Waris Shah’s Heer is an epic love poem fused with mystical notes. A treasure-trove of Punjabi phrases, idioms and sayings, it transcends faith and boundaries, remaining popular across modern-day Punjab in both India and Pakistan, and in diaspora communities around the world. Romantic love – the poetic expression of the mystical love of the human soul toward God – is the quintessential subject of Sufism and a recurring theme in Muslim, Hindu and Sikh mysticism. The legend of Heer-Ranjha is believed to be rooted in a real life love story which played out on the banks of the river Chenab, in 15th century Punjab, in the then undivided India. It is the epic poem, or qissa, of this love story, completed in 1766, by the Sufi poet Waris Shah, that has captured the imagination of the Punjabis across the centuries.
More than any other Sufiana Kalam, this is the poem that has eluded the traps of time to become entrenched in contemporary culture. It is embedded in cinema, literature and everyday life in a way that no other love story from the subcontinent has ever been.