The story goes that Heer was an extremely beautiful woman, born into a wealthy Jat family of the Sayyal clan in Jhang. Ranjha, first name was Dheedo and Ranjha his surname, he too was a Jat of the Ranjha clan, was the youngest of four brothers and lived in the village Takht Hazara by the river Chenab. Ranjha was his father's favorite son, hence he led a life of ease playing the flute while his brothers had to toil in the lands. After a quarrel with his brothers over land, Ranjha left home but according to Waris Shah's version of the epic Ranjha left home because his brothers' wives refused to give him food. Ranjha wandered about and finally arrived at Heer's village and fell in love with her. Heer offered Ranjha a job as caretaker of her father's cattle. She became mesmerized by the way Ranjha played his flute and eventually fell in love with him. They met each other secretly for many years until they were caught by Heer's jealous uncle, Kaido, and her parents Chuchak and Malki. Heer was forced by her family and the local priest to marry another man called Saida Khera.
Ranjha was heartbroken and he wandered the countryside alone. Eventually he met a 'jogi' (ascetic) Baba Gorakhnath; the founder of the "Kanphata"(pierced ear) sect of jogis, at Tilla Jogian located 50 miles north of the historic town of Bhera, Sargodha District. Following the path of Baba Gorakhnath Ranjha himself became a jogi. He pierced his ears and renounced the material world. Reciting the name of the Lord Alakh Niranjan, he wandered all over the Punjab, eventually finding the village where Heer then lived.
Heer and Ranjha returned to Heer's village. Her parents agreed to their marriage. But on the wedding day Heer's jealous uncle Kaido poisoned her food so that the wedding will not take place. Discovering the plan by Heer’s uncle Ranjha rushed to help Heer. Unfortunately he was too late as by the time he gets there she had already eaten the poison and died. Ranjha was once again heartbroken and ate the poisoned Laddu (sweet) which Heer had eaten and died by her side.
Heer and Ranjha are buried in Heer's hometown, Jhang. Lovers and others often pay visits to their mausoleum.
It is said that Heer and Ranjha were lucky enough to be united. But Waris Shah gave the epic a sad ending which has given it the legendary status it now enjoys. The argument Waris Shah puts forward in the beginning of his version is that the story of Heer and Ranjha had a deeper connotation - the relentless quest of man for God.