Arts & Entertainment

Pakistan’s shrine of love: the last hope for desperate couples

By Jaime Leon

Jhang, Pakistan, Nov 5 (efe-epa).- When Hamza’s family opposed his wish to marry his lover, he visited the temple of Heer and Ranjha, the Pakistani Romeo and Juliet who paid with their lives for their romance.

Their shrine is now visited by hundreds of young lovers who continue to face societal disapproval in conservative Pakistan even through centuries have gone by since the tragic love story.

The tomb of the two 15th century lovers, whose tale has been kept alive in an epic poem by Waris Shah – written in 1766 – is frequently visited by young people, who, like Hamza, ask for divine help to make their love story come to a fruitful conclusion.

This takes special significance in a country where marriages arranged by the families of the bride and the groom are the norm.

In this small “shrine of love”, lovers pray to Heer, write their names at the back of the building and tie colored threads at the tomb and trees of the enclosure hoping that this would make the obstacles to their love vanish.

“Here we have come to thank Heer as because of her we got our love,” Hamza told EFE while visiting the shrine, located near the city of Jhang, with his lover, who is now his wife.

The 25-year-old auditor said that their families opposed their union of love because it was not an arranged marriage as is the custom and they come from different castes. But after year and a half the parents relented.

The story is very similar to that of Heer and Ranjha. According to the Shah’s popular version – as there are several – young Ranjha fell in love with Heer but her family opposed the match and forcefully married her off to another man.

According to the Sufi poet, a heartbroken Ranjha wandered about aimlessly throughout the subcontinent and became an ascetic, before one day arriving at the village where his sweetheart lived with her husband.

Their romance resumed, and both people pressurized their families to allow their union as Heer divorced her spouse.

The families eventually agreed, but on the day of the wedding, Heer was poisoned by her uncle to punish her for her conduct. Ranjha rushed to her aid but it was too late to save her.

Ranjha then consumed the remainder of the poison and gave up his life next to his beloved.

The story of the two lovers is perhaps the most famous epic tale of love across the Indian subcontinent. It has been immortalized in the movies at least 13 times, both in India and Pakistan.

The shrine at the spot believed to be the final resting place of the two lovers is extremely popular, especially among the youth.

Iftikhar Ali, who has been looking after the shrine for the past 35 years, told EFE that around a hundred people visit every day, and the number increases to around 500 on Fridays and Sundays.

“Their love was so pure and true that’s why people come here. They come here and wish and their wishes come true. Their love was love of two souls,” explained Ali.

Groups of young people click “selfies” in the famous tomb. Others pray inside the small sacred enclosure, where the tomb is covered by a purple cloth. Several others tie threads on trees or the grave, a guarantee that they will eventually be united with their beloved.

“I have come to make a wish that I get my love. Her family is not agreeing mainly because they are from a different caste. Now I have tied a thread here,” Malik Nasir, 18, told EFE.

Heer and Ranjha’s popularity clashes with Pakistan’s conservative values, where the price of falling in love with the wrong person can be death.

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