Home>News Center>Life

Star-crossed lovers move through time in Pakistan
(China Daily)
Updated: 2005-05-03 07:08

JHANG, Pakistan: For love-struck teenagers, newlyweds trying to conceive their first baby or lonely singles hoping to find the perfect mate, there's only one place in Pakistan to seek help.

They come to a hilltop surrounded by a simple dirt cemetery, to the shrine of Heer and Ranjha - the Romeo and Juliet of South Asia. Although there is disagreement whether they were real or legendary, the couple's star-crossed story has inspired centuries of flowery poetry.

Believers say the two are buried beneath the blue, white and green-tiled shrine, and they show up by the hundreds every day to pay homage in the hope a visit will persuade God to grant them their desires.

"I came to the shrine a year ago to ask the saints to help me find my own true love," says newlywed Shazia Akram, 27, smiling alongside her striking young husband, Mohammed Arshad. "Now I have found him, so we came back to say thank you."

Akram has no doubt the shrine brought them together, even though their January marriage was arranged by her parents. Arshad says that even before he met his wife, he recited poetry about Heer and Ranjha and believes their shared interest in the couple is evidence the saints had a hand in their marriage.

"It's God's secret and nobody can know how the shrine works, but my husband and I are proof that it does," Akram says after eating a pinch of salt from a bowl kept at the foot of the grave, then kneeling to pray before the tomb.

The salt, which caretaker Mohammed Ramzan says come from a local market, is said to bring good health.

Another visitor is Yasmeen Khalid, 36, who has returned to the shrine with her husband to thank the saints for finally giving them a son after the birth of six daughters - considered bad luck in this religiously conservative country.

Khalid, wearing the all-encompassing black burqa common for women in conservative Islamic families, says she visited doctors and bought amulets from spiritual leaders in an effort to produce a male heir. Nothing worked until they came to the tomb.

"My husband and I were becoming disappointed with every passing day. Relatives would hurl insults at me that I was unable to give birth to a boy," she says, cradling her 8-month-old male infant in her arms. "I got this son from the shrine. I got him from the saintly couple buried here."

According to the most famous poem about Heer and Ranjha, written in 1776 by Syed Waris Shah, Heer was the beautiful daughter of a wealthy patriarch, while Ranjha was forced out of his more modest family home after a quarrel with his brothers.

He meets Heer and soon they are in love. She gets her father to hire Ranjha as a shepherd and visits him in the woods each day.

After being discovered lying together by Heer's wikced uncle, Ranjha is fired and Heer is ordered to marry another man. Eventually, Ranjha returns and Heer's parents agree to the marriage. But on the wedding day, Heer is poisoned by her uncle. A broken-hearted Ranjha lowers himself into her grave and dies as well.

Their purported tomb in this central Pakistani town is constructed to look like a char poy, or traditional wooden bed. Around it, young grooms place their traditional wedding clothes and starched turbans. Women bring flowers and cloth, and some pay a small donation to light scented oils.

The affection Pakistanis feel for the couple's story is surprising, since their affair would be just as scandalous now as it was in their day. Even in moderate Pakistani homes, marriages are almost always arranged by parents and "love matches" are frowned upon.

It is reported not a few Pakistani women who marry against their parents will, or who are suspected of illicit affairs are killed or mutilated each year the victims of "honour killings."

That irony is lost on most visitors to the shrine. "There is no truer love than that of Heer and Ranjha," says Akram, the newlywed, clutching her husband's arm. "My husband and I will never be able to compete with their love, but we can try."

(China Daily 05/03/2005 page6)

Miss Jumbo Queen contest in Thailand
Tom Cruise has a new girlfriend
Photos show Pitt, Jolie on African beach
  Today's Top News     Top Life News

Two US F/A18 jets go missing on Iraq mission



Mainland presents giant pandas to Taiwan



Concessions urged as nuclear fears rise



Deal ranks Lenovo as world No 3 PC maker



Iraqi leaders seek deal amid bloodshed



England pleads guilty to abusing prisoners


  French cabaret tradition hits Chinese stage
  Star-crossed lovers move through time in Pakistan
  French king's art heads to Beijing
  Stemming disposable culture tide
  Exploring legend
  Under ground river runs into nature's artworks
  Go to Another Section  
  Story Tools  
  1/3 Chinese youth condone premarital sex