Once upon a time, Dheedo, a young Jatt of the Ranjha clan, lived In the village of Takht Hazara, by the River Chenab. He was the youngest of the four brothers and somewhat the spoilt baby of a wealthy landowner, who instead of toiling in the field and managing the family property like his brothers, liked to lead a life of ease, roaming hither and thither, while playing his Wanjhli, a type of flute, to his heart’s content.
However, those carefree days did not last long for Dheedo Ranjha and eventually, after the death of his father, Mauju Chaudhry, he had to face the hard realities of life, when his brothers gave him the worst and most infertile part of their parental landed property as his share. He was hurt more, when even his beloved sister-in-laws refused to serve him food, as instructed by their respective husbands. Although he had no idea about agricultural work, he knew that it would be useless to toil on the infertile land of his share and being disgusted with the family, he left Takht Hazara to find a better life elsewhere.
But the life of a stroller was not that easy for Ranjha, as he was habituated to a comfortable life without doing any of the family chores. Instead of an easy and lazy life, now he is to earn his bread by playing his flute to the delight of the passers-by. Instead of sleeping and dreaming in a feather-soft bed, now he finds no other way, but to sleep on the hard and cold floor of a mosque or any other available free shelter, without a comfortable bed.
Sometimes, impressed by the magical melody of his flute, some of the kind-hearted villagers invite him to their homes as a guest, giving him a respite for a day or two. Nevertheless, soon Dheedo Ranjha became desperate enough to come out of the situation and see the end of it. However, by that time, he had travelled a lot and gathered sufficient experience to become aware of the hard realities of life.
During that time, Ranjha arrived in Jhang and had the opportunity to meet Chaudhary Chuchak, born into a wealthy family of the Sial Rajput clan, whose ancestors founded the city of Sialkot. His daughter, the extremely beautiful Heer, met Ranjha earlier in the morning, while walking along the river with her friends and became charmed by his magical flute.
She introduced the handsome young musician to his father and requested to appoint him to herd his cattle. Although Chuchak was sceptical about the look of Ranjha, who looked more like a rich man’s son than a hardy man of the working class, he hired the young man to please his beloved daughter.
Attracted by the musical performance of Ranjha and also his physical beauty, Heer fell for him at the first sight, while gratitude towards the beautiful woman for helping him to provide a job led Ranjha to fall in love with her. Every day Heer secretly went out to meet Ranjha, while he was herding the cattle on the field, near the forest and gave him delicious food and milk bought from home. Every day they spend those long hours in their much wanted lonely togetherness, mesmerized by love and music, gossiping about sweet nothings. But soon it became the subject of juicy gossip among the villagers, which ultimately reached the ears of Kaido, the jealous uncle of Heer, who did not waste any time to inform the matter to her parents Chuchak and Malki.
While Ranjha was immediately fired, the parents tried their best to convince the daughter to forget her love to avoid further scandal. When despite their best effort Heer refused to agree with them, she was brought before the Qazi, the respected judge, to pursue the girl to agree with her parents. The Qazi in his turn reminded Heer of her duty to respect her family, their respectable position in the village and also explained that it would be beneath the dignity of the family to accept a cattle herder as the son-in-law. But as the stubborn girl refused to give up her decision and forget Ranjha, the frustrated Qazi advised the parents to marry her off right away to avoid further scandal. After that, within a few days, Heer was forced to marry Saida Khera, a Jatt of the Khera clan and she was taken away from her village to Rangpur, in Saida’s house.
The news of Heer’s marriage to another man broke the heart of Ranjha and he started to wander alone in the countryside aimlessly and eventually met Jogi Gorakhnath at the Tilla Jogian, the Hills of Ascetics and became a Jogi, an ascetic Piercing his ears and renouncing the material world, he wanders all over Punjab, reciting the name of the Lord and ultimately arrived in Rangpur, the village where Heer lives as a married woman. There he found Heer, the love of his life, when he knocked her door, pretending to beg for alms. After a few days of planning, the pair eloped with the help of her sister-in-law. Sehti, who also took the opportunity to elope with her Balochi lover, a camel driver named Murad.
Finally, the two arrived in Jhang, Heer’s village and this time, her parents agreed to their marriage. However, humiliated at their loss of face, Kaidu and his kinsmen hatched a plot to stop the wedding and punish the stubborn girl for her defaming and insolent behaviour. The disaster struck on the day of the wedding, when Heer was offered a poisoned laddu, a sticky and sweet dessert, specially made to serve her before the ceremony. Heer took the sweet unsuspiciously and died helplessly. On receiving the news of the sad incident, Ranjha madly rushed to help his lady love, only to find her dead. But he did not waste any time to make his final decision, consumed the remaining part of the poisoned laddu left by Heer and died to meet her in the life hereafter.
The immortal love story of Heer and Ranjha, often compared to the Shakespeare play Romeo and Juliet, is one of several popular tragic romances of Punjab, originally written in 1766 by Waris Shah, a Punjabi Sufi poet of Chishti order. The depiction of the story of the romantic love of Heer and Ranjha, by Waris Shah, is a poetic expression of the mystical love of the human soul towards God, which is the quintessential subject in Sufism and a recurring theme in both Sufi and Sikh mysticism.