Heer Ranjha is one of several popular tragic romances of Punjab. The others are Mirza Sahiba and Sohni Mahiwal.
Heer was an extremely beautiful woman, born into a wealthy Rajput family in Jhang, which is now Punjab, Pakistan. Ranjha (whose first name is Dheedo; Ranjha is the surname) was the youngest of four brothers and lived in the village of Takht Hazara, Pakistan by the river Chenab. After a quarrel with his brothers over land, Ranjha leaves home.
Eventually he arrives in Heer’s village and falls in love with her. Heer’s father offers Ranjha a job herding his cattle. Heer becomes mesmerised by the way Ranjha plays his flute and eventually falls in love with him. They meet each other secretly for many years until they are caught by Heer’s jealous uncle, Kaido, and her parents Chuchak and Malki. Heer is forced by her family and the local priest to marry another man named Saida Khera.
Ranjha is heartbroken. He wanders the countryside alone, until eventually he meets an ascetic. Ranjha becomes an ascetic himself, piercing his ears and renouncing the material world. Reciting the name of the Lord he wanders all over Punjab, eventually finding the village where Heer now lives.
The two return to Heer’s village, where Heer’s parents agree to their marriage. However, on the wedding day, Kaido poisons her food so that the wedding will not take place. Hearing this news, Ranjha rushes to aid Heer, but is too late, as she has already eaten the poison and has died. Brokenhearted once again, Ranjha eats the remaining poisoned sweet and dies by her side.
Heer and Ranjha are buried in Heer’s hometown, Jhang. Love-smitten couples and others often pay visits to their mausoleum.
Because its plot involves a romance opposed by family members and ends with the two lovers dying, the story is often compared to the Shakespeare play Romeo and Juliet.
There are several poetic narrations of the story, the most famous being ‘Heer’ by the poet Waris Shah written in 1766.
The epic poem has been made into several feature films between 1928 and 2013. Of these, the most renowned is the 1970 movie Heer Ranjha starring Raaj Kumar and Priya Rajvansh in the titular roles.
Reference to Heer and Ranjha can be found in numerous Hindi songs. Some of them are listed below.
BAMB JATT | AMRIT MANN
MAANA KE HUM YAAR NAHIN | MERI PYARI BINDU
MOVE YOUR LAKK
MANN BHAREYA | B PRAAK