Forbidden Love: The Love Legends of Southasia
Tales of overwhelming love thwarted by the forces of societal constraint and circumstance are a staple across Southasia, all the way from the mountains of Afghanistan to the coast of Sri Lanka. Even as the thwarted love of two individuals is the focal point of these stories, they can be read at a number of levels. To begin with, they contain a wealth of information on the cultural norms and compulsions of the times; ranging from the laws of inheritance, the societal view of outsiders, the nature of the people’s relation with their rulers, to the societal, community and familial hierarchy of the times, among other issues.
On another level, the reason for which the union between the two main protagonists is forbidden is also worth studying. Whether the objection is based on the ethnicity, faith, geographical origin, class or caste of the two characters is telling of societal priorities and prejudices. A systemic study of the forbidden in love is crucial to understanding the region outside the purely political framework.
Researching and documenting the four famous love legends of Punjab viz. Heer-Ranjha; Sohni-Mahiwal; Sassi-Punnu; and Mirza-Sahiban, is an attempt to simultaneously address the geopolitical as well as social contradictions that afflict Southasia in a mass scale today.
Beyond that, it is also relevant to contemporary society, at a time when a number of Southasian societies are becoming increasingly rigid and intolerant in their definition of what constitutes an ‘acceptable’ love or marriage. We are also actively using the research material as tools to facilitate workshops with youth across colleges and universities in both, India and Pakistan; opening avenues to bring into the public sphere – free and open discussions on ‘forbidden love’.