Friday, January 13, 2017

Lohri Festival: Remembering the Robinhood of Punjab, Dulla Bhatti alias Abdullah Khan Bhatti

Shams Ur Rehman Alavi

Everyone knows that Lohri is celebrated in winter. The festival is associated with Dulla Bhatti. There are songs praising the 'son of Punjab', which are sung on this occasion.

But who was Dulla Bhatti? How many remember him? Abdullah Khan Bhatti, a Muslim Rajput, had become a hero in Punjab during the reign of Akbar.

A historical and real life character, Bhatti's name is part of Punjabi folklore. Bhatti grew up along with Prince Salim. Bhatti had later rebelled against the Emperor.

He was known for saving young girls and protecting their honour apart from his generosity. Though he also belonged to feudal class, he rebelled and fought against the powerful and sided with the poor.

Bhatti arranged girls' weddings and also gave dowry to them. The famous song 'Sunder mundriye ho!' [See song and its translation: LINK] recalls his heroic acts, especially, the story of how he saved a girl and got her married to a Hindu boy.

Though there was no priest around and he didn't know the Hindu rituals, he lit the sacred fire. As he took on the might of the Empire and helped the poor, his acts of valour and his vow to save the 'Punjabi honour' made him a legendary character.

Hence, modern writers often equate him with Robinhood. Punjabis say that terming him Robinhood is belittling him, as he rebelled on one of the biggest and most powerful empires, stood for women's honour and fought for a long period.

Bhatti was finally arrested and executed. Sufi Shah Husain's famous words about Bhatti are part of folklore. The Sufi saint said, "No son of Punjab would ever sell the honour of the land". Dulla Bhatti's grave is located in Lahore, Pakistan.

In 1956, a Punjabi movie based on Dullah Bhati was made in Punjabi. Recently, another movie was made in Punjab, India though there were certain objections to the changes made to the character and distortion of history. [Mazar photo courtesy: Wikipedia]

[Also read, an article in Scroll on Abdullah Khan Bhatti. LINK]