Since ages immemorial, women have been put forth only in terms of their acceptance of the society as it is and being the patrons of the patriarchal culture. However, a few pieces from literature inspire us to think otherwise; and, one such piece of literature is The Seven Queens of Sindh by the famous Sindhi Sufi poet Shah Abdul Latif Bhittai. In this poem, he talks of seven queens who were valued as much for their poetry as their rejection of the conventional patriarchal scheme of life and choosing freedom and love over everything else. Let’s us have a look at these seven princesses who were glorified by Shah Latif—
The story about Marui appears in Umar-Marvi or Marui which forms one of the seven parts of the poem by Shah Latif. In this tragic love story, we come across Marvi, a simple village maiden who rejects all the pomp and pompousness of staying like a Goddess at the grand palace and literally puts up a fight against the powerful king to be with her love, Umar and amongst her own village folk!
The same story appeared numerous times in different anthologies and was even adapted as a TV series by Pakistan Television Corporation in 1993.
Shah Latif’s Momal Rano throws a light on the life of Mumal, a dangerous but supremely beautiful courtesan who was left by her lover Rano on the presumption that she had cheated on him. And, what follows thereafter was a poignant saga of love where she undertakes all the treachery and difficulty of life to prove the purity and truth of her love. This ballad from Sind has been sung numerous times as an example of true love that can turn all the impossibilities into a passé.
The story, reiterated again and again in the land of Sind, Pakistan, is about a faithful wife who’s ready to succumb to all the evils and wrath of Gods to get back her husband who’s been captured by rivals. Shah Latif sees her journey as a mystical one that people who’re on a quest to seek for God have to go through! Sassi and Phunnun’s love story is an epitome of true and eternal love that can ravish and demolish all the odds and evils.
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We come across this defiant young woman in the poem Noori Jam Tamachi. She’s a young and beautiful fisherwoman who catches the attention of Prince Jam Tamchi and leads him to fall in love with her instantly. But, it was her humility, her obedience and her unending love for the prince that made him put her as his best bride, ahead of all the royal ladies in her palace. In fact, if you visit the Kalri Lake in Pakistan, you’ll be able to see Noori’s grave situated almost at the middle of the lake!
That love can transgress all the boundaries imposed by the civilized society is exemplified the best through this tragic tale of love and love alone! Sohni is a beautiful but hapless wife of a person who is entangled in a loveless wedlock. However, she finds her true love in Mehar, to meet whom, she swims across a river every single night. And, though through the treachery of her sister-in-law she couldn’t be reunited with Meher, she does so through death, and herein lays the charm and tragedy of the tale!
If the other poems traces the life of passionate and love-stricken princesses and maidens, this poem traces that of pleasure-stricken and spoiled wife of Raja Chanesar, Lilan. In her love and greed for a necklace worth Rupees 900,000 in those days, she eagerly allowed the lady-owner of that necklace, in return of the prized possession, to spend a night with her husband. However, the poem isn’t all about lovelessness. The poem’s true worth comes out in the part where she goes through all the pains and atrocities of nature to purify herself and get her husband back!
This is one of the most appreciated and historical tales included in The Seven Queens of Sindh by Shah Latif, and has been retold again and again in Sind as an exemplification of true love and chastity. The tale is about Sorath, the wife of Rai Diyach of Girnar (Now in Gujarat) who happily lets go of her life for the love of her husband, hoping to get reunited with him in the land of the dead!