A collection of Pashtun stories from Loy Afghanistan

Saturday, December 12, 2009

Adam Khan and Durkhanai

Supposedly taking place during Akbar the Mughal's rule, Adam Khan and Durkhanai's story is belived to be the classic romance of Pashto. Kept alive through written and and oral tradition the story has been passed from generation to generation.

To me the story means a lot more, not only because it took place in Swat, but because we are related to Adam Khan and his blood courses through our veins. There is a hujra in Barikot where young musicians go to break a twig off a yellow flowering shrub that supposedly Adam Khan had used to strum his rabab with all those centuries ago.

Adam Khan was from Kooza (lower) Bazdara and Durkhanai was from Upper Bazdara. Adam Khan the son of Hasan Khan was a very handsome young man and by all accounts seems to have been a spoiled young man who had nothing better to do than walk around his village with his friends.

Durkhanai daughter of Taus Khan was an extra ordinarily beautiful young woman who was very intelligent to boot. Not having a son Taus Khan showed incredible open mindedness for his times when he indulged his daughter by providing her learned tutors who schooled her in all there was to learn. She did obey local custom and culture by keeping strict purdah, not only would she be veiled but also took the step of sitting behind a screen and having an elderly servant sit there to chaperon them at all times.

A man named Payu Khan heard of the beauty of Durkhanai and her love for knowledge, he fell in love with her without ever seeing or meeting her. His love made him pale and he took to bed pining away for a woman he could only fantasize about. His father on seeing him waste away worriedly inquired as to what ailed him.

Payu Khan revealed the cause of his pale pallor and fast pulse. His father laughed at his predicament and told him not to worry and that before the day was over he personally promised that Durkhanai would only and only be betrothed to Payu Khan.

A formal proposal was sent to Taus Khan's house for the hand of Durkhanai. Payu Khan's family was of good stock and a positive reply was sent back. Thus Durkhanai found herself engaged to a man who though madly in love with her she had not seen either. A date for the wedding was set in the near future.

Durkhanai had an aunt in Upper Bazdara, whose daughter was getting married. Having spent many happy days together when they were children running around bare headed in the streets, it was natural that Durkhanai would want to attend her wedding.

Taus Khan refused to let her go on the grounds that she was now promised to another, and it would not be right. Durkhanai's aunt made enough of a fuss that she took Durkhanai with her when she left, the aunt promised that no harm would befall his precious daughter.

At the wedding everyone was enchanted by the grace and beauty of Durkhanai and all remarked how lucky Payu was to have such an intelligent wife.

That evening the women gathered near the outer wall of the house that was adjoined to the hujra. The grooms friends had gathered there and were singing couplets and ballads accompanied to the beautiful tunes of the rabab. The rabab's melody touched Durkhanai's very soul and she found her self mesmerized. She felt her self drown in the music and uttered, “Oh how the music moves the very strings of my heart.” Her cousin laughed at her and said “Oh Durkhanai, you have to get a glimpse of this man, his name is Adam Khan and he is as handsome as he sounds.”

The other women present there were as equally hypnotized and a small conspiracy formed that if they took turns and helped each other up they would all get a glimpse of the legendary musician. The commotion they caused did not go unnoticed and as they were taking turns not only Adam Khan, but the whole gathering chanced to glance up as Durkhanai lifted her head over the wall.

All men present let out a collective gasp as they gazed at her beauty and some swore that the 99% of the worlds beauty alone was in the small beauty spot that was on Durkhanai's brow. But Durkhanai had only eyes for Adam Khan, so surprised was she by this unexpected attraction that she fell down. When she was taken to a bed she lay face down trembling with a feeling she could not explain.

Her cousin got married but Durkhanai could not get out of bed. Her days and nights were consumed by that one glimpse that she had of Adam Khan.

Adam Khan was not unaffected either, he was as love struck and he swore that there was only one woman for him and that was Durkhanai. Now this was a very shameful thing to say, because all knew that Durkhanai was betrothed to Payu and that meant she was good as married for the Pukhtun never go back on their word.

Hasan Khan hearing of his sons foolish statement went immediately to get his son and talk some sense into him.

Durkhani went on to her home and both were restless, especially Adam Khan. He refused food and drink, only staring into the sky and talking to himself. He sometimes compared his beloved to the sun and sometimes to the moon and he would sadly shake his head saying that Durkhanai far outshone the moon the stars and the sun. He would bemoan the fact that it hurt to breathe and that just thinking of Durkhanai was making his heart beat so fast he could no longer stand it.

His friends no longer able to stand his misery set out to arrange a meeting for the star struck lovers. They heavily bribed the chaperone, who left a door open for Adam Khan to enter through that night. This was a a very hazardous venture since getting caught meant certain death for both of them. We can only guess what the two lovers must have said to each other but none the less it was dawn too soon and when Adam Khan's friends gave the pre-agreed signal it fell on deaf ears. The chaperone fearing for her own life finally pushed Adam Khan out of the house just in time. They did manage to exchange gifts. Adam Khan left the ring on his pinkie and return received a handkerchief that Durkhanai had embroidered.

Thus the two constantly thought of each other and just the thought that their gift had once graced the other kept them going. Yet it was not enough and both were desperate to see each other. Durkhanai's wedding day was approaching and yet there was no way out of it, she could never tell her father or go back on his word and neither could Hassan Khan do anything for his son.

Durkhanai is married to Payu and yet she will not let him consummate the marriage and he is patient with her thinking she needs time to adjust to her new home. Out of frustration Payu decides to go on a hunting trip. Durkhanai at her wits end sends for Adam Khan who hurries to her husbands house and from there he snatches her up on his horse and gallops off to a neighboring village where he asks for mercy and begs protection from the elder of the village. As is the custom of the Pukhtuns the elder can not turn away Adam Khan and Durkhanai and is obliged to give them shelter and protection even from Payu.

Payu on hearing of his wife's shameful abduction cuts short his hunting trip and rushes home. He gathers thye elders of his village and takes his case to the jirga. It is agreed that Durkhanai is rightfully Payu's wife and thus has to be returned to him.

A fight broke out between Adam Khan's friends and Payu's men. One of Adam Khan's best friends is killed and the inevitable happens, Durkhanai is returned to Payu's house but she is but a husk of herself and she sits without talking or eating. She refuses to have her hair washed or brushed or braided. Like a mad woman she refuses everything to the extent that birds start building nests in her hair.

Adam Khan fares no better, the guilt of his friends death and the loss of Durkhanai make him mad and he takes to wandering aimlessly in the wilderness. One day having collapsed of exhaustion he is found by a group of holy Hindu' yogi's. They ponder over the mania of the handsome man and decide the best they can do for him is to nurse him back to health.

Adam Khan shaves his head and dresses in the robes of the yogi's and wanders with them for a while. He finally tells them his story and they are so moved they decide to help him. Together they all go to Bazdara where no one recognizes Adam Khan. Once there they show up at Payu's door who welcomes them in to his home for a meal. The Yogi's tell him they can sense his deep sorrow and that they also sense someone who is possessed. In thanks for the fine meal that they have been served they would like to heal both him and the afflicted person with in his house.
Payu who is at his wits end decides that it is worth a try, what does he have to loose. Durkhanai is brought in like a shrieking mad woman but she immediately calms when she sees Adam Khan, she can recognize him in his altered state. Payu is so amazed at the transformation that he invites the Yogis to stay in his garden.

Both Adam Khan and Durkhanai heal and it is not long before the yogi's want to return to their prayers and meditations. Adam Khan is well enough to go back to his fathers house even though he immediately gets forlorn when he leaves Durkhania. His father immediately arranges for a very beautiful girl called Gulnaz to marry his son and for them to live far away in Gulnaz's village.

Gulnaz who is aware of her husband's affliction patiently listens to his woes and to some extent eases his pain. One can not say what Gulnaz thought of the whole affair but she seems to have dealt with it honorably or at least till she could no longer take it and moved back to her fathers house.

Durkhanai on the other hand does not do so well without Adam Khan. Payu remarries and lets Durkhanai be. Adam Khan sets out for Bazdara and at this point he has cried so much for Durkhanai that he is nearly blind. Pleading with to be taken to the wall of Durkhanai's garden, he dies just before reaching there.

Durkhanai also succumbs to her grief and Payu in a moment of guilt lets her be buried next to Adam Khan. Years later when the graves had flattened and were dug up by mistake people were shocked to find two bodies in a lovers embrace. They were separated and the graves once again covered over. A century later they were once again found together. This time it was decided to leave them together. You can still find the grave, it is the widest one in the grave yard.

In Bazdara there are some rocks that were once in the garden of Payu's house. It was here that Durkhanai would sit and pine for Adam Khan playing her tambourine. It is claimed that if lovers make a wish here it will be granted. Don't believe me? Come to Bazdara and find out for yourself.


  1. Love the story - for Valentines I have been looking up legendary stories to write on, being a poet according to myself (sure all us Irish hare!!!)... and this one I have made into a poem here - hope that you enjoy it, and that it is a fitting tribute to your ancestor and family!


    1. Dear Tomás Ó Cárthaigh, I read your poem and compelled on appreciating your great efforts and service to our language and as well others'. Hats off to you for your marvelous work.

  2. That is really a beautiful folklore. actually I want to write a research paper on Pashto folk tale and this is best. could u plz suggest any book of any writer related to thi folk tale

  3. Hi, I do not know you but a compliment you have wonderful writing skills and talent of narrating stories. I am a blogger too but I admit I do not write as good as you do. Keep it up. I really enjoyed reading the beautiful story of Adam khan and Durkhani.
    Best wishes,

  4. Very strange to learn abt a love story in pashto literature orelse pakhtoons r so unromantc they r free from any sort of feeling of lov, romance n courtship , they r pure warriors n they just know to fight , love is beyond their perception 😂😂😂😂

    1. You Would Be Amazed If You Know of our love for our wives MISS SOLANGI. No one can love his wife more than a Pashtoon he even can get killed or to kill someone for his wife just to show her how much a Pashtoon loves her Wife. Our wives are our Honour And Pride. So please next time when you say something about pashtoon’s love and romance have some knowledge about it first.

  5. My Name is Abdullah And i Belong Near to This Area Where This Event Take Place. The Above mentions Story Is 100% Right and I have Some Picture About The Stone When Its Broke Into two Pices.

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