Heer is an extremely beautiful woman, born into a wealthy Jat family of the Sial tribe in Jhang, Punjab. Ranjha (whose first name is Dheedo; Ranjha is the surname), also a Jat of the Ranjha tribe, is the youngest of four brothers and lives in the village of Takht Hazara by the river Chenab. Being his father’s favorite son, unlike his brothers who had to toil in the lands, he led a life of ease playing the flute (‘Wanjhli’/’Bansuri’). After a quarrel with his brothers over land, Ranjha leaves home. In Waris Shah’s version of the epic, it is said that Ranjha left his home because his brothers’ wives refused to give him food. Eventually he arrives in Heer’s village and falls in love with her. Heer’s father offers Ranjha a job herding his cattle. Heer becomes mesmerised by the way Ranjha plays his flute and eventually falls in love with him. They meet each other secretly for many years until they are caught by Heer’s jealous uncle, Kaido, and her parents Chuchak and Malki. Heer is forced by her family and the local priest or ‘Maulvi’ to marry another man called Saida Khera.
Ranjha is heartbroken. He wanders the countryside alone, until eventually he meets a ‘jogi’ (ascetic). After meeting Gorakhnath, the founder of the “Kanphata” (pierced ear) sect of jogis at Tilla Jogian (the ‘Hill of Ascetics’, located 50 miles north of the historic town of Bhera, Sargodha District, Punjab), Ranjha becomes a jogi himself, piercing his ears and renouncing the material world. Reciting the name of the Lord, Rab ,he wanders all over Punjab, eventually finding the village where Heer now lives.
The two return to Heer’s village, where Heer’s parents agree to their marriage. However, on the wedding day, Kaido poisons her food so that the wedding will not take place. Hearing this news, Ranjha rushes to aid Heer, but is too late, as she has already eaten the poison and died. Brokenhearted once again, Ranjha takes the poisoned Laddu(sweet) which Heer has eaten and dies by her side.
Heer and Ranjha are buried in Heer’s hometown, Jhang. Love-smitten couples and others often pay visits to their mausoleum.