• Patan dhoka, Lalitpur, Nepal
  • Hafiz Barkhurdar’s SahibaN


    Sohail Abid

    Among the various poetic compositions of the legend of Mirza and SahibaN [1], Hafiz Barkhurdar’s remains the most celebrated. And for good reason; it is a detailed account of the legend and is perhaps amongst the most beautifully composed of all. A Punjabi poet who lived around the 1630s-1700s, Barkhurdar was a hafiz of the Quran, meaning that he had memorized the entire holy book, and spent his life as a religious scholar. [2] Four pieces of poetry are attributed to him: Kissa Sassi PunnuKissa Mirza SahibaNKissa Khatri, and Kissa Yousuf Zulekha. After composing the two love legends, Sassi Punnu and Mirza SahibaN early in life, he went on to write several religious books. Though he is said to have stopped writing poetry [2], he composed, later in his life, the legend of Yousuf Zulekha, followed by the short moral poem, Kissa Khatri which is a poetic commentary of the hadith ‘al-dunya mazra’at al-akhirah’ (This world is the seedbed of the Hereafter). [3]

    (Mirza SahibaN, by Hafiz Barkhurdar, compiled by Dr. Faqeer Mohammad Faqeer)

    What interests us is his masterful composition of the legend of Mirza-SahibaN. This writer has previously written about the first composition of this legend by Peelu . [4] Hafiz Barkhurdar acknowledges Peelu’s narration and mentions him in a rather dramatic manner. After SahibaN was killed, her spiritual self asks a crow to propagate her story in the world.

    جا آکھیں دردی محرماں میری ٹورن گل کوئی
    Jaa aakhiñ dardi mehramaN, meri tooriN gall koi
    Tell those who’d understand my pain, let my story be heard

    The crow goes to Peelu but he redirects him to Hafiz Barkhurdar with the appeal to narrate the legend well:

    صاحباں دا قصہ ای جوڑناں حافظ نال تحقیق
    SahibaN da kissa e jodna, Hafiz naal tehqeeq
    Compose the legend of SahibaN after research

    That explains the detail in Barkhurdar’s version of the legend. Peelu narrated the story in a concise manner but Barkhurdar makes sure he does not miss any important event, even going into conversations the two lovers might had with others before their fatal end.

    For example, during their secret courtship, SahibaN asks Mirza:

    صاحباں آکھے مرزیا توں مرنوں بے پرواہ
    SahibaN aakhe Mirzya toon marno be-parwah
    O Mirza, how come you are not afraid of dying?

     To which Mirza replies:

     صاحباں مرنوں ڈرن نہ محبتے عشق لکاون ننگ
    سڑ دا تاوڑی مار دا اتے شمع پتنگ
    جیؤں شہیداں دے کربلا عاشق ویکھن جنگ
    کچی پوے مہاستی سڑنوں موڑے انگ

      SahibaN marno daran na mohabtay ishq lakavan nang

    arda tavri marda utte shama patang
    Jeon shaheeda de karbala, aashiq vekhan jang
    Kachi pave mahasi, sarno mode ang

    SahibaN, lovers are never afraid of dying.
    Fighting (norms) is to lovers what Karbala is to martyrs. [5]


    جد نیلی توں پیڑ کے جاسیں اڈی لائ
    تیرے دیسن مہنے مینوں سیخاں تائ
    نہ جند وڑے نہ نکلے مشکل میرے بھائ
    پر میٹے کون کلام نوں جاں لکھے آپ خدا
    Jad neeli toon peed ke jaseN addi laa
    tere daisan mehne mainu sekhaN taa
    Na jind vade na nikle mushkal mere bhaa
    Par mete kon kalam nu, jaan likhe aap khuda

    When you’ll be gone, people will accuse me.
    Neither shall I be living, nor dead.
    But what can we do, this (love) is God’s will.


    صاحباں جیؤں سفناں ویہندا دمدا ناہ وساہ
    چڑھ مرمٹے سر عشقدے ہو وے جگ گواہ
    لیلا’ سسی’ ہیر نوں پئی ہووے واہ واہ
    رب اگے ہتھ جوڑئیے جیں لائی دا کرے نباہ

     SahibaN, jeon sufnaN vehnda dam da naa vasaa
    Chadh mar mitte sir ishede hove jag gawah
    Laila Sassi Heer nu payi hove wah wah
    Rab agge hath joriye jaiN laayi da kare nibah

    SahibaN, life’s as temporal as a dream.
    But those who die for love are remembered.
    Laila, Sassi, and Heer are now revered.
    Let’s pray before God to give our love a pleasant end.

     The events in this version are the same as in Peelu’s. To recount: Mirza is sent to SahibaN’s father (and his maternal uncle) in Kheiwa to study at the village school [6]. Mirza and SahibaN fall in love. After his studies are completed, Mirza returns to his village. After a few years, SahibaN is betrothed to someone from the local Mahni clan. She writes to Mirza, he abandons his sister’s wedding, scheduled for the next day, and rushes to SahibaN’s side. They elope. On their way back to Mirza’s village, Danabad, he plans to rest for the night. She insists that it is not safe and her brother and her family must be in hot pursuit. He does not heed her, and goes on to take a nap. She, torn between her love for her brother and her love for Mirza hangs the latter’s quiver on the tree. Her family catches up with them at the couple’s resting place and kill Mirza, who accuses her of betraying him as he dies. SahibaN is also killed later by her brother.

     Hafiz Barkhurdar, unlike Peelu, draws a detailed picture of SahibaN’s death. This lacuna probably has more to do with the fact that Peelu’s version has not reached us in its entirety, rather than the precise nature of his kissa. The scene, from Barkhurdar, where SahibaN is asked the ‘why’ question:

    سلطان بلایا صاحباں ایہ کیہ کیتی کار
    گرم رضائیاں چھوڑ کے توں ملی ساندل بار
    توں آکھ زبانی صاحباں تینوں ماراں کیہڑے تکرار

    Sultan balaya SahibaN ae ki keeti kaar
    Garam razaiyaN chor ke toon mili Sandal Bar
    Toon aakh zabani SahibaN tainu maaran kehre takrar

    Sultan called for SahibaN and asked, ‘what have you done’
    Left a comfortable bed at home to be found at Sandal Bar
    Tell me what should I do to you [7]

     SahibaN replies:

     سن سلطاناں قابلا مرزے توں میں قربان
    توں کیہ جانے جاہلا عشقے دا قدر بیان
    جویں صدیق رسول دا من لیا فرمان
    میرا سراے مرزے یار دا جنھوں چاہے دیوے دان
    Sun Sultana qabla, mirze toon main qurban
    Toon ki jane jahla ishq da qadar bayan
    Jeevain Siddiq Rasool da mann laya farman
    Mera sar ae Mirze yaar da, jinhoon chache deve daan

     Listen Sultan, I love Mirza
    What do you know of love, you ignoramus
    Like Siddiq believed what the Prophet said. [8]
    I belong to Mirza, no matter where you send me

     And then:

     صاحباں نانوں لے مرزے یار دا رووے نیر پلٹ
    سن کے ویں شمیر نوں دل وچ لگے پھٹ
    اوہناں پھاہے دتی صاحباں گل وچ پٹکا گھت

     SahibaN naoun le Mirza yaar da, rove neer palat
    Sub ke vain shameer nu dil vich lagge phat
    Ohna phahe ditti SahibaN, gall vich patka ghat

     SahibaN calls for Mirza, weeping bitterly.
    Her brother, hearing this, goes mad
    They strangled her with his shoulder scarf

     * All original Punjabi excerpts are from the composition of the legend by Hafiz Barkhurdar, edited by Dr. Faqeer Mohammad Faqeer, published by Sang-e-Meel Publishers, Lahore.

     # Roman transliteration and English translation by Sohail Abid.

    [1] This legend is usually referred to as Mirza-SahibaN, but Hafiz Barkhurdar simply calls it ‘The Legend of SahibaN’. We have kept his title.
    [2] Maula Baksh Kushta, Punjabi ShayraN da Tazkara, p 71, 1988, Aziz Publishers, Lahore .
    [3] Surinder Singh Kohli, The Encyclopaedia Of Indian Literature, Sahitya Akademy, New Delhi. p 389
    [4] Sohail Abid, Peelu: The First Narrator of the Legend of Mirza-SahibaN
    [5] Reference to the battle of Karbala where the grandson of the Prophet Mohammad (PBUH) was maryted.
    [6] SahibaN’s father and Mirza’s mother were ‘milk-siblings’, which means both had been breast-fed by the same woman (Mirza’s grand-mother).
    [7] Sultan refers to SahibaN’s brother, usually called ‘Shameer’ in all versions.
    [8] Reference to one of the first believers of the Muslim prophet, Muhammad (PBUH).

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