Heer waiting for Ranjha, oil on canvas, signed and dated 1968 lower left, 120 x 48.5cm (47 1/4 x 19 1/8in).
Provenance: Private collection, Pakistan; gifted to the current owners by the Artist.
The story of Heer and her lover Ranjha is one of four old Punjabi folk tales of star-crossed lovers. The beauty Heer came from a wealthy family in Jhang and Ranjha came from a rural village near the Chenab River. Ranjha, being the youngest of four, was not as rowdy as his elder brothers and found peace in playing the flute. Following a fight with his brothers, Ranjha decided to flee his home and found himself in the village where Heer lived. The moment he set his eyes on her he fell in love. Heer gave Ranjha the job of looking after her father's cattle farm and was captivated by his flute playing. She fell in love with Ranjha and they secretly met at night.
Heer's uncle, Kaido, became jealous of the lovers and informed Heer's parents and she was forced to marry another man. Ranjha was heartbroken and after meeting Baba Gorakhnath, a manifestation of Shiva, became a Jogi. He renounced the material world and resigned himself to a life on the road. In the course of his travels as an ascetic, he ended up in the same village as Heer and they once more become inseparable. Heer's parents realised that the union was meant to be and finally agreed to their marriage. Kaido, furious with jealousy, poisoned Heer's food at the wedding and she died. In a scene reminiscent of Shakespeare's Romeo and Juliet, Ranjha ate the poison as well and died by her side.