Dr.Salam and Heer: Jhang Connection

Doctor Abdus Salam was awarded Nobel prize in physics in 1979 jointly with Glashow and Steven Weinberg. After Einstein, theoretical physicists all over the world are trying to unify all the physical forces like electricity, magnetism and forces residing inside a nucleus and gravity. They have succeeded in unifying all except gravity which is defying all the efforts. Just as in Hinduism we believe that God is one but it’s manifestation are many. They also got the Nobel in this area of research.


He was born on 29 January 1926 in Santok Das in the Sahiwal District but grew up in Jhang at his grand parents place. Did the mention of the name ring bells in your heart. Yes it is the same place where Heer of Heer Ranjha immortal love belonged to.

The whole family was in the education. His father was an education officer in Punjab. The family had converted to Islam. They belonged to Ahmediyya sect which was declared by Zia-ul Haq as non Muslim.

When he was taken to be admitted into school, teachers found him fit for fourth class. At age 14, Salam scored the highest marks ever recorded for the matriculation examination at the Punjab University. He won a full scholarship to the Government College University of Lahore, Punjab State.
His father wanted him to join indian Civil Services. He could not because of his poor eyesight which was a mandatory requirement.
He won scholarship from Cambridge university and completed his BA degree with honours in Mathematics and Physics in 1949. Although he received offer to do research there but he returned to Jhang.
He taught is Pakistan both mathematics and physics.
He started teaching at the Imperial College, London which he accepted. The 30-year-old, youngest ever assistant professor of Imperial College, London, was a Pakistani now.
He was brought back by zayin Khan and made the scientific advisor. He drafted the scientific policy of Pakistan. Founded Space and Upper Atmosphere Research Commission of Pakistan. Although he was once a non entity in Pakistan due to his being from Ahmediyya sect, his heart was always in Pakistan and he arranged for scholarships, which helped hundreds of Pakistani scientists’ to educate themselves abroad. His contributions are innumerable.
Although, he was highly respected scientist abroad he was an outsider for Pakistan. All efforts were made by the future administrators who buckled under religion to ease out his memory from Pakistan.He was offered the nationality of all those countries whose asylum seekers, today, lead the criticism on his faith.
After he had received the Nobel Prize, he chose to visit Lahore, In a public gathering, someone commented that Jhang was initially famous for Heer and now will be famed for Abdus Salam’s Nobel Prize. He remarked that there are hundreds of Nobel Laureates but only one Heer.

Quissa Puran Bhagat

History of the undivided Punjab and adjoining areas on its western front is replete with stories of valour and love. This area acted like a conduit for those from the west who wanted to enter India. From the times immemorial, streams of people crossed into India in search of its rich resources. Some solely entered through this corridor for the purpose of looting and taking with the exploits back. Others like Aryans and Mughals came here and settled here permanently. Aryans are said to be the cattle raring people who were constantly on the move in search of green pastures for their livestock. First Mughal emperor Babur came this side because he was forced to by his cousins who had fully controlled the Western areas and did not allow Babur to get any hold there. He headed east and as luck would have it, he easily won Afghanistan. As he had heard about Hindustan, he drove down into plains of Punjab and adjoining areas. Even when he established himself in India, he longed to go to his native place as he found the weather here too hot. It was Akbar who however firmly established the Mughal rule in India.
Due to the continuous movement of the people including aggressors and traders, the cultures of many places diffused into culture of this area. Many forms of literature also entered this area. One such was Quissa or the oral story telling. The stories were of the religious type initially but took into their fold the folklore and other social forms. So quissa telling became very popular in the Punjab and many famous quissa are popular and people knew heard them again and again. For example, there were lovers tales like Mirza Sahiban, Sassi Punnu on one hand and religious stories on the other hand.
One such Quissa is named Quissa Puran Bhagat. Story is set in the Sialkot which is now in Pakistan. There a king ruled in older times and his name was Salwaan. He had two wives. First one was Ichhran and younger one was Loona. Loona belonged to Chamba and there was large difference of age between the king and her age. In fact, she was the age of his children. As she was the daughter of a very poor low caste man, there was no question of the poor man resisting the marriage although Loona was not inclined. But those were the olden days. She is said to be very beautiful. King was guest of Chamba Royality and saw her in fair and was mesmerised and wanted to make her the queen.
The king was blessed with a son from first wife. He was christened as Puran. Astrologers advised the king to keep the child away from the palace till he attains the age of twelve. So he was established outside with king providing all the facilities there.
After twelve years, he returned as a very handsome boy. He went to her mothers palace. As they days passed, he went to meet the second wife of the king as was the custom in those days. Upon seeing the handsome boy, Loona was bewitched and fell in love with him. But the boy resisted her advances and told her that she is like her mother being the wife of his father. He left the palace after extricating himself. But Loona was heart broken and out of jealously she planned revenge.
She called for the king and with tears told that Puran had tried to rape her. King without seeing the truth, ordered the limbs of Puran to be amputated and he be thrown into a well. Now here is the folklore part. Puran remained alive in the well for many years reciting the name of Gods. Once a wandering religious man called Guru Gorakhnath, a Jogi in local language happened to pass by the well and heard Puran’s voice from the well. With the help of his disciples he took him out and made him hid disciple and showered many spiritual powers on him. Thus Puran became a Bhagat-a religious person. He established him near the well. People began to flock to him for blessings.
In the meanwhile through these years, Loona did not get any children. She was very unhappy. She and the king decided to seek the blessings of Bhagat. Puran Bhagat blessed her with a son. But as the king and queen did not recognise him, he asked Loona that she might have done some terrible deed in the past due to which she had not got any children. She told the truth before the king and Puran revealed that he was the victim.
King was very repentant and beseeched the Bhagat to come home and take over the reins of Kingdom but he refused and told them that the child to be born shall be the next king.
The well in which he was thrown still exists. People even now come to seek blessings for having sons from all over Pakistan. It is called “Puran de Khuee” meaning the well of Puran.
The story has been told and retold for years. The famous Punjabi poet, Shiv Kumar, rewrote the epic by giving it a different interpretation. He says that what was the fault of Loona in desiring for Puran who was almost only slightly younger than her. Her only fault was to be born into a poor family which could not resist the king’s demands. Her parents thought it to be an honour that they have established relations with the mightiest person. But nobody saw into the heart of young Loona. She hardly knew Puran who as per the social norms of the time considered her his mother. She did not saw it that way. She surrendered to her suppressed feelings. Shiv’s argument is that the women was like slave and had no say in any matter. He attempted to bring the women at par with the men.