Growing up, I had always been fascinated with Urdu myths and folktales. What added to my delight was that my grandmother was an exceptional storyteller who would modulate her voice and deploy a lot of hand gestures to deliver a fantastic performance! She would tuck me in and regale me with folk stories, particularly those of Mulla Nasruddin – a bumbling man from a far-flung desert land. Mulla would inadvertently make a fool of himself in those folk tales but also land a wise punch or two in the end. Want to learn more? Keep reading below!
Fascinating History Of Urdu Myths And Folktales
What made those لوک کہانیوں (lok kahaaniyon) or folktales endearing to a six-year-old me was the fantasy world teeming with jinns (genies), pariyaan (fairies), and deos (giants) that would straightaway defy convention. Urdu literary books are full of regional folklore from modern-day Pakistan, including Punjab and Sindh regions and the northern regions of India. These stories in the Urdu language carried heavy influences from the Arabic and Persian languages. These oral stories talked about Persian mythology, Islamic cultures, local religious traditions, and moral and religious concepts.
Urdu Words About Myths And Folktales
Want to express yourself with the locals? Join in their conversations about these mythical characters using the easy words we rounded up below.
|Folklore||لوک داستان||lok daastaa’n|
Exciting Facts About Urdu Folk Tales
Fact #1: Consist Of Regional Folklores
Pakistani folklore consists of myths, legends, and fairy tales originating from the local ethnic groups, apart from carrying Arabic, Persian, ancient Vedic, and Indo-Greek influences. Thus, Balochi and Punjabi folklore, Sindhi folklore, and Chitrali folklore contribute immensely to Pakistan’s folktale traditions. These folk stories may or may not be in Urdu, but they carry the stamp of the previously prevalent oral histories. Punjabi folklore Sohni Mahiwal, one of the most famous love stories of South Asian regions, or Sindhi folklore of Jhulelal are some prominent examples.
Fact #2: Carry Influences From the Middle Eastern Part Of The World
Since Persian heavily influences the Urdu language, these Urdu folk tales also find many middle eastern folk heroes, folk songs, and folk music being incorporated into them. While much of Pakistani folklore consists of love stories or fairy tales, folk tales traveling from Persian mythology have impressions of Islamic cultures.
Fact #3: Centuries-Long Legacies
Whether it be the amusing and educational folk tales of Mulla Nasruddin recited by any Sufi saint or the fantasy world of Alif Laila (One Thousand and One Nights or The Arabian Nights), such folklore serves local and regional legacies by spreading them onto a far more expansive world. Both of these folklore performances have been recited, staged, televised, and radio broadcast, particularly in the Middle East, Central Asia, and South Asia.
With so much interesting information already in our hands, let us quickly peep into the material world of these fascinating creatures, mesmerizing lands, and awe-inspiring stories.
Popular Urdu Myths And Folktales
Let us look at an example of a folk story, a myth, and a legend belonging to the Urdu pantheon.
#1 Sassi Punnu
Sassi Punnu is one of the most popular love stories from Pakistani folklore, among others, like Sohni Mahiwal, Mirza Sahiba, Heer Ranjha, and Moomal Rano. Sassi is one of the seven queens (seven heroic women) of the famous Sufi poet Shah Abdul Latif Bhittai (1689-1752), whom he mentioned in his compilation Shah Jo Risalo.
This story of young lovers goes like this: Sassi was born to the King of Bhamboor. Upon her birth, an astrologer prophesied that she was cursed and would bring shame to the royal family. The Queen ordered her to be abandoned in the Indus River. Luckily, a washer man found her and decided to raise her as his own. Punnu Khan was the son of King Mir Hoth Khan, hailing from the Makran region of Baluchistan (Pakistan).
Fairy tale legends of Sassi’s unmatched beauty spread across the region, which evoked Punnu’s interest in her. On meeting her, he immediately fell in love with her. The fisherman agreed to marry them only if Punnu could pass trial as a washerman. However, Punnu’s family was against this match. His brothers hatched a devious plan and took him back to Makran. On hearing this news, Sassi ran barefoot through the desert towards Punnu’s town in a disheveled state. On her way, a shepherd tried to violate her, but she escaped.
Exhausted by her vagaries, she sat down to pray. The mountains split and consumed her alive. When Punnu gained consciousness, he ran towards Sassi’s village. He met the same shepherd at the mountain who retold him everything. Marred with grief and agony, he too prayed to be swallowed by the earth, and lo, his wish was granted! The lovers ultimately united in death. This story is about eternal love and union with the Divine.
The story of Prince Saif-ul-Malook and Pari (fairy) Badr-ul-Jamal is replete with romance, action, adventure, fantasy, a bit of real-time geography, and some jinns and deos.
The story goes like this: Prince Saif was born into the royal family of Egypt. True to his name, he was a handsome warrior prince with many virtues to his name. Once, he dreamt of a far-away enchanting lake where seven scintillating fairies were bathing. Each was more captivating than the other, but the seventh caught his imagination. Upon waking up, he made it his mission to search for this magical lake and his beloved Badr-ul-Jamal. For six long years, he traveled from one corner of Egypt to another like a madman on a hunt.
He finally reached the magical lake, but no sign of his dream girl. Suddenly, a Sufi saint appeared before him who handed him a Suleimani cap and told him to pray for 40 nights and days without food, water, and sleep, to please God and get his wish fulfilled. So, Prince Saif sat down to this herculean task. After 40 days and nights, he opened his eyes. It was the night before the full moon.
He saw Badr-ul-Jamal and her friends playing and bathing in the lake water. Deciding something, he crept upon the boulders and hid away Badr’s wings. After coming, Badr frantically started searching for her wings. Her friends returned, and seeing this, Prince Saif went up to his beloved and declared his love.
For a moment. Badr-ul-Jamal was also mesmerized by the handsome prince but soon started panicking. She was enslaved by a giant called Deo Safed, King of Baltistan. In his castle, when deo got to know about the missing fairy, he went looking for her at the lake. In his anger, he started damaging the hills and mountains. Prince Saif and Badr-ul-Jamal hid inside a cave, frightened for their lives. In fear, he tightened his Suleimani cap around his head, and in a flash, he and Badr have transported to a safe spot away from Deo Safed.
#3 Mulla Nasruddin Khodja
Mulla Nasruddin is an ancient Persian character around which Sufi saints have revolved many moral and wise Persian words. There are many ‘facts’ floating around the origin of this mythical character for centuries. Some believe he was a real older man who existed in 13th-century Turkey. The mythical character of Mulla Nasruddin has traveled well from Anatolia (Turkey) to the Arab and Persian world to Africa, along the Silk Road to China and India, and later to Europe.
Mulla Nasruddin has had many variants to his name. Turks say Nasreddin Hoca, Kazakhs say Koja Nasreddin. Greeks call him Hoja Nasreddin, while Iranians, Afghans, and Azerbaijanis call him Molla/Mulla Nasrudin. Most stories of Mulla Nasruddin are quite popular in languages such as Albanian, Arabic, Azeri, Bengali, Bosnian, Hindi, Pashto, Persian, Serbian, and Urdu folk traditions.
One of his stories goes like this: Once, a traveling scholar treated Mulla Nasrudin to a meal at a local restaurant. He ordered two lamb steaks. After a while, the waiter brought back two plates containing the two steaks. However, one of the steaks was smaller in size than the other. Seeing this, Mulla Nasrudin immediately lunged for the bigger steak. Unable to believe his manners, the traveling scholar chided the old man. “You have founded all the rules of morality, ethicality, decency, and respect by this one action of yours!” he raged.
Looking at him calmly, Mulla Nasruddin asked, “Well, which plate would you have chosen first?” “I would have taken the smaller steak for myself,” the scholar replied. Nasrudin placed the smaller steak on the scholar’s plate and said, “Here you go! Bon Appetit!”
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Did these lovely folk stories and myths fill you with fantasy and wonder? You can read more such fascinating stories once you learn to appreciate the subtle nuances of the romantic Urdu language. Download the Ling app today from Apple App Store or Google Play Store and start learning Urdu now!