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Yousaf Khan and Sherbano: A story of undying love


Photo: Pir Hamid Kheshgi

Yousuf Khan and Sherbano is a Pashtun folktale. The folktale is set in the beautiful Swabi District. This folk story has a great connection with  the historical hill of Kharamar. The hill of Kharamar – Rearing Snake range, stands at  the north side of the Mardan-Swabi high road near the village of Ismailia, Adina and Kalu Khan. Now barren, the hills are said to have been thickly covered with trees and thorny thickets, with lots of wild olive trees, and in the  forest roamed deer, partridges, rabbits, and hares.

Yousaf Khan and Sherbano

Yousaf Khan was the son of Shad Mohammad. He belonged to a village name Turlandi near Shewa Adda. His father had died when he was very young. Yousaf Khan’s widowed mother and his sister Bandey were forced out from the ancestral home by their parental cousins. He grew up slowly and got a handsome and smart boy in around area. He had two dogs and loved them very much. It is said that Yousaf Khan was a brave and was a skillful hunter at the time. He prepared his dog’s beautiful collars that were hung with silver bells (Gongre).

Sherbano was a young a beautiful girl from the village of Shera Ghund linked closed to Kalukhan. She had thick black hair and had beautiful brown eyes that made her personality awesome and irresistibly attractive. Yousaf Khan used to go to hunting to the hill of Kharamar while in passing her mud made house of Sherbano, with his well-trained dogs his dogs had collars of the silver bell and they would jingle all the way as they followed their master.

One day, hearing the jingling of bells, Sherbano without having headscarf looked over the wall to see him. After seeing Yousaf Khan she could not resist to turn her face and felt terribly in love with him at first glance.  As the time run routinely, Sherbano got accustomed and would eagerly wait for the jingling of the bells as whenever the jingling be little late she would get upset by the situation and would not eat things for days. Her parents were very worried and thought that she might be possessed by some evil spirits (Peeryan).

Yousaf Khan’s sister Bandey used to carry him lunch to the Hill of Kharamar. One day while on her way to Kharamar she was stopped by Sherbano near her house to inquire that for whom she daily carry this lunch. Banday told her that she has a brother in this Hill who hunts there and she takes him lunch every day. After hearing this Sherbano got surprisingly happy and asked Banday to do her a favor by conveying her proposal to Yousaf Khan and tell him that a girl in Sheraghund has given away her heart to him.

Bandey went on to the hill and told her brother about what Sherbano has told her. Yousaf Khan got angry after listening to this and gave her a beating and told her never had to repeat such idle gossip in front of him again.

On the other hand, Sherbano desperately waited for Yousaf Khan’s answer. On sherbanothe way back, Sherbano stopped Bandey and asked her about what has happened about her proposal. But Bandey only cried and told her to leave. Confused by this, Sherbano decided to confront him that day on his way back from hunting.

That day he was joined by his cousins during the hunt. It was a hard day for hunting but Yousaf Khan as being a skilled hunter shot a wild ram but the wild ram fell off the peak of Kharamar and stuck into a tree. The cousins stood looking down and finally they convinced Yousaf Khan that he being the strongest and most agile should be lowered down the peak tied by a rope to retrieve the ram. Tying a rope around him they started lowering him, and as soon as he was a third of the way down they let go of the rope and fled.

Sherbano waiting by her wall was surprised to see the lone dogs run barking without their master. Yousaf Khan’s mother seeing the dogs return without her son knew something awful must have befallen him. She ran out bareheaded and barefoot; wailing and crying she ran towards the hills, followed closely by Bandey, both following the dogs that were barking like crazy. People stopped what they were doing to see why the two were running like mad women through the streets. Sherbano on recognizing them took to the street after them.

After seeing the dogs the locals also followed them and when they reached the peak they saw wounded Yousaf Khan stuck in the tree, the local helped the women that had saved his life by breaking his fall. Together the women and the villagers pulled him back to safety and while they fashioned a crude stretcher for him, Sherbano cradled her beloved’s head in her lap.  This did not go unnoticed and, when they returned to the village, Sherbano found her father standing full of wrath, ready to kill her. Yousaf Khan’s mother quickly took Sherbano hand and said that she was now Yousaf Khan’s honor and pride, and as soon as possible she would come with the elders of their village and take her away honorably. This was when their love story began.

A wedding was arranged, and so many people came to wish them their best that the festivities spread out over many days. Sadly, though, Yousaf Khan was so consumed by thoughts of revenge that he did not enjoy any of it, nor would he look at or touch his beautiful wife.

After Yousaf Khan’s wounds healed he got off the bed with revenge in his head. He was given some false news that his cousins had left the village and went to Delhi in Hindustan. He left his beautiful wife untouched and told her he would return either dead or avenge his revenge and left for Hindustan.

Days were not easy for Sherbano and Yousaf Khan’s mother and sister they had no news of Yousaf Khan for days, months and slowly gradually Years passed. There was no news of Yousaf Khan and his cousins might be announced them dead or alive. They shared out amongst themselves all that had been his. The marriage not being held and left Sherbano in a precarious position; her father came and took her back to his house. Sherbano refused to accept this and insisted that Yousaf Khan was alive because she would have known if it was otherwise.

One day Sherbano’s father visited her and kept his Pagri in her feet and told her to marry some other man in the village because she was his honor and she will be left with no roof over her head as he had to not live forever. Sherbano told him she would be mourning in grief for a year and after that, she would marry someone he who wished to marry at the end of the year.

Meanwhile, Yousaf Khan had traveled far from the lands of the Pukhtuns, he came across a village that was in the grip of terror due to some dacoits that had moved into the neighboring forest. Having to spend the night there he asked what was going on. They told him that many of their young men had died at the hands of the wicked men and the rest afraid to take them on had moved away. Seeing that there was no one to protect them, Yousaf Khan bravely offered to help them. Hidden away the villagers watched skeptically as Yousaf Khan took on the dacoits. He made fast work of them and as he wiped his sword clean the villagers rushed out to carry him back a hero to the village. News of his bravery and valor spread quickly and soon reached Akbar the Mughal who happened to be journeying by.

Yousaf Khan was presented to Akbar and he was so impressed by his bravery that he made him Incharge of a large regiment. Yousaf Khan told Akbar about his past life and how his cousin tried to kill him. And told him that he had no news of his mother and sister or the last five years and he had left his wife untouched. Akbar gave him permission to take a number of men with him and go to his village and in order to get an inquiry about his family.

Soon Yousaf Khan left for Swabi from Delhi after traveling for weeks he reached the area of Pakhtun and told his men to stay near the village of Dobian. He came to his village, prayed in the local mosque but nobody recognized him. He went on to his home but was shocked to see that is was in a bad condition with nobody living in it. He asked a local man about what happened to the people of the house. The man told Yousaf Khan that the caretaker of the family left for Hindustan and never returns, his sister and mother are enslaved by his cousins and if he was able to hear to drums his wife is marrying another man by evening.

Yousaf Khan went near the house from where the music was heard. He saw his sister Bandey and asked her about her. But she did not recognize him and walked away after he told her that he was her brother her sad face blushed into joy.

He gave a child an old cap which Sherbano has stitched for him to give it to the bride. Sherbano was not letting her friends to comb her hair or either dresses her. As the child gave her the cap she turned into tears and dressed herself quickly singing with joy.

Yousaf had sent a message to his troops and they had surrounded the village taking important posts. He ordered his troops to spare no one and kill every man who had in the village. The women begged for their husband’s lives and Sherbano interfered and told Yousaf khan not to kill anyone because she knew the pain of no man in the house and they all should be spared. As Yousaf Khan was very kind hearted he spared them all and the Jirga decided to give him what he owned.

They started living happily again but it was not for very long, one day Yousaf Khan went on to hunt but found nothing for a hunt and returned his home empty-handed after seeing that Sherbano has been sitting for his game. He climbed his horse and went back to the Kharamar. Sherbano tried to stop him but he never listens and went back. As the sunset, Yousaf Khan did not return that night and was found dead on the peak of the mountain the next day. Nobody knew how he died.

After listening about the death of Yousaf Khan, Sherbano heart broke out of the unbearable pain and her mind stopped working. She searched for him in the Hill of Kharamar for several days and died where Yousaf Khan was found dead. While some people of the local area say that Sherbano took her own life but some say she died of the shock of her husband’s death.

And so the lovers who only shared life ever so briefly remain together for eternity in a single grave. Thus ends the love story of Yousuf Khan and Sherbano. Their grave is located on the Peak of Kharamar hill, which is seen like a standing cobra. They have a Palosa tree on their grave. Their graves have been destroyed several times by some religious extremists but their love for each other is still on the tongues of the people living near the Kharamaar.

The lovers actually existed in real life, but as it evolves the legend sidelines the key players. In turn, it highlights the envy of paternal cousins and the irony of fate: where cousinly spite failed, nature succeeds.

This story has been passing on from mouth to mouth, so there have been more changes. This was given a type of Poetry by Ali Haider Joshi of the village Ismailia. Songs about their love are sung by many numbers of Singers, but the best of them is from Abdul Wahad Ustaz from the village of Kalu Khan.

As in the region having the feeling of love is got a social taboo but the essence of love is endless and never dying.

By Babar Khan Yousafzai

Babar Khan Yousafzai

Babar Khan Yousafzai

Mr. Babar is an Islamabad based Social Rights activist. His twitter handle is


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