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  • Writer's pictureFolkloristan

Sassi Punhun

Updated: Dec 5, 2023

An ill-fated yet eternal love between a Sindhi Princess and a Baloch Prince

Once upon a time, a baby girl was born to the Raja of Bhambore, now in Sindh, modern-day Pakistan. However, court astrologers predicted that she would grow up to be a curse to the royal family’s honour.

Not having the heart to kill his child, the Raja her to be put in a wooden box and set afloat on the Indus. The box drifted away to the opposite side of the riverbank and washed ashore. A washerman from the village by the riverside was doing his chores when he saw a box wash ashore. He did not pay much attention to it, till he heard the shrill cries of a baby. He walked up to the box to investigate, and lo behold! There was a beautiful baby girl inside the box.

He took the baby home. He and his wife were heartbroken to see the abandoned child. They had no children of their own and had always yearned for one. The washerman and his family decided to adopt the baby girl, deciding that this was Allah's will.

The years passed, and Sassi grew up into a beautiful young woman. She rose to fame for being the prettiest girl in the village and even in villages nearby. The stories of a petite-framed girl, not too skinny, not too chubby, with a glowing dusky complexion and jet black locks she kept in a firm, thick long braid, with her wavy hair lining her forehead, the voice of a nightingale and the gait of a peacock, and big brown eyes lined with kohl reached the ears of travellers and caravans, from where it reached the ear of Punhun, the prince of Makran.

He became desperate to meet Sassi and travelled to her village with one of his trade caravans and sent his clothes to Sassi's father to wash and clean, hoping that he could catch a glimpse of her. He went anyway despite his helpers insisting that he had no need to go. Luck was on his side, for when he arrived, he looked at her laughing amongst her friends on her rooftop. Time froze for Punhun. A few moments later, she felt the gaze which bore into her and turned around. Their eyes met, and the two stared at each other, falling in love at first sight.

Not only did Punhun pick up his clothes, but he also asked Sassi’s father for her hand in marriage. Disappointed and unaware of Punhun’s identity, he expressed to the prince that he had hoped that Sassi would marry within the community of washermen. He asked Punhun to prove himself. Head over heels in love after one look at the girl; the prince took the test.

As he washed the clothes by the river, he ended up tearing them, and it scraped the flesh off his hands, for he had never even imagined being washing clothes all day! However, before he returned those clothes, he hid gold coins in the pockets of all the clothes, hoping it would buy the silence of the village folk, which they did, and Sassi’s father then agreed and promised Sassi to him.

Upset at Punhun marrying far below his stature, Punhun’s father and older brothers travelled to meet Punhun. At first, they threatened him, but upon seeing how relentlessly Punhun was in pursuing Sassi, they resorted to trickery. Mildly surprised and taken aback at how easily his brothers had agreed, Punhun was happy at his family being present at his wedding so wholeheartedly anyway. The marriage was solemnised, the celebrations were done, all whilst his family played pretend. Sassi was escorted to her chambers, and Punhun was whisked away by his brothers to drink before he met his new bride. After he was intoxicated enough and half asleep, they propped him on a camel and fled back to their hometown, Kech.

The following morning, realising that she had been abandoned by the love of her life, Sassi went mad with grief. She did not stop to breathe, bundle up her belongings, or even wear her shoes. Barefooted, she ran as fast as her legs would carry her towards Kech. Not her parents, not the Raja; no one could stop her. She took to the desert between her village and Kech. The heat left blisters on her feet. Crying out, “Punhun, Punhun!” with parched lips until barely a sound could escape them, she came across a nomad shepherd. She asked him for water, but looking at her state, he assumed she was a ghost and ignored her. Sassi fell down in Sajda and begged Allah to reunite her with Punhun or end her life. Her prayers were answered, the land shook and split, and she found herself in a grave, albeit alive.

Punhun, on the other hand, mumbled Sassi’s name till he found himself home and set off immediately to look for her. He rode and rode till his horse gave up on him. Continuing on foot, he, too, gasping for air, screaming, “Sassi, Sassi!” at the top of his lungs, headed straight to her village.

On his way, he, too, encountered the same shepherd. Ashamed, the shepherd, narrated the incident. Upon hearing this, Punhun also prayed to Allah to either reunite him with Sassi or to end his life. The ground shook once more, and Punhun found himself in the same grave. Together, at last, Sassi and Punhun passed away wrapped in one other’s arms, and now their souls shall remain together for eternity.

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