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Mirza Sahiba (Punjabi: ਮਿਰਜ਼ਾ ਸਾਹਿਬਾਂ, مرزا صاحباں, mirzā sāhibāṁ) is one of the three popular tragic romances of Punjab. The other two are Heer Ranjha, Sohni Mahiwal . There are six other popular folklore stories in Punjab: Momal Rano, Sassi Punhoon, Umar Marvi, LiLa Chanesar, Noori Jam Tamachi and Dhaj, Ror Kumar. These nine tragic romances are popular in Punjab.
These six and Sorath Rai Diyach are originally from Sindh, and along with Sohni Mahiwal and Sassi Punnun are commonly known as Seven Queens (Sindhi: ست صورميون) of Shah Abdul Latif Bhittai. They are culturally included in both Punjabi and Sindhi traditions.
A long time ago in the village of Kheewa, a town in the control of Sial tribe of Jats, a woman gave birth to a baby boy. Unfortunately, the woman died after giving birth and was unable to breastfeed her son. However, another woman nearby had recently given birth to a girl. This woman took it upon herself to help the little boy. She fed this boy as she did her own daughter.
Thus, as is the custom for such occasions, these two children became “milk siblings” because they were given the same milk to drink. Later as the children became adults, the girl, named Fateh Bibi, got married and moved a day’s journey on horseback away to the village of Danababad near present-day Faisalabad. Fateh Bibi married a man named Wanjal, the Sardar of the Kharrals, and they had a strong son named Mirza.
Meanwhile, Fateh Bibi’s milk brother, no longer a boy but a man named Khewa Khan, Sardar of the Sial Jats, had a daughter named Sahiba.
When it was time to enroll the children in school, Mirza’s parents had decided to send him to his “milk uncle’s” house so he could get educated there. Sahiba’s father enrolled her and her “cousin” into classes to learn the Quran together since they were of the same age.
Mirza did not know that his “cousin” Sahiba was such a beauty one can only dream of beholding. He did not notice her at first when he came to Kheewa to study because they were just children. As the two children grew into adolescence, feelings of love began to blossom between the two.
One day the adventurous young Mirza took a different path home while walking back from school. There was a bazaar on that street. He saw Sahiba buying some vegetables for her family. He watched as she asked for various squashes and leaves to cook. When the merchant began to weigh her purchases, he weighed out extra because he was lost in her beauty. Mirza, too, was transfixed by her gracefulness and raced all the way home fueled by love.
Mirza became skilled as a horseman and archer as he grew older. He rode on a powerful steed named Bakki who swiftly maneuvered through the land. Mirza was so skillful that every arrow he shot would willfully go exactly where he wanted. Sahiba only grew more and more beautiful with time.
Soon, their love began to blossom. Mirza could not live without his Sahiba. They were lost in their own world. Once, when Sahiba had pronounced her lessons incorrectly, her maulvi beat her with a chimmak. This thin branch gives a person a burning sting when swatted with it. As Sahiba received her punishment with the chimmak, she spoke to the maulvi.
Sadly, their days of blissful love did not last. Sahiba’s parents found out about the love affair and sent Mirza back home to his parents. Not too long after that, they arranged Sahiba’s marriage to a man named Tahir Khan. He was from the same town. With Mirza back home, Sahiba’s parents were able to prepare for the wedding without any interruptions.
Sahiba, via her friend, a Brahmin named Karmu, sent word of her unfortunate marriage to her darling Mirza. As soon as he heard of this, he made plans to leave. His family tried to stop him but he would not succumb to their pleas. He had to go. Before Mirza left, his father, seeing that there was no other way, went to Mirza and told him that if he went, then he must be sure to return with Sahiba or else it would bring great dishonor. With those words, Wanjal gave his son his blessings to pursue his love. “Chal, my Bakki,” Mirza, equipped with his bow and arrows, commanded his horse to ride on to the village of Kheewa.
Mirza reached Sahiba on the day of the wedding right before the ceremony was about to proceed. He opened the door to the room Sahiba was waiting in and entered secretly. He admired her; she was dressed in bright red wedding clothes, her delicate hands darkly painted with mehndi. Without waiting another moment, he held her hand and took her away with him on horseback and rode until he thought that they had reached a safe distance. Tired, he decided to rest by under the shade of a tree while his sweet Sahiba watched over him.
Meanwhile, back at the wedding party, Sahiba brothers called for her to come down to proceed with the ceremonies. When she did not come, her brothers realized that something was wrong. Sahiba’s brothers, the jilted bridegroom, and other male cousins rode on horseback in search for Mirza and Sahiba.
Sahiba, while keeping watch over her slumbering beloved, feared that her brothers would soon catch up. She did not know what to do. If her brothers came and Mirza woke up then her brothers would surely die at the hands of Mirza’s quick arrows.
With the hope of her brothers taking pity on her, Sahiba reached Mirza’s quiver and broke each sharp arrow it contained in half. She believed that no blood would be spilled this way. Suddenly, Sahiba’s brothers and relatives found the couple under the tree. With one quick shot from Sahiba’s brother’s bow, Mirza awoke to an arrow piercing his throat. Mirza reached for his arrow and saw all the broken pieces. He looked up at Sahiba, searching for an answer in her face but was struck with yet another arrow, this time in the chest. Sahiba threw herself over him and together, they died.
In popular culture
The tale of Mirza Sahiban is part of popular Punjabi culture. There are many folk song versions, including the hit version titled "Mirza" sung by the legendary Alam Lohar. He was the first main Punjabi singer to bring this story to a song format and had a distinct way of singing it, with extreme vocal strength with Algoza (Jhori) and Chimta in 1941. Since then many other Punjabi singers have followed his style, including Noor Jehan for the film Mirza Jat, released in 1982.
There have been various film interpretations of the folk tale.
- Mirza Jat (1982) is a Pakistani Punjabi film starring Shahid Hameed.
- Hero Hitler in Love (2011), an Indian Punjabi film starring Babbu Maan and Mouni Roy, creates a modern Mirza and Sahiban story with a twist.
- Mirza – The Untold Story (2012), an Indian Punjabi film, is a modern rendition of Mirza and Sahiban Story, with the title song sung by Arif Lohar, son of (late) Alam Lohar.
- Mirzya (2016), an Indian Hindi film directed by Rakesh Omprakash Mehra, is based on Mirza and Sahiban and closely follows the original story. Harshvardhan Kapoor plays Mirza and Saiyami Kher plays Sahiba.
- Mirza Juuliet (2017), an Indian Hindi film, is a modern retelling of the original story. It is set in Uttar Pradesh, showing the nexus between politicians and criminals.