Sohni Mahiwal, also known as Suhni Mehar is one of the four tragic romances of Punjab .The story also appears in Shah Jo Risalo and is one of seven popular tragic romances from Sindh. Sohni is the heroine in this saga, who has been married unhappily to a man, for whom she has despise and crosses the river to meet her Mehar, her beloved, who grazes buffaloes. One eventful night, the earthernware pot, which Sohni used to swim across, is replaced with a pot made of unbaked clay, by her sister-in-law, which gets dissolved in water and Sohni meets a tragic death amidst the waters of the river where it is swirling the most.
During the time of 18th Century, when Mughal period was prevalent, Sohni was born as a beautiful girl into a family of potters, named Tulla. Her family belonged to the caste of Kumhar, who were living in Gujarat, Punjab province of Pakistan. Gujarat was located near the banks of Chenab River and was a resting place for the caravans, which went for trading between Delhi and Afghanistan.
When Sohni was grown up, she started helping her father by decorating the pots made by him. When the water pitchers or Surahis as well as the mugs were took out from the rotating wheel, she used to put imaginative but beautiful drawings and designs and these were then put up for sale.
Shahzada Izzat Baig, who belonged to Bukhara, was a rich tradesman from Uzbekistan and had come to Punjab, particularly for trade purposes and stayed for some time in Gujarat. During his stay here, he chanced to see Sohni and was completely in love for her. Every day, he used to buy some of the mugs and pitchers, just to have a glimpse of Sohni.
At the same time, Sohni also fell for Izzat Baig. While she was structuring designs on the pots, she also lived in a dream world of love. When the time came for Baig to go along with his caravan, he chose to stay back and worked as a servant in Tulla’s house, the house of Sohni. He took the buffalos to the fields for grazing. He was then nicknamed as Mehar or Mahiwal, meaning buffalo herder.
After the news of Sohni and Mahiwal’s love went around, the local people in the community of Kumhar got disturbed. They couldn’t accept that a daughter from Kumhar community would get married to an outsider and therefore Sohni’s marriage was immediately solemnized with another person of the same community.
After this turn of events, Baig renounced the world and lived the life of a Malng or faqir. He started living in a little hut, in front of the house of Sohni, across the river. For him, the earth on which Sohni lived was respectable as that of a shrine. In love for Sohni, he had forgotten everything, his land, people and his own world.
Sohni’s husband was a pottery merchant who had to travel long distances that caused him to be away for days on end. At night, Sohni would sit up and look across the river at her lover. One night she got the idea of using a baked earthenware pot to aid her to stay afloat as she crossed the river. Because she did not know how to swim, she held on the pot tightly. Her life depended on it. Mahiwal saw her coming and swam until he met her and they successfully made it across the river in each other’s arms.
When the darkness sets in and people were asleep, both the lovers would meet by the side of the river. Izzat waited for Sohni along the river banks, while she swam across, sitting on an inverted pitcher, which was hard baked, so as to prevent it from sinking. Everyday, he would bring a fish which he caught. According to folklore, once Mahiwal couldn’t catch a fish due to high tide and therefore he baked a piece of his thigh muscle. On tasting it, she didn’t find it having the taste of a fish and when she kept her hand on his thigh, she could know what Mahiwal had done and cried a lot.
As days passed, this rendezvous between Sohni and Mahiwal spread out. One day, Sohni was followed by her sister-in-law and came to know about the place where she hid her earthen pot to swim across. She replaced it with the one which was unbaked. The same night, when Sohni went on the pitcher which was unbaked, she started drowning. Mahiwal saw this from the other side and immediately jumped into the water, but both of them drowned, meeting the same fate hand in hand.
In the version of Sindhi, a slightly different story is heard, in which Sohni was a girl, who belonged to the tribe of jat and lived on Indus bank on the western side. Husband of Sohni, Dam, lived on the eastern bank and belonged to Samtia clan. The love between Mehar and Sohni blossomed when Sohni gave some milk to him to drink, while her marriage procession was going across the river.
According to legends, the dead bodies of both Mehar and Sohni were later on found from the Indus River, near the city of Shahdadpur in Sindh, which was located about Pakistan’s Hyderabad city. In Shahdadpur city, presently the tomb of Sohni is found