Sassi Punnu, The Popular Love Story of Sindh.


I am taking this story and its research from the pieces of Hajra Habib and Dev Kaushik. Sassi Punnu is one of the seven popular tragic romances of the Sindh and four of the most popular in Punjab. The other six are Umar Marvi, Momal Rano and Sohni Mahiwal, Laila Chanesar, Sorath Rai Diyach, Noori Jam Tamachi commonly known as Seven Queens of Shah Abdul Latif Bhittai.Sassui Punnu was written by the Sindhi and Sufi poet, Shah Abdul Latif Bhittai in (1689-1752). Sassi was the daughter of the King of Bhamboor (it is in Sindh whose ruins can be seen today). Upon Sassi’s birth, astrologers predicted that she was a curse for the royal family’s prestige. The Queen ordered that the child be put in a wooden box and thrown in the river Indus. A washerman of the Bhambour village found the wooden box and the child in the box. The washerman believed the child was a blessing from God and took her home. As he had no child of his own, he decided to adopt her. Punnun Khan, the son of King Mir Hoth Khan (Hoth, a famous Baloch tribe in Makran (Balochistan). King Hoth was son of Mir Jalal Khan main Baloch leader and elder of Talpur, Rind, Lashari, Hoth, Khosa and Marri people of today) of Kicham (Kech).

In the southern tip of present-day Pakistan, in the Sindh province, there once was a Raja that mightily ruled the lands of Bhambour. He had had many children but was blessed with only one daughter. She was named Sassi, meaning the moon, for they thought she was as pure and splendid as the moon. When she was born, the raja and his wife went to an astrologer to learn of their daughter’s fate. The wise astrologer prophesied to the parents that their one and only daughter would bring great shame to her parent’s honor. Saddened, the poor parents had no other choice. Sassi could not stay there. They could not bear to kill their child. Instead, they placed their beautiful daughter in a basket to send down the Indus River. Before placing her in the basket, however, Sassi’s mother tied a taweez filled with a prayer around her daughter’s neck for protection.

Downstream, a poor dhobi was washing clothes, a hard day’s labor for a meager wage. This poor man named Atta had a wife but they could not conceive a child. They had prayed for many years but to no avail. While finishing up the last of the shirts he had in his bundle, the dhobi saw something strange floating on the river. He watched as it got caught in some bushes. It was a basket. He took it out of the river and saw that within was the most precious baby girl he had ever seen. The first name to come out of his mouth was Sassi. He took her home to show his wife the answer to their prayers.

So as it is, Sassi grew up the daughter of a poor dhobi. She was happy. She knew no other life. As she grew older, her beauty grew deeper. She became known for her charming looks throughout the land. Hearing about her, the raja of the land sent for this young woman. As summoned, she went to the palace to be before the raja. There, the raja’s wife saw the taweez still around Sassi’s neck and knew at once that this was her daughter. Happy to be together again, the raja insisted that she stay with them in the palace. However, Sassi could not bear to leave the poor old dhobi and his wife, who raised her all these years. Still, the raja made relentless efforts to win her back.

In another one of the raja’s attempts, the raja invited Sassi to a large garden made by a neighboring raja. As she explored the depths of the garden, she saw the most beautiful painting of a young man. She fell in love with his strong stature and noble appearance. She had to meet this man. Word traveled fast. The man in the painting heard of this beautiful woman wanting to meet him so he disguised his true identity as the Prince Punnu and dressed as a trader of art to meet Sassi. They fell in love and began to blossom as lovers.

Sassi, who had disregarded her royal birth and biological parents, continued to live as a dhobi’s daughter and nothing more. Punnu did not know her past and she would not dare to tell it. To him, she was a dhobi's daughter and to her, he was a mere art trader. When it came time for Punnu to ask for Sassi’s hand in marriage, the only parents he knew to ask were the dhobi and his wife. The dhobi knew the importance of a humble husband, whether he be a prince or a peasant. He decided to test Prince Punnu and told him that if he could correctly wash a shirt, then he would be able to wed his daughter, Sassi. Punnu, who had never washed a single article of clothing, was unable to wash the shirt in the river against the rocks like a dhobi. The shirt came back torn. The prince offered large amounts of gold coins to compensate for his failed attempt and grudgingly the dhobi took it, knowing that his daughter’s heart would only be happy with Punnu.

Next came time for Sassi to gain approval from Punnu’s family. Punnu went to speak with his parents. However, when Punnu spoke with his parents about Sassi, they flatly refused because she was the daughter of a dhobi. No way could a prince marry a daughter of a poor man who washes other people’s laundry for a living. Punnu would not be swayed. His heart was set on Sassi. No one else would do.

Seeing this, Punnu’s family decided to pretend to go on with the wedding. In celebration, Punnu’s brothers decided to take him drinking the night before the wedding. His brothers gave him a large glass to drink. Punnu drank and drank until he passed out. Then, Punnu’s brothers took their brother far away from the wedding celebrations to another village. With Punnu in a different state of mind and place, the wedding could not go on.

Sassi heard the sad news on her wedding night, while she was getting dressed for the ceremony. Afraid of what would become of her Punnu, Sassi, while still wearing her wedding clothes, ran across the desert sands toward the village, calling out to her Punnu. Halfway through her journey, she saw a shepherd and asked for some water. The shepherd saw her beauty. He could not rest until she was his. He grabbed her and she cried out to the heavens for help.

Meanwhile, Punnu had regained his senses back in the village he had been taken to. When he realized that his family had tricked him, he too ran just as Sassi had, across the desert, calling out the name of his love. He was about halfway there when he heard Sassi calling out.

Suddenly, through Sassi’s pleas to the skies, the ground shook underneath them and split into two. The earth swallowed up both Sassi and Punnu. Now, in that same place, there are two mountains that remain together for eternity.

These Mountains are in the Sindh near Balouchistan. It is said that if you listen closely when you are in the valley of the mountains, you can still hear the names ‘Sassi’ and ‘Punnu’ being whispered".

CONVERSATION

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