God’s sight,” he yells.

“You have a long beard like a revered Shaikh, yet you behave so harshly,” Ranjha replies. “Why do you send travelers and poor fakirs like me away? You sit in the pulpit with the Quran in front of you, yet your mind is filled with cruelty. You lead the women astray, negotiate salvation, and take bribes. Is that acceptable in God’s eyes?”

“Mosques are God’s houses. Lecherous men like you are not welcome here. You have forsaken prayer, kept long hair and a scented moustache. Beggars like you are impure. They need to be whipped and thrown out of mosques,” the Mullah shouts.

“O Mighty deputy of Allah, may your sins be forgiven. In your mercy grant me pardon for my faults. But tell me, O learned one, what is clean and what is unclean? What is right and what is wrong? What is prayer made up of? To whom was prayer intended for, in the beginning?”

The Mullah vehemently protests. After all, he is the one that knows all the doctrines of the faith and all the prayers ordained for the believers. And he is the one who can take the pious across the bridge of salvation.

Ranjha laughs. “Mullahs are like a plague that clings to the house of God. Under the shade of the Holy Writ, they curse the living and when poor travelers and strangers come to seek help, they scream: Be gone, be gone!”

The Mullah does not know where to look. There is no spirit left in him. Yet, he says, “Remember God, you foolish peasant. I give you permission to stay for one night at the mosque. But be gone by the break of day or else I will have you thrashed.”

So Ranjha sleeps the night in the mosque and leaves at dawn. He walks and plays his flute across the land. He reaches the banks of the River Chenab. Travelers are waiting for the ferryman to take them across.

Ranjha pleads to the ferryman, “You who have been taking people across for centuries, for the love of God, take me across as well. But, I have no money to give you for your service.”

The ferryman flatly refuses. “We ply the ferry for money not for God’s love. Those who attempt to enter our boat forcibly are thrown into the river. Not even the son of a Pir like Waris will we take in our boat for nothing.”

Dejected, Ranjha sits in a corner by himself. He draws out his flute and plays the song of a beloved’s separation. Hearing his music, all the people gather around him, including the two wives of the ferryman.

This infuriates the ferryman, who appeals to the villagers. “This youth is a wizard. He has cast a spell over my wives. He will entice all our women. We must stop him now.”

But no one listens to the ferryman, for they are captivated by Ranjha’s song. Ranjha calms himself and enters the river. The people scream, “Do not go into the Chenab, for it is deep and strong. You are sure to drown. Even the long poles cannot reach its bottom.”

“It is best that those who are troubled, should die. My parents are dead and I am tormented by my brothers,” Ranjha replies.

But the ferryman’s wives refuse to listen to him. They drag him by his arms into a boat and make him sit on a silk-covered couch.

“Whose boat is this?” Ranjha questions.

“This boat belongs to a maiden far lovelier than the moon. Even the Queen of fairies seeks God’s protection from her beauty. Those who fall under her charm are her slaves for life. She is the pride and joy of village of Sial, her name is Heer.”

The people ask, “Who are you? Where have you come from? Why have you left your home? You look very refined.”

Ranjha shares his story. “I was the darling of my parents, but now I am homeless. I don’t know what God has in store for me.”

The sun begins to set and everyone leaves the river banks. Ranjha falls asleep on the couch.

Heer along with her girlfriends comes to the river to bathe. Seeing Ranjha asleep on her couch, she ignites.

“Sleeper, arise. How dare you defile my bed? Do you not know that my father rules this kingdom? I care for no one. I will have you whipped for this insolence.”

Ranjha’s eyes open. He sees Heer and says, “Beloved, be gentle with me.”

His voice penetrates her. She melts. His beauty astounds her. He radiates like the full moon. Their eyes meet and in his eyes, she sees herself.

Instantly, her pride vanishes. And unbeknown to her, her consciousness pledges herself to him.

Heer whispers, “Grateful am I to not have had you beaten. Forgive me for saying such unkind things.”

“This world is but a dream. One day we all must depart – even you, O beautiful Heer. Take back your bed for I am leaving and you will not see me again.”

“This bed and everything of mine is yours. God has sent you to me,” Heer whispers.

Ranjha looks at her and sees the seven heavens in her eyes.

Heer, your beauty has intoxicated me.
This cup of wine that I hold
Has your name, written in bold.
With every drop that I drink
Deeper and deeper, I sink.
Is it true, what I see?
Is it real, what I feel?

“Beloved Heer, know my story. I am Ranjha, a farmer from Takht Hazara. I was the favorite child of my parents, and grew up in the lap of luxury, but now I have nothing to my name. I don’t even know where my journey is going to take me.”

“A journey ends when lovers meet. Ranjha, you have me now. I am yours and only yours. Eternity I give to you.”

Ranjha is speechless. Deep down he knows, he belongs to Heer, but is unable to articulate it.

Heer understands, without a word being spoken. She knows that she cannot be without Ranjha. Therefore, she takes him to her father and begs him to employ Ranjha as a herdsman. Her father is unsure, for Ranjha looks young and seems of gentle birth. In fact, Ranjha is younger than Heer.

But her father has never refused Heer anything, and so he says, “Ranjha, tending buffaloes is not an easy task. They stray and get lost in the forest. Are you certain you are ready for this job?”

Ranjha assures him that he is. He agrees to become a herdsman for he too cannot refuse Heer anything. And if this is the only way that the two of them can be together, so be it.

He takes God’s name before entering the forest. He plays his flute and the buffaloes follow him and fall in line. His task becomes easier because they are now addicted to the sound of his flute.

Over the course of days, and as luck would have it, he meets the Five Pirs in the forest.

They ask, “Why such sadness? Your song is heavenly. Dismiss this sadness from your mind. God will set your affairs right.”

“You are mediators with God. I bow to you seven times. Listen to my plight. Distressed I am, indeed. The fire of love is devouring me. I yearn to have my beloved Heer with me.”

“Your wish will be fulfilled, your boat will reach the shore. Heer has been bestowed to you by the court of God. Remember us in times of your distress,” the Pirs reply.

*   *   *   *   *

Every afternoon, Hir sneaks out of her home to meet Ranjha.

Heer, you lifted me to love’s rooftop
And removed the ladder, as our eyes met.
In your eyes, I see myself,
Lift me higher, my beloved Heer,
Lift me higher.
Take me to your realm,
I am here to stay.


Ranjha, I want the world to see you through my eyes.
The eyes that see your radiance,
The eyes that see your nobility,
The eyes that see your integrity,
The eyes that see you in prayer,
The eyes that see your love for me.


Heer, who has never entered the kitchen, now cooks for him. Heer who only ate on silver plates, now eats on leaves while sitting on the grass with him.

Ranjha is in awe of Heer’s love. He sees the blisters on her hands and kisses each blister with care. She feeds him kheer.

“Beloved, the first spoonful must always be yours,” he says as he feeds her.

Angels shiver, witnessing such tenderness.

Heer is no longer the Heer of Sial. Dyed in the crimson color of his love, she is now Ranjha’s Heer. She has abandoned her girlfriends. Every waking moment, she is with Ranjha. Hidden in her veil, she brings red and green bangles. Ranjha adorns her wrists with them and she dances to their jingle:

Bangles tease,
Bride laughs,
World weeps,
Yearning love.

“Ranjha, we must be careful. We are surrounded by enemies. The waves of our love are heavy. They will either take us ashore or drown us. We must be patient. The world is cruel; it will cast us aside. There is no one we can trust. Lovers only have the support of God.”

News spreads all over Jhang that Heer is spending every waking moment with a herdsman in the forest. Heer’s mother asks her brother, Kaido, to spy on Heer. He does and confirms what is being said is true. Heer’s mother is furious. She implores:

“Heer, our honor is at stake. Your father and brother will kill you, when they find out. I forbid you from seeing that herdsman again. In fact, I am going to speak to your father, and have Ranjha dismissed tonight.”

“Mother, as long as there is breath in my body, I will not leave Ranjha. You can carve me into bits and pieces, for that is the only way you can stop me from seeing him.”

“Is this the reward we get for loving you? We thought we had planted a rose in our garden, but it has turned out to be a prickly thorn. Daughters who go against the wishes of their parents are not daughters but whores. I should have suffocated or poisoned you when you were a baby.”

“Woe be to the nation that kills its daughters. Those who kill their daughters are sinners and on the Day of Resurrection will pay the price. I will fulfill all your wishes, but do not ask me to give up Ranjha. I have pledged my faith to him. If you wish for my happiness, then give me in marriage to him. Mother, people usually thank God when a treasure is bestowed on them. Ranjha is my treasure. I feel truly blessed to have met him. What the pen of destiny has written has happened. I cannot change anything.”

O Mother
He came unannounced
And aroused me.

My rules, convictions
went right out.

He satiated me
Wth his love.

I no longer

Am my own.

My veins resound
With his name.

My heart beats
In his name.


*   *   *   *   *

Heer continues to visit Ranjha in the forest. Her uncle Kaidu urges the family to get Heer married to another one chosen by them. The Qazi is brought in to counsel Heer.

“It is unbecoming for the daughter of Chuchak to talk to herdsmen and penniless drifters. You should be sitting with the women laughing and singing songs of the Chenab. Your manner should be meek and modest, remembering the dignity of your father and his family. However, your family has rightly decided your fate. In a few days, your marriage is going to take place. The Kheras are bringing a marriage procession to take you to the house of your husband.”

Defiantly Heer says, “As a wine drinker cannot desert wine and as an opium-eater cannot live without opium, I cannot live without Ranjha. He ebbs and flows in my consciousness. He is my very breath.”

“Girls who do not obey their parents are burnt alive,” the Qazi curtly reminds her. “If I were to condemn you, death would be yours. When evildoers like you are killed, God does not avenge their death.”

“O Qazi, my life is yours, do as you wish. But when four eyes have met, the course of love cannot be stopped. My fate was written by the pen of destiny on the first day of days. The pen and the tablet of destiny have bowed before love. I am just following what has been ordained for me. I will not accept a Khera in marriage even if you tie me up in ropes and chains. If I turn my face away from Ranjha, I will be expelled from the company of lovers. This burden of shame, I will never agree to. I prefer death and to be known in heaven only as Ranjha’s Heer.”

The Qazi storms out. “This wicked girl must be stopped. Her pride knows no bounds. She must be given in marriage immediately.”

Heer, through one her friends, sends a message informing Ranjha what is taking place in her home.

A saddened Ranjha seeks an audience with the Five Pirs. With folded hands and tear-filled eyes, he says, “For God’s sake, please help me, or my love will be ruined.”

*   *   *   *   *


To be continued tomorrow …

May 4, 2017

Conversation about this article

1: Sangat Singh (Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia ), May 05, 2017, 3:31 AM.

This comment was made by Sant Kartar Singh, son of Sant Sangat Singh ji of Kamalia, and appeared in Bhai Vir Singh ji’s 'Abhinandan Granth' presented to him in 1954 to commemorate his 80th birthday: “It was perhaps in 1942 or 1943 when tearfully Sant Sangat Singh ji related that one day Heer was found sobbing inconsolably when Ranjha appeared and asked the cause for sobbing. She replied that she was crying for those wasted years when she had not met her Ranjhan. Likewise, Child, I too am crying for those wasted years when I had not met Bhai Vir Singh ji." Such was the bond between the two.

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Part I"









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