Sohni Mahiwal is believed to be one of the 4 famous tragic romances. The others are Sassi Punnun, Mirza Sahiba, and Heer Ranjha. Sohni Mahiwal is a tragic love story which depicts the classical motif of Hero and Leader. The heroine Sohni, unhappily married to a person she despises, swims every night across the river utilizing an earthenware pot to keep afloat in the water, to where her beloved Mehar herds buffaloes. One night her sister-in-law replaces the earthenware pot with a vessel of unbaked clay, which dissolves in water and she lost her life in the whirling waves of the river.
The story also involves in the Shah Jo Risalo and is one of 7 famous tragic romances from Sindh province. The other 6 tales are Umar Marui, Sassui Punhun, Lilan Chanesar, Noori Jam Tamachi, Sorath Rai Diyach and Momal Rano usually known as Seven Heroines of Shah Abdul Latif Bhittai. Shah starts the story at the most dramatic moment, when a young lady cries out for assistance and help in the cold river, attacked by crocodiles. The entire chapter (Sur Sohni) is merely an extension of this tragic and still hoped-for moment when the vessel of her body breaks and she, faithful to her pre-eternal love-covenant with Mehar, will be forever united through death.
Sohni is considered to be one of the favorite folktales both in Sindh province and Punjab.
Story of Sohni Mahiwal
In the eighteenth century (late Mughal time period), the beautiful girl Sohni was born to a potter named Tulla. They were from the Kumhar caste, and lived in the city of Gujrat, Punjab. At the time period, Gujrat, on the river Chenab, was a caravanserai on the trade route between the regions of Bukhara and Delhi.
As Sohni grew up, she assisted her father to adorn his pots. Their shop is claimed to have been near Rampyari Mahal by the river. As soon as the Surahis (water-pitchers) and mugs came off the wheel, she would draw and make artistic designs on them and set them up for sale.
Izzat Baig of Bukhara
Shahzada Izzat Baig, a very rich trader from Bukhara (Uzbekistan), came to the province of Punjab on business and halted in Gujrat (now in Pakistan). Here he saw Sohni at the shop and was entirely smitten. Just to get a glance of Sohni, he would finish up purchasing the water pitchers and mugs regularly.
Sohni too lost her heart to Izzat Baig. Rather than returning to Bukhara with his caravan, the noble-born Izzat Baig took up the job of a servant in the house of Tulla. He would even take their buffaloes for grazing. Soon, he came to be known as Mehar or “Mahiwal” (buffalo herder).
The love of Sohni and Mahiwal caused a commotion within the Kumhar community. It wasn’t acceptable that a daughter from this community would marry an outsider, so her parents instantly arranged her marriage with another potter. On the day the “barat” (marriage party) of that potter arrived at her house, Sohni felt really helpless and lost. She was sent off to the house of husband in a Doli.
Izzat Baig renounced the world and began living as a faqir (hermit). He instantly moved to a small hut across the river Chenab from the new home of Sohni. In the dark of night, when the world was fast asleep, the lovers would meet by the river. Izzat would come to the riverside and Sohni would come to meet him swimming with the help of an inverted hard baked pitcher. He would daily catch a fish and bring it for her. It is stated that once, when because of the high tide he couldn’t catch a fish, Mahiwal cut a piece of his thigh and roasted it. Sohni did not realize this at first but then she told Izzat that this fish tastes very different. When she kept her hand on his leg, she realized what Mahiwal had done and this just strengthened their love for each other.
Tragic end of Sohni Mahiwal
Meanwhile, rumors of their romantic rendezvous spread. One day sister-in-law of Sohni followed her and observed the hiding place where Sohni kept her earthenware pitcher. She told her mother, Sohni’s mother-in-law, and rather than telling Sohni’s husband, the women decided to take the decision in their own hands and finish the matter. The next day, the sister-in-law took the hard baked pitcher and replaced it with an unbaked one. That night, when Sohni attempted to cross the river with the assistance of the pitcher, it dissolved in the water and Sohni drowned. From the other side of the river, Mahiwal saw Sohni drowning and jumped into the river to save her and drowned as well. Hence, the lovers were reunited in the form of death.
Sindhi version of Sohni Mahiwal
A somewhat different version of the story is told in the language of Sindh, where Sohni is considered to be a girl of Jutt tribe living on the western bank of the Indus River; and Dam, Sohni’s husband, was of the Samtia, living on the side of eastern bank. The pure love between Sohni and Mehar is attributed to a drink of milk that Mehar provided her during the marriage procession over the river.
Tomb of Sohni Mahiwal
Legend has it that the bodies of Sohni and Mahiwal were recovered from the side of Indus River near the city of Shahdadpur, Sindh, few 75 kilometers (47 mi) from Hyderabad city, Pakistan. Sohni’s tomb is situated at Shahpur Chakar Road, Shahdadpur, and is visited by mostly lovers.