Sohni was the daughter of a potter named Tula, who lived in Punjab near the banks of the Chenab River. As soon as the Surahis (water pitchers) and mugs came off the wheels, she would draw floral designs on them and transform them into masterpieces of art.
Izzat Biag, the rich trader form Balakh Bukhara, came to Hindustan on business but when he saw the beautiful Sohni he was completely enchanted. Instead of keeping mohars (gold coins) in his pockets, he roamed around with his pockets full of love. Just to get a glimpse of Sohni he would end up buying the water pitchers and mugs everyday.
Sohni lost her heart to Izzat Baig. Instead of making floral designs on earthenware she started building castles of love in her dreams. Izzat Baig sent off his companions to Balakh Bukhara. He took the job of a servant in the house of Tula, the potter. He would even take their buffaloes for grazing. Soon he was known as Mahiwal (potter).
When the people started spreading rumors about the love of Sohni and Mahiwal, without her consent her parents arranged her marriage with another potter.
Suddenly, one day his barat (marriage party) arrived at the threshold of her house. Sohni was helpless and in a poignant state. Her parents bundled her off in the doli (palanquin), but they could not pack off her love in any doli (box).
Izzat Baig renounced the world and started living like a fakir (hermit) in a small hut across the river. The earth of Sohni’s land was like a dargah (shrine) for him. He had forgotten his own land, his own people and his world. Taking refuge in the darkness of the night when the world was fast asleep Sohni would come by the riverside and Izzat Baig would swim across the river to meet her. He would regularly roast a fish and bring it for her. It is said that once due to high tide he could not catch a fish, so he cut a piece of his thigh and roasted it. Seeing the bandage on his thigh, Sohni opened it, saw the wound and cried.
From the next day Sohni started swimming across the river with the help of an earthen pitcher as Izzat Baig was so badly wounded, he could not swim across the river. Soon spread the rumors of their romantic rendezvous. One-day Sohni’s sister-in-law followed her and saw the hiding place where Sohni used to keep her earthen pitcher among the bushes. The next day her sister-in-law removed the hard baked pitcher and replaced it with an unbaked one. At night when Sohni tried to cross the river with the help of the pitcher, it dissolved in the water and Sohni was drowned. From the other side of the river Mahiwal saw Sohni drowning and jumped into the river.
This was Sohni’s courage, which every woman of Punjab has recognized, applauded in songs: “Sohni was drowned, but her soul still swims in water…”