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Rambling on: Love Stories of the Risalo of Shah Latif - Sasui & Punhu

Tuesday, March 11, 2008

Love Stories of the Risalo of Shah Latif - Sasui & Punhu

Five Surs in the Risalo of the Shah Latif are based on the love story of Sasui and Punhu. These are Sur Sasui Abri, Sur Desi, Sur Mazoori, Sur Kohyari and Sur Hussaini

Sasui and Punhu

The love story of Sasui and Punhu is the most popular of all tales in Sindh. Pangs of separation, Sasui’s suffering in search of Punhu, her bare-foot wandering in the mountains under the burning sun, her sorrowful appeals to the desert beasts to sympathize with the suffering, her prayers to the elements of nature to show her kindness and help her trace her lost Punhu and finally her tragic death and ultimate union with her beloved are part of Sindhi folklore.

Sasui was the daughter of a Brahmin named Naoon. At her birth, astrologers prophesied that she was destined to wed a musalman. The unhappy parents, placed the baby in a box and threw it in a river to avert the disgrace that was in store for them. This box was picked up by a Muslim washer-man named Muhammad, who, having no child of his own, brought up the girl, as his own daughter.

Time passed and Sasui grew into a beautiful young woman. About this time, there was a famine in the neighbouring country of Kaich-Makran. The chief of this hilly tract, a Baloch Sardar, prepared a caravan, and placing his son Punhi as its head, sent it to Sindh for grain.

The caravan arrived at Bhambor, home to Muhammad and his adopted daughter Sasui. There it was that Sasui and Punhu saw each other and fell madly in love at first sight. The result was that when the caravan of Kaitch was returning, Punhi, their leader, declined to join them & stayed in Bhambor with Sasui.

The Baloch Sardar, upon learning of Punhu’s decision, sent his other sons to Sindh and bring Punhu back. When they arrived at Bhambor, Sasui, considering them as her brothers-in-law, gave them a cordial welcome and accorded hospitality befitting their position. The guests stayed for some days, and one night, finding Sasui fast asleep, placed Punhu on a camel and returned to Kaich.

Sasui was devastated. She pursued the tracks of the caravan but Punhu was nowhere to be found. The caravan had crossed the borders of Sindh but there was no turning back for Sasui. She wandered in the hills, crying to the trees, the sand dunes and the desert beasts.

Then she met a goat-herder who, fascinated by her youth and beauty attempted to assail her virtue. She fled and cried for help, when mother-earth opened her bosom and received her chaste daughter in a fond embrace. The goat-herder, seeing this miracle, and feeling ashamed, collected a heap of stones and piled them together to mark her grace. Some days passed and Punhu disconsolate in grief, contrived to escape from his parents and flee to Bhambhor.

As chance would have it, he passed by Sasui’s grave, and thinking it to be the shrine of a saint, he bowed down before it, and begged for blessings. A voice came from the grace and a call to Punhu, and then two arms were extended and received Punhu inside. Thus the earth, kinder than man, united the lovers in death. The prophecy of the astrologers had come true.

Other Surs based on the above love story are as explained below

Sur Mazoori

The word Mazoor in the context of this Sur means physically weak and helpless.

This Sur is one of the series that tells the story of Sasui Punhu. It describes Sasui’s march in pursuit of Punhu and her sad experiences, her bereavement and her helplessness.

In this Sur, the exquisite beauty and purity of diction are quite obvious and is replete with wealth of delightful and impassioned poetry evoking images of Sasui appealing to the mountains not to rise higher to add to her travails, to the eyes not to shed its tears for fear of losing the beloved’s footprints in desert sand.

Sur Desi

The Sur relates to the abduction of Punhu by his brothers. In it, Sasui blames the men in the caravan and voices her grievience against the wind, the sun and the moon. But she braces herself against their machinations; as she prepares to sacrifice her life in search of her Love

Sur Kohyari

The poet opens the sur with the note of self-reproach from Sasui; that she failed to observe vigil in the night and offer attendance to Punhu, and inadvertently gave an opportunity to her enemies, to deceive her and cause her great bereavement.

She blames herself and her sleep as reason for Punho’s abduction, expresses her grievance with the mountain for the tortuous hardiships, reproaches the rocks for her hardness and cruelty, laments the fact that due to the pain and anguish of her journey, she finds herself physical unfit to carry searching for Punhu.

Sur Hussaini

In Sur Hussaini, Sasui describes her predicament of having lost Punhu and calls out to him and appeals to him for help. It tells the pathos of her devotion, her endless effort and patience.

[Taken from Agha M. Yaqoob's 3 volume translation of the Risalo with minor editing - Naveed]


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