Mirza Sahiba (Punjabi Shahmukhi: مرزا صاحباں) is one of the four popular tragic romances of the Punjab. The other three are Heer Ranjha, Sassi Punnun and Sohni Mahiwal.
Mirza Sahiban, a Beloved Romantic Tragedy
Mirza Sahiban, a piece of love-lore is considered a treasure of Punjabi literature. It is a romantic tragedy. Sahiban was a love-lorn soul.
Shayer Pillo raves about her beauty saying, "As Sahiban stepped out with a lungi tied around her waist, the nine angels died on seeing her beauty and God started counting his last breath…"
Mirza and Sahiban who were cousins and childhood playmates, fell in love with each other. But when this beauty is about to be wedded forcibly to Tahar Khan by her parents, without any hesitation she sends a taunting message to Mirza, whom she loves, to his village Danabad, through a Brahmin called Kammu.
- "You must come and decorate Sahiban’s hand with the marriage henna."
Mirza Khan was the son of Wanjhal Khan, the leader of the Kharal tribe in Danabad, a town in the Jaranwala area of Faisalabad. Sahiba was the daughter of Mahni, the chief of Khewa, a town in Sial Territory in the Jhang district.
This is the time you have to protect your self respect and love, keep your promises, and sacrifice your life for truth. Mirza who was a young full-blooded man, makes Sahiba sit on his horse and rides away with her. But on the way, as he lies under the shade of a tree to rest for a few moments Mirza falls asleep, meanwhile the people who were following them on horseback with swords in their hands catch up with them.
Sahiba was a virtuous and a beautiful soul who did not desire any bloodshed to mar the one she loved. She did not want her hands drenched in blood instead of henna. She thinks Mirza cannot miss his target, and if he strikes, her brothers would surely die. Before waking up Mirza, Sahiban breaks his arrows so he can't use them. She presumes on seeing her, her brothers would feel sorry and forgive Mirza and take him in their arms.
But the brothers attack Mirza and kill him. Sahiban takes a sword and slaughters herself and thus bids farewell to this world.
Heer Ranjha, Sassi Punnu and Sohni Mahiwaal
Innumerable folk songs of Punjab narrate the love tale of Mirza Sahiban, Heer Ranjha, Sassi Punnu and Sohni Mahiwaal. The women of the Punjab sing these love songs, the music of Punjab, with great emotion and feeling, as though they are paying homage to Sassi with lighted lamps placed on her tomb. It is not the tragedy of the lovers, but the conviction in the hearts of the lovers that is celebrated. It is firmly believed that as the soil of the Punjab has been blessed so has God blessed these lovers too. Though their tales of love ended in death, death was a blessing in disguise, for through this blessing they have become immortal their names and lives never to be forgotten.
Waris Shah who sings the tale of Heer Ranjha in his work titled, Heer elevates mortal love to the same pedestal as spiritual love for God saying,
- " When you start the subject of love, first offer your invocation to God". This has always been the custom in Punjab, where mortal love has been immortalized and enshrined as spirit of love.
Dual Moral Values
Just as every society has dual moral values, so does the Punjabi community. Everything is viewed from two angles, one is a close up of morality and the other is a distant perspective. The social, moral convictions on one hand give poison to Heer and on the other make offerings with spiritual convictions at her tomb, where vows are made and blessings sought for redemption from all sufferings and unfulfilled desires.
But the Sassis, Heers, Sohnis and others born on this soil have revolted against these dual moral standards. The folk songs of Punjab still glorify this rebelliousness.
- "When the sheet tears, It can be mended with a patch
- How can you darn the torn sky?
- If the husband dies, another one can be found,
- But how can one live if one's lover dies?"
And perhaps it is the courage of the rebellious Punjabi woman, which has also given her a stupendous sense of perspective. Whenever she asks her lover for a gift she says,
- "Get a shirt made for me of the sky And have it trimmed with the earth"
Mirza Sahiban, the History
Mirza was sent to his relatives' house in Khewa to study, where he met Sahiba and they fell in love. Her family opposed the relationship, and instead arranged a marriage with a member of the Chadhar family. To keep them apart, they confined her in the house, but she contacted Mirza through a messenger. He arrived on his horse, Bakki the night before the wedding and secretly carried her away, planning to elope. However, Sahiba's brothers caught up with them the next day and killed Mirza. Sahiba killed herself.