If you want to learn about love in Sindh, go to its dead people—and then look up.
For on the walls of the great tombs of the rulers and tribesmen, you will find the finest of Sindh’s love stories told in art: Sassi-Puhhun, Sohni-Mehar, Umar-Marvi, Nuri-Jam Tamachi, Moomal-Rano. These legends of eternal love were painted on to their walls in scenes which tell you the story as related by poets and bards.
Moomal and Rano
The story of Moomal and Rano captured the imagination of poets and artists for a long time. You can find their story painted on the Marri and Jamali tombs in Sanghar and Qambar-Shahdadkot.
Legend has it that back in the day when Thar was ruled by Hameer Soomro. He had heard about Moomal’s beauty from a yogi. Curious to see this woman, Hameer and three of his friends (who were also his ministers) went to look for Moomal in Kak Mahal.
When they got to Moomal’s palace, the men realised that they couldn’t proceed any further as the mahal was protected by magic, fake ponds and illusions. It is said that any man who wished to marry Moomal would have to go through a series of obstacles to win her heart.
Three out of the four men retreated. Rano, one of Hameer’s ministers, who was known for his wisdom and intellect, successfully made his way inside the palace and to his future wife.
When Soomro learnt about Rano’s success. He was furious. He put his friend behind bars. Hameer and told Rano that the only way he would get out was if he promised to never see Moomal again. He was eventually freed.
Back in Kak Mahal, Moomal had not heard from Rano in days. In order to make Moomal smile, her sister, Soomal, decided to dress up as Rano and used to sleep next to her. Unfortunately, while the sisters were asleep, the real Rano showed up and thought that Moomal was with another man.
Dejected, he fled leaving his cane behind. When Moomal realised what had happened, she went to find Rano to clear up the misunderstanding but he wouldn’t listen. Just like a typical Shakespearean tragedy, the lover’s died and their story was immortalised.
Two parts of the story enthralled painters and storytellers. The first when Hameer, Rano and the others approach Kak Mahal and the second when Rano runs away after seeing Moomal with her sister.
These two episodes were beautifully narrated on the tomb of Sultan Marri in the Tillah Shah necropolis in Sanghar.
The artist went into great detail to show Rano and the men standing on one side of the palace in front of a moat with leopards guarding the property. On the other side, Moomal is sitting with her sister. Sadly, the figure of Rano is now defaced. There’s also a portrait of Hameer and the men riding on horseback with spears in their hands.
In Qambar-Shahdadkot, Rano and his friends make an appearance on Mir Sobadar Jamali’s tomb and the tomb of Rehan Khan Jamali. Here the story is told in two episodes as well: when Rano and Hameer arrive at Kak Mahal and the second, when an upset Rano leaves Kak Mahal after finding Moomal with another man. Not much of the art remains as these grave were destroyed in the 2010 floods.
To ensure that the lovers did not die in vain, the Marri tombs in Sanghar should be preserved because it is feared that this unmatched historic art will disappear if the structures crumble.
The writer is an anthropologist. He may be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org