ਲੇਲੈ ਮਜਨੂੰ ਆਸਕੀ ਚਹੁ ਚਕੀ ਜਾਤੀ।
ਸੋਰਠਿ ਬੀਜਾ ਗਾਵੀਐ ਜਸੁ ਸੁਘੜਾ ਵਾਤੀ।
ਸਸੀ ਪੁੰਨੂੰ ਦੋਸਤੀ ਹੁਇ ਜਾਤਿ ਅਜਾਤੀ।
ਮੇਹੀਵਾਲ ਨੋ ਸੋਹਣੀ ਨੈ ਤਰਦੀ ਰਾਤੀ।
ਰਾਂਝਾ ਹੀਰ ਵਖਾਣੀਐ ਓਹੁ ਪਿਰਮ ਪਰਾਤੀ।
ਪੀਰ ਮੁਰੀਦਾ ਪਿਰਹੜੀ ਗਾਵਨਿ ਪਰਭਾਤੀ ॥੧॥
The love of Laila and Majnu is known in all realms.
The song of Sorath and Bija is on every tongue.
The companionship of Sasi and Punu transcended caste.
Sohni swam Chenab to meet Mahival at night.
Ranjha and Hir are known for their love of each other.
So legendary is the love of the disciples, who sing of their Beloved in early hours.
- Bhai Gurdas, Var: 27:1
This particular verse holds a special fascination for me. To understand its beauty and depth, I journey into the lives of some of the lovers mentioned here.
Laila & Majnun
Majnun strikes the Kaaba and cries, “O’ God, free me not of this pain. Let me love for love’s sake and make my love a hundred times as great as it was, and will always be!” He then continues to wander and chant verses of Laila’s beauty and his love for her.
Laila holds their love quietly so no one will know. She lives between the water of her tears and the fire of her love. Caged, she still hears Majnun, for every child is singing his verses and every adult is humming his love-songs, bringing Laila messages from her beloved.
Separated, they wither.
Years later, they meet.
She calls out, “Majnun!”
He answers, “Laila!”
“Majnun, I am here as I promised.”
He replies, “I am Laila.”
Laila screams, “Majnun, I am Laila, look at me.”
“Are you Laila? Then I am not,” and he takes his last breath.
Laila cries out his name and takes her last breath at his feet
Sasi & Punu
The moment Punu laid eyes on Sasi, he knew she was "the one." She was far more beautiful than his imagination could ever have pictured.
Sasi saw him, returned home without herself, while Punu was left without himself. He flowed in her veins. He was everywhere: in the air, on the flowers, in the mirror, on her tongue.
Separated from Punu, Sasi begged Allah to open the ground and swallow her. Her prayer was heard and she left this world with his name on her tongue. Seeing her grave, Punu fell to his knees. With folded hands and streaming eyes, he prayed, “O’ You! The Creator of love and of lovers send me to where Sasi is, to where love is.”
The ground opened and Punu fell in calling out Sasi’s name till his last breath.
Sohni & Mahival
Sohni whispers, “My emptiness is gone. My being has spoken. Awake or asleep, I await you. My days are long, my nights longer still. I paint the clay-pots with the colors of life. In these colors, I see you. The nights we meet, our dreams become realities. Brushstrokes of love, I paint on the clays of our flesh.”
“Sohni, come here. Sleep in my arms on the riverbank. Dearest, that is all I can offer you. Your love has saturated me. I am all yours. Blood for blood; flesh for flesh. Moonlight will grace us. People will shun us. The world dislikes lovers for they fear their beauty.”
The sky thunders. Sohni jumps into the raging Chenab river with an unbaked clay-pot. The clay-pot dissolves. She pleads to the fishes, “Eat my flesh but not my eyes. In my eyes resides Mahival.” Her love became her pilgrimage.
Seeing her floating, Mahival dives into the river. The lovers, immortalized, flow in the Chenab.
Hir & Ranjha
Hir’s societal bond to her husband holds no significance when compared to her relationship with her lover. She remained chaste, even after her marriage for her heart was wedded only to her Ranjha, her true husband. Challenging the institution of marriage, she embraced Ranjha once again when he appeared at her doorstep dressed as a Jogi.
Boundless was Ranjha’s love. He said to his teacher Balnath Jogi, “Had I been only a lover of God, I would have sought only God. But Hir has entered my consciousness and that is why I became a jogi. I cannot give up Hir. She belongs to me. I am not pursuing someone else’s property. My bones and flesh are melting because of this separation. My heart burns for Hir and for her alone.”
Hir became the most dangerous woman, because she dared to love. For that, she was poisoned. Ranjha, upon hearing about her death, took his last breath as well.
These epic romances of the Panjab resound with a deep intimacy that cannot be repressed nor denied, even by death. In my eyes, these lovers are martyrs, for their self-denial, their total self-surrender and their faithful devotion in the pursuit of their beloved.
This love is not only the spirit’s connection with the divine but it is as if these warrior-martyrs are “courting death.” This is the path of the brave and not for the faint-hearted. Everything disappears when the beloved occupies the mind of the lover.
These love-stories have been immortalized, because their love was not transactional. They crossed boundaries, ignored social norms and went through fire while staying true to their love. And for that, they paid with their lives.
I could end this piece right here but the last line of the verse captivated me: “The love of the disciples who sing of their Beloved in the early hours is legendary.”
Is Bhai Gurdas subtly saying that the relationship between the Sikh and the Guru needs to rise above transactional love? Willing, loving surrender and faithful devotion are the jewels that adorn these relationships.
Surrender and devotion are ominous words in today’s world. Yet, for a lover aching for the Beloved these words are sweeter than honey. The intense longing compels the lover to walk this treacherous path of self-surrender.
Yearning for the Beloved and guided by Sabad-Guru, the lover walks and walks. Listening deeply to Sabad, singing it with reverence and allowing it to chisel her becomes her way of life. She lives and breathes it.
And when Sabad enters her consciousness, she is graced with an intrinsic understanding and a deep intimacy. Her surrender is effortless. This loving, willing surrender flows from a place of overwhelming awe, taking her to mysterious places within herself that she did not even know existed. And in this continuous surrender, the joys, the ecstasies, the intoxication she experiences lifts her from the realm of law to the realm of spirit. This is not just an aural experience. An indescribable sweetness flows on her tongue.
The reverence and devotion that she experiences after this surrender is inexpressible. No longer is she ruled by self-gratification, and the only thing that she desires is to adore her Beloved. This devotional love is not optional nor is it dependent on receiving anything from her Beloved. The only thing that she seeks is to please, honor and live at the feet of her Beloved. No longer caged, she soars.
The experiences that flow from this profound interaction instill an unwavering faith in her heart, which enables her to rise, serve and also sacrifice. Imbued is this love she is transformed into a warrior-martyr. This is the power of Sabad-Guru, that takes ordinary beings and makes them extra-ordinary.
Love is not a transaction.
Love does not measure, it just flows.
Love does not compare, love just loves.