The invocation at the beginning
(The Legends of the Panjab by RC Temple, Rupa and Company, Volume two, page 606) Rag Hir Ranjha
|“||Awal-akhir naam Allah da lena, duja dos Muhammad Miran |
Tija naun mat pita da lena, unha da chunga dudh sariran
Firstly, I take the name of God; secondly, of the Great Muhammad, the friend (of God)
Thirdly, I take the name of father and mother, on whose milk my body throve
Fourthly,I take the name of bread and water, from eating which my heart is gladdened
Fifthly, I take the name of Mother Earth, on whom I place my feet.
Sixthly, I take the name of Khwaja (Khazir, the Saint, that gives me cold water to drink
Seventhly, I take the name of Guru Gorakh Nath whom I worship with a platter of milk and rice
Eighthly, I take the name of Lalanwala that breaketh the bonds and the chains of the captives
Heer is an extremely beautiful woman, born into a wealthy Jatt family of the Sayyal clan in Jhang. Ranjha (whose first name is Dheedo; Ranjha is the surname), also a Jatt of the Ranjha clan, is the youngest of four brothers and lives in the village 'Takht Hazara' by the river Chenab. Being his father's favorite son, unlike his brothers who had to toil in the lands, he led a life of ease playing the flute ('Wanjhli'/'Bansuri'). After a quarrel with his brothers over land, Ranjha leaves home. In Waris Shah's version of the epic, it is said that Ranjha left his home because his brothers' wives refused to give him food. Eventually he arrives in Heer's village and falls in love with her. Heer offers Ranjha a job as caretaker of her father's cattle. She becomes mesmerised by the way Ranjha plays his flute and eventually falls in love with him. They meet each other secretly for many years until they are caught by Heer's jealous uncle, Kaido, and her parents Chuchak and Malki. Heer is forced by her family and the local priest or 'mullah' to marry another man called Saida Khera.
Ranjha is heartbroken. He is left to walk the quiet villages on his own until eventually he meets a 'Jogi' (ascetic). After meeting Baba Gorakhnath, the founder of the "Kanphata"(pierced ear) sect of ascetics('Jogis'), at 'Tilla Jogian' (the 'Hill of Ascetics', located 50 miles north of the historic town of Bhera, Sargodha District, Punjab (Pakistan)), Ranjha voluntarily becomes a Jogi, piercing his ears and renouncing the material world. Reciting the name of the Lord, "Alakh Niranjan", on his travels around the Punjab, he eventually finds the village where he is reunited with Heer.
The two return to Heer's village, where Heer's parents agree to their marriage. However, on the wedding day, Heer's jealous uncle Kaido poisons her food so that the wedding will not take place. Hearing this news, Ranjha rushes to aid Heer, but he is too late, as she has already eaten the poison and died. Brokenhearted once again, Ranjha takes the poisoned Laddu (sweet) which Heer has eaten and dies by her side.