Updated: 4 days ago
From Bukhara to Gujrat - a tale of love and betrayal across the River Chanaab
Artwork credits: Abeer Kasiri
Legend has it that in the 18th century Mughal empire, a beautiful girl named Sohni was born in Gujrat to the clan of Kumhars (potters). As Sohni grew up, she helped her father decorate his pots. She would draw her heart out on Surahis (pitchers) & set them up for sale.
One day, Izzat Baig, a rich trader from Bukhara (Uzbekistan), came to Punjab on business and halted in Gujrat. Here he saw Sohni at the shop and was completely smitten. Just to get a glimpse of Sohni, he would buy the water pitchers and mugs daily.
Sohni too lost her heart to Izzat Baig. Instead of returning to Bukhara, the noble-born Izzat Baig took up the job of a servant in the house of Sohni. He would even take their buffaloes for grazing. Soon, he came to be known as Mehar or "Mahiwal" (buffalo herder).
The love of Sohni and Mahiwal caused a commotion within the Kumhar community. It was not acceptable for a daughter from this community to marry an outsider, so her parents immediately arranged her marriage with another potter. Izzat, renounced the world and became a Faqir.
He eventually moved to a small hut across the river Chenab. In the dark of night, the lovers would meet by the river when the world was fast asleep. Sohni would come to meet him swimming with the help of an inverted hard-baked pitcher, as strong as their love.
He would regularly catch fish for her. Once, when he could not catch a fish due to high tide, Mahiwal cut a piece of his thigh and roasted it. When she kept her hand on his leg, she realised what Mahiwal had done and gave him in return the most precious of the flesh: her heart.
One day, Sohni’s sister-in-law followed her & saw the hiding place where Sohni kept her earthenware pitcher. She informed her mother, Sohni's mother-in-law, and instead of telling Sohni's husband, the women decided to take the decision into their own hands and finish the matter.
The next day, the sister-in-law removed the hard-baked pitcher and put an unbaked one in its place. That night, when Sohni tried to cross the river with the help of the pitcher, it dissolved in the water, and Sohni drowned.
From the other side of the river, Mahiwal saw Sohni drowning and jumped into the river to save her and drowned as well. Thus, the lovers were reunited in death. A burning flame was engulfed by the mighty river, and the story became destined to flow through its waters for eternity.
Commentary: A variation of this tale exists in Sindh, where Sohni is believed to be a girl of the Jat tribe living on the western bank of the Indus River. A tomb in Sanghar, 75kms from Hyderabad, Sindh, still exists in her memory. The Sindhi version is a part of Shah Jo Risalo, one of the most iconic works of Sindhi folklore.
This tale has been penned by Miss Hamd Nawaz.