Punjabi folklore includes traditional customs, tales, legends, sayings, dances, songs and art forms either preserved among common Punjabi folk or passed onto generations by the word of mouth. These unsupported notions have a wide circulation throughout the Punjab region.
In past, only administrators and scholars used to get formal education, whereas, folk tales used to teach people about religious principles and moral values. In addition to that, folktales also preserved political history and provided entertainment.
Popular most Punjabi folktales are majorly comprised of love tragedies. Young lovers were forced to give up their love for each other, in the wake of imitating social conventions and family values. Despite of facing extreme opposition, the protagonists of these love tales were defiant enough to turn down every obstacle which came their way. Though their love stories never resulted in ‘‘happy the endings’’ yet their immense soul-to-soul love earned them the status of legends.
The heroines of Punjabi folk tales were daring enough to challenge the societal norms and conventions. They, unlike conventional women, sacrifice their all in the way of true love.
There are four popular tragic romances of the Punjab: Heer Ranjha, Sassi Punnun, Mirza Sahiba, and Sohni Mahiwal.
Heer Ranjha: Born to a well-to-do Jutt family in Jhang, Heer was a young girl of spectacular beauty. On the other side of spectrum, there lived Ranjha in a nearby town. Ranjha, being the youngest in the family, was immensely loved by his father. While living a life full of ease, he became a passionate flute driver. He left his village after a clash with his brothers over land distribution. He, then entered the Heer’s village where he was hired by the father of Heer as a caretaker of cattle.
Heer became spell-bound on listening to Ranjha’s mesmerizing flute and lost her heart to him. They kept on meeting each other secretly for several years and finally caught by Heer’s uncle Kaido. Heer was forcefully engaged to another man and Ranjha became jogi for her. After a long struggle, Heer’s parents approved of their marriage. But Kaido poisoned Heer’s food right on the wedding day. Ranjha upon seeing her dying, rushed to Heer and ate from the poisoned luddo. That is how he embraced death for the sake of true love. They are both resting in peace in Punjabi village Jhang where lovers visit their mausoleum to pay them tribute.
Sassi Punnun: Sassi was born to the King of Bhambour. Upon her birth, astrologers predicted that Sassi would defame the Royal Family’s good name later in life. So she was thrown away in the Indus River. A washer-man adopted her after finding her floating in a wooden box. Punnun, who was born to the King Mir Hoth Khan, Khan of Kicham (Kech) became desperate to meet Sassi after listening to the tales of her enchanting beauty. Punnun sent his clothes to Sassi’s father to get them washed. That was a tact to catch a sight of Sassi. They both fell in love with each other at a very first sight.
Sassi’s father approved of their marriage but Punnun’s father and brothers opposed the decision strictly. On their wedding night, Punnun’s family kidnapped him from Bhambhor and fetched him back to Kicham. Sassi headed barefoot to Kicham for the sake of her love. She was threatened by the shepherd, on the way, so she prayed God to hide her. Mountains opened up and swallowed her for good. Punnun heard of all this from the shepherd and uttered the same prayer. His wished was answered too and he got buried in the same mountain valley.
Mirza Sahiban: Mirza and Sahiban were both cousins and they fell for each other when Mirza stayed at Sahiban’s place for study purpose. Sahiban’s parents disapproved of their match and arranged her marriage with Tahir Khan. Sahiban called upon Mirza when her wedding days were approaching.
Mirza and Sahiba eloped on the wedding day. Sahiban’s brothers started to chase after them and Sahiban broke all the arrows of Mirza when he was resting under the tree. She was sure that her brothers will forgive them for the elopement when they happen to find them. Conversely, her brothers attacked Mirza and killed him. On seeing this, Sahiban took a sword and ended her life.