ISSN (Print) - 0012-9976 | ISSN (Online) - 2349-8846

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Love as Rebellion and Shame

Honour Killings in the Punjabi Literary Imagination

What is the relationship between cultural values and romantic love? This paper examines four texts in Punjabi literature, two medieval and two contemporary, viz, Waris Shah's Heer and Peelu's Mirza, Kothe Kharhak Singh by Ram Sarup Ankhi and Darasal by K L Garg in an attempt to answer this question. While love between a man and a woman can acquire divine status, at the same time, sociocultural norms view it as rebellion and shame/loss of honour for the woman's family. Not all cases of love marriages end up in honour killings but a love affair is perceived as rebellion by the family and community in which the latter expects the former to save its honour. Failure to do so results in a state of permanent shame and persists for generations.

This paper is a revised version of a presentation made in a national seminar on “Tales of Love, Betrayal and Death in the Indian Literary Tradition”, organised by the Bharatiya Sahitya Akademi, New Delhi at Chandigarh on 16-18 March 2012. Critical comments of the participants are gratefully acknowledged. Thanks are also due to Gurpreet Bal and M Rajivlochan and to a referee of this journal for their critical comments on the draft.

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