A popular folktale from Sindh immortalized by Shah Abdul Latif Bhittai.
A popular folktale of Sindh narrates the tragic love story of Sassi, a Sindhi girl, and Punnu, her Balochi husband. The story is set in the ancient city of Bhambore located east of Karachi in Thatta district, Sindh and partially in Kech Makran located on Makran Coastal Highway in Balochistan.
Shah Abdul Latif Bhittai immortalized this tale by putting it to verse. Its numerous versions have been collected and codified by the Sindhi Adabi Board.
Long ago in the ancient city of Bhambore a girl was born into a Brahmin family. Upon her birth it was predicted that she would suffer tragically in her love for a man of another faith. The father, fearing for his family’s disgrace, put the child in a wooden box and let it float down the Indus. A Muslim washerman by the name of Muhammad came upon the box and to his delight saw that it contained a child. Being childless and nearing old age, he took her home to his wife. They named their new daughter Sassi—the moon faced. As Sassi matured into a young, beautiful woman, she became known as the Moon of Bhambore and tales of her beauty and grace were carried to far off places.
Thousands of miles away, in Kech Mekran, there lived a Balochi chieftain who had four sons. His youngest, Punnu, was a young man of strength and vigor, and the handsomest of all his brothers. When the tales of Sassi reached him he was determined to meet her. He made his way to Bhambore where he set himself up as a seller of musk. As time passed, his reputation spread. One day Sassi came to buy musk from him too. They fell in love and exchanged promises of fidelity.
When Muhammad came to know, he became fearful for Sassi. Numerous young men had asked for Sassi’s hand but she had refused them all. Though hesitant, Muhammad finally agreed to the match but only if Punnu became a washerman. Overjoyed, Punnu gladly complied, though he knew nothing of the trade. Many mishaps occurred, but Sassi and her friends helped him. Satisfied that no complaint had been heard about the new washerman, Muhammad allowed Sassi and Punnu to be married. They were happy and faithful to each other.
When the tales of Sassi and Punnu reached Kech Mekran, Punnu’s father sent his three sons to bring back Punnu. The brothers congratulated the new couple and presented them with gifts. Sassi and Punnu gave a feast to the brothers and it continued into the late hours of the night. The brothers presented a drink to Punnu which, unknown to him, contained a drug to make him unconscious. As he fell into a heavy slumber, the brothers carried him away. When Sassi awoke, she found Punnu gone and guessed the brothers had played a trick on them.
Sad and lonely, Sassi could not forget Punnu. Eventually, against the advice of her parents and friends, she undertook the journey to Kech Mekran. She traveled by foot across the desert, calling out his name. By chance she saw a hut and decided to ask for water from the inhabitants. The shepherd who lived there was so taken by her beauty that he decided to keep her. Sassi ran away as fast as she could until her heart gave out. The shepherd buried her and sat by her grave as an attendant.
Meanwhile, Punnu upon awakening rushed back to Bhambore, and though his brothers tried to dissuade him, he would not heed anything. As he walked, he called out her name. By chance he came upon Sassi’s grave and upon being told of her death, he too fell lifeless. The shepherd buried him in a grave next to Sassi’s. Their graves are still located at a site known as Sassi Waro Chodo, about forty miles from Karachi on the road to Kech Mekran.
Baloch, N.A. Sindh: Studies Cultural. Jamshoro: Pakistan Study Center, University of Sindh, 2004.
Burton, Richard F. Sindh, and the Races that Inhabit the Valley of the Indus. Lahore: Khan Publishers, 1976.
Quddus, Syed Abdul. Sindh: The Land of Indus Civilization. Karachi: Royal Book Company, 1992.