History - Lohri Legends: Punjabi Robinhood, The Tale Of Abdullah Khan 'Dullah' Bhatti | Sikh Philosophy Network
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History Lohri Legends: Punjabi Robinhood, The Tale Of Abdullah Khan 'Dullah' Bhatti


Jun 1, 2004
Lohri legends: the tale of Abdullah Khan 'Dullah' Bhatti, the Punjabi who led a revolt against Akbar

The Punjabi festival of Lohri commemorates Dullah Bhatti for his act of defiance against the Mughal emperor.

Lohri in Delhi has bonfires, popcorn, peanuts, pine nuts, gur or jaggery and til and sundry sesame sweets. Around the bonfire, people gather to sing a popular Punjabi folk song, Sundar munderiye, about a certain Dullah Bhatti who helped to rescue poor Punjabi women from the rather cruel zamindar, landlord.


In the big city, cut off from folk legends, most of the people who sing that song are unaware of who Dullah Bhatti was. Bhatti, though, is a historical figure, a contemporary of Mughal emperor Akbar who lived in Pind Bhattian, a town about 50 kilometres west of Lahore.

Rai Abdullah Khan Bhatti – to use Dullah’s full name and title – lived in tumultuous times. Akbar was just beginning to consolidate the Mughal state, setting in process a new order that would ensure that his dynasty would rule Delhi for the next three centuries to come. The Mughal state proceeded to implement a system of land revenue devised by Akbar’s brilliant Rajput finance minister, Todar Mal, called the Zabt system. The Zabt revenue system made Mughal officers responsible for both the assessment and collection of revenue.

Punjab in chaos

What was victory from Delhi, though, often meant chaos and destruction on the ground, as old ways of life were overturned. The Zabt system underpinned the Mughal state but proved to be the end of the road for local power centres in the Punjab, as all authority was concentrated in the Mughal administration. One of those local power centres was Dullah Bhatti’s family, a Rajput landowning clan made powerless by the financial scheme of their fellow Rajput finance minister, Todar Mal. As a result, the Bhattis rebelled against Akabr – and lost. Both Dullah’s father and grandfather were executed – at the time, Dullah’s mother was pregnant with him.

Legend now has it that Akbar’s son Jahangir and Dullah were born on the same day. To make Jahangir brave, Akbar was advised to have his son breastfed by a Rajput wet nurse who – in an incredibly filmy twist – happened to be Dullah Bhatti’s mother, in one version of the legend. A more prosaic explanation for this myth is that the Mughals initiated a policy of reconciliation with the Bhattis. By providing Dullah and his mother with royal patronage, the Mughal state hoped to assuage their hurt, win them over and – most importantly – prevent future rebellions.

Things, however, didn’t go according to plan. Bhatti grew up to swear revenge on the Chughtais, Mughals who had executed his father and grandfather. So fierce was this local resistance that, says historian Ishwar Dayal Gaur, Akbar had to shift his capital to Lahore from Delhi for two decades to try and get things under control. Gaur also adds that Akbar exempted the Bari Doab or Majha (the region between the rivers Beas and Ravi) from taxes and also made peace with the Sikh guru, Arjan Dev by visiting him in Goindwal – Bhatti's revolt was so effective that the Mughals couldn't afford to make any new enemies.

Dullah Bhatti becomes legend

Ultimately, though, Akbar prevailed, the Mughals capturing and beheading Dullah publicly in the main bazar area of Lahore. Till the last, though, Bhatti remained defiant and his final words as recorded by sufi poet Shah Hussain were, “No honourable son of Punjab will ever sell the soil of Punjab”. His grave still exists in Lahore, although interestingly, there is no official recognition of the spot. Pakistan – a country which is dominated by Punjabis – still takes much of its national mythos from the Mughal state, making its recognition of Dullah Bhatti’s revolt against Akbar a rather delicate matter.

Nevertheless, Dullah’s revolt passed into popular Punjabi legend and his feats as a Robin Hood are still celebrated today in the popular song Sundar munderiye, which talks of how he protected Punjabi girls from being abducted by the Mughal zamindar. The custom of giving money and sweets to children, who go from door to door singing the song, is said to honour Bhatti’s acts of generosity, of looting the tributes and taxes sent to the emperor and redistributing them among the poor.

In 2015, Bhatti’s tale was even made into a Punjabi pop number, although the video of the song, interestingly, portrayed him as a Sikh battling the Mughals, rather than the Muslim Rajput Bhatti historically was. Given that our histories rarely talk of the complex nature of Mughal India, and reduce most situations to a mirror of the communal conflicts of the modern age, this, perhaps, is an expected error.
Apr 12, 2007
Akbars court was fair enough and just to re-established his rebuttal from the bhattis he donated land to Sikhism to show defiance.

How could they have expected security and protection from surrounding areas let alone from abroad without that taxable system. The real downside in systems were and presumably still are is that although communities gave in the name for the betterment of a system of equality the people who benefitted didn't know how to return some type of service back and inevitably it bought conflict with in the different institutions regarding the safety and security of a mass of land, which turned out to become holy war's from Sikhisms perspective and from the mughal perspective it was about domination of governance an so you see it slowly turns into a holy war from the mughal perspective after a conflict of interest.

Also from a Kingdom's perspective the mughals dare not re group or grow further after Guru Gobind Singh's zafarnama so who knows how much the King's knew about the on ground situations as all administrations have there own unique ambitions and protectorates. Having said that they were in charge and were liable for the accountability. As finance was something needed to fund an empire which would have been felt all the way up to the British Isles.

Why the two factions couldn't resolve disputes without it turning sour is one of the greatest calamities of history of that word; order. Who listens to who in the war of wills it became about finance more then the reverence of spiritual messages and I guess that was the cause of grievance throughout India it bled to assimilate that peaceful message they thought they seemed to adhere too.

That is why you see Sikhism only ever had one King Maharaja Ranjit Singh who upon ascending the throne realised that he was killing Sikhism too in order to form his own protectorate system; especially when the numbers were small anyway its a dumb and dumber model structure the history of progressive citizens of India of that era.

From a mughal perspective you can see that it was too much of a head bargain with no returns an so you get modern India, rightfully so.

As the current rate of currency is based on human validity; forms. RUPEES=Forms!

The other thing that comes to mind is how did a dynasty that built a monument like the Taj that is worldwide renouned based on love be so foreign to the message of love. Definitely some scrupulous people at work within Indian history.

From Mahakala=Shiva Lingam to modern vedantic philosophy there is the ones who love the insatiable form and keep creatively on a eugenics agenda or the other philosophical schools of thought that have progressed to form the love of the formless. That's as inappropriate or as appropriate as the message of Peace and Love is.

The old structures were offered fresh oracles daily from the druids to keep the message of love for dravidic lines of code and accounts open. Shameful practice! The Welsh version of king David has a lot to answer for hmm. Enter the Dragon; the dragon was a type of fish snake that lived on land and sea but was consumed by the Chinese for its fear of unpredictability; but in eating the species into extinction (that's one species, who knows how many others? Also the reason why there not so selective with there food palette in the far east. People can laugh at it and take the {censored} but it effected trade lines war and stuff. Even in recent times people who thought they were buying burgers where buying horse meat.) they stopped the process of what the dragon did which was feed the sea creatures soil an Remnants Of Other Species and Visa Versa that it would drag into the sea each time it went to hibernate Or Bring To Land; so even now the current financial economic structures are formed on a basis for eugenics form's an where human intervention with natures natural resources out of misguided views can cause a detrimental effect on the environment as that would have decreased fishes for fishermen depleting supplies and further down the chain for all kinds of stock leading to further development of costs for sustainable growth an so the rise an fall of these empires were all costed on the Asian brown man's credit lines and blamed on religion. DISGUSTING. Waheguru Ji ki khalsa, Waheguru Ji ki fathe!
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swarn bains

Apr 9, 2012
it commemorates with; where in Punjab you live. In east Punjab it is the story of Bhagat Prehlaad from your Multan. a few thousand year old story. His temple is still there in Multan fort. his father had proclaimed himself God. Prehladd was iligitimate son of Harnakas or HARN KASHAP.
hIS MOTHER WAS THE MAID SERVANT AT HARNAKAS'S RESIDENC.As usual the rich people play with the servants. He got her pregnant. when he found out he kicked her out of the palace. she went and became a servant and a mureed of Narad muni. Nard muni used to tell the stories about how to become divine. she used to listen with intent while working. She was pregnant with Prehlaad. it is said that the child learns during pregnancy. So Prehlaad learned all he heard. After birth when he became 5 years old, he was sent to school to learn. He did not want to learn anything else but to recite God's name. First the teacher tried and then he informed the king that the child prays to a different God. Harnakas summoned prehlad and tried to threaten him but the child would not agree to anything else except to recite God. King had a sister named Lohri, they say that she had the blessings from somewhere that the fire could not burn her. She took the child in her lap and sat in a pile of fire wood. The fire was lit and she died but the child came out safe.
Lohri is celebrated there to wish well to all the sons on Prehlaad's behalf. The Harrakas wanted to kill him with his sword. it is also said that he also has some weird blessing that no one can kill him, a man or a woman inside or out side house. He tied Prehlad to a post. he took out his sword to kill him. it is said that a lion came out of the pillar and killed the king with his claws. that is how the story ends there. i admire Dullah bhatti. i listen to his kissa all the time. Like him Rana partap also revolted against Akbar and spent 20 years fighting guirilaa wars. No such stories about him. thanks

swarn bains

Apr 9, 2012
correction to my post. the ladies name was Holika not Lohree please forgive for my mistake. holy is derived from that name and people sprinkle color to pacify the fire which Holika burnt and died

Tejwant Singh

Jun 30, 2004
Henderson, NV.
Lohri is a Punjabi cultural thing, not a Sikhi festival because it is against the Gurmat values given to us by SGGS, our only Guru.

Lohri is only celebrated when the boy is born. It is not celebrated for the girls which is a shame and gender inequality.

Equality is the cornerstone of Sikhi.

swarn bains

Apr 9, 2012
if lohri rebuttal to my article about sikhi festival, i did not write it as a sikh festival. so forgive me if it interprets that way. if it is for general knowledge then i take my word back and it its enhancement for the audience


Sep 26, 2016
Lohri is a Punjabi cultural thing, not a Sikhi festival because it is against the Gurmat values given to us by SGGS, our only Guru.

Lohri is only celebrated when the boy is born. It is not celebrated for the girls which is a shame and gender inequality.

Equality is the cornerstone of Sikhi.
Sadly it does not seem that the equality promoted in Sikhism is well understood or consistently practiced in reality. Cultural influences have a huge role in shaping peoples' ideas, and falsely attributing them to a religious/spiritual ideology. From female infanticide, to abuse of women, to enslaving women to domestic duties, to not allowing women to represent the panj pyare at nagar kiratn - there is a huge disconnect. And this patriarchy/misogyny can in turn be harmful to men as well, as it promotes hyper-masculinity.

It is a positive and progressive step forward though that these days lohri is also being encouraged to be celebrated for female children.

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