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  • Writer's pictureFolkloristan

The Legend of the Lake Saif-ul-Malook



Once upon a time, there lived an Egyptian prince, his name was Saif-al-Malook. Hunting was one of his favourite sports, so he often travelled far and wide to find game. One day he was hunting in the midst of beautiful mountains in a faraway land when he saw a deer unlike any other. The antelope had magnificent antlers, which curled up like a snake. Mesmerised by the animal, he left his companions behind and gave the deer a good long chase.

The deer led him to a lake surrounded by beautiful flowers. Saif-al-Malook was convinced that there was something magical about this place. He had seen reflections of the sky in lakes earlier, but this lake was different. The full moon in the sky seemed to set the entire surface of the lake aglow. His suspicions turned out to be correct when he saw the most stunning of fairies sitting among the flowers.

The graceful and gazelle-eyed creature, with skin as pale as the moon, with thick, dark locks of hair falling over her shoulders introduced herself as Badri Jamala Khaperai. The prince was mesmerised by her, and a little dumbfounded. He had come to catch a deer, and had found a fairy!

The prince got over his initial feelings of shock and fear, and the two began to talk. Eventually, they became friends, and then became lovers. They met at the lakeside every single night. The tale of their romance spread far and wide, and rightly so, for it was a love story between a fairy and a foreign prince!

One day, Jamala did not show up at the lake. Saif-al-Malook waited by the lakeside all night for her, but she did not arrive. Dejected, he went back to his tent. The following night, the same happened. The prince became very worried. He wondered if misfortune had fallen upon his beloved fairy, so he set out to search for her.

Six years passed by with no luck, but the prince refused to go back to Egypt until he had found his fairy, his Jamala, till one day, he chanced upon a group of fairies bathing in the lake.

They told him that Badri Jamala had been kidnapped by Toraban Deo, and he had taken her away to his fortress in Koh-e-Kaaf, and locked her up. Swearing to free her from prison, Saif-al-Malook ventured into the world of the jinns and rescued her from the Deo’s fort. When Toraban discovered that Jamala was gone, he flew into a rage. In his anger, he flooded the entire valley and commanded the water to destroy everything in its path.

The flood pushed the fugitives to run over to the mountains. There, Saif-al-Malook and Badri Jamala sought refuge in an enchanted cave near the lake. Toraban kept searching for Jamala, but his efforts went in vain. He even shed tears of grief, for he had fallen in love with her, but she did not agree to become his wife. Aware of the fact that she hated him for keeping her locked away in his castle, it broke his heart because this was the only way to keep her close to him.

It is said that Toraban wept so profusely, that his tears formed another lake, Ansoo Jheel, the Lake of Tears. It is said that the couple lived the rest of their lives in the safety of the cave, terrified of being parted from each other ever again. Glimpses of the string of colourful glowing orbs floating across the lake as they dance can be seen by a lucky few when the couple comes out of the cave and dances across the lake on the fourteenth of every Lunar month when the moon is full.


 

Commentary: this tale has multiple variations, in at least three languages, Punjabi, Hindko, and Pashto. However, it is said to have originally been told in Hindko and retold as a Sufi melody in Punjabi by the mystic poet Mian Muhammad Bakhsh.

There are two lakes, named Jheel Saif-al-Malook and Ansoo Jheel, in close proximity to one another in Kaghan Valley.


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