Dulla Bhatti

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Dulla Bhatti
Dulla Bhatti (4067802963).jpg
Bornmid-16th century
Pindi Bhattian, Punjab, Mughal Empire
(modern day Pakistan)
Lahore, Punjab, Mughal Empire
(modern day Pakistan)
Other namesAbdullah Bhatti

Dulla Bhatti (popularly referred to as the "Son of Punjab" or "Robin Hood of Punjab", sometimes spelled Dulha Bhatti and also known as Abdullah Bhatti) (died 1599) came from the Punjab region of medieval India and led a revolt against Mughal rule during the reign of the emperor Akbar.

The deeds of Bhatti are recounted in folklore and took the form of social banditry. According to Ishwar Dayal Gaur, although he was "the trendsetter in peasant insurgency in medieval Punjab", he remains "on the periphery of Punjab's historiography".[1]

Early life[edit]

Dulla Bhatti lived at Pindi Bhattian in Punjab,[2] and came from a Muslim Rajput family of hereditary local rural chiefs of the zamindar class. Both his father, Farid, and his grandfather, variously called Bijli or Sandal,[a] were executed for opposing the new and centralised land revenue collection scheme imposed by Akbar. Dulla was born to Ladhi four months after the death of his father.[4]

Coincidentally, Akbar's son, Shaikhu (later known as Jahangir), was born on the same day. Advised by his courtiers that Shaikhu's future bravery and success would be ensured if the child was fed by a Rajput woman, Akbar gave that responsibility to Ladhi despite her connection to a man who had rebelled against the Mughal throne. This decision appears to have its basis in realpolitik: Akbar perceived that Ladhi was resentful, that Bhatti might become the third generation of rebel and that royal favour might offset this.[5]

A part of the royal patronage was that Bhatti attended school. Although at that time unaware of the fate of his ancestors, he refused to accept the strictures that were intended to mould him into a good citizen and objected to being a part of an establishment that was designed to produce elites. He left to engage instead in childish mischief-making.[5]

A chance remark led to Ladhi having to explain the fate of Farid and Bijli to her son. Gaur says that this caused his general anti-authoritarian, rebellious nature to "crystallise" with the Akbar regime as its target, although not as a means of revenge specifically for the deaths of his relatives but in the wider sense of the sacrifices made by rural people generally. Bhatti saw this, says Gaur, as a "peasant class war".[6]


Bhatti's class war took the form of social banditry, taking from the rich and giving to the poor.[7][b] Folklore gives him a legendary status for preventing girls from being abducted and sold as slaves; he arranged marriages for them and provided their dowries.[9]

His efforts may have influenced Akbar's decision to pacify Guru Arjan Dev Ji, and through Dev's influence the people of Bari Doab, by exempting the area from the requirement to provide land revenues.[7]


The end for Bhatti came in 1599 when he was hanged in Lahore. Akbar had hoped to make an example of him at the public execution, expecting that he would quake with fear, but Bhatti was steadfast in his resistance to the end. Shah Hussain, a contemporary Sufi poet who wrote of him, recorded his last words as being "No honourable son of Punjab will ever sell the soil of Punjab".[10][11]


Only fragments of the vars (medieval poetry put to music) concerning Dulla Bhatti have survived to the present day[12] and dhadi performances recounting his exploits have become less common.[13]

The memory of Bhatti as a saviour of Punjabi girls is recalled at the annual Lohri celebrations in the region to this day, although those celebrations also incorporate many other symbolic strands.[14] The song "Sundri-Mundri" is sung during the celebrations and is a tribute to him.[10] Among the significant modern literature inspired by the life is Takht Lahore, a 1973 play written by Najam Hussein Syed.[15] A novel based on the life of Dulla Bhatti has been written by Baldev Singh Sadaknama.

See also[edit]



  1. ^ Surinder Singh's analysis of regional folklore names Bhatti's grandfather as Sandal and suggests the possibility, given the influence that he had in the region, that the area of Sandal Bar is named after him.[3]
  2. ^ Social bandit is a concept devised by Eric Hobsbawm, defined as "peasant outlaws whom the lord and state regard as criminals, but who remain within peasant society, and are considered by their people as heroes, as champions."[8]


  1. ^ Gaur (2008), pp. 27, 37, 38
  2. ^ Ahsan (1996), p. 120
  3. ^ Singh (2008), p. 106
  4. ^ Gaur (2008), pp. 34, 37
  5. ^ a b Gaur (2008), p. 35
  6. ^ Gaur (2008), pp. 35-36
  7. ^ a b Gaur (2008), p. 36
  8. ^ Hobsbawm (2010), p. 13.
  9. ^ Purewal (2010), p. 83
  10. ^ a b Gaur (2008), p. 37
  11. ^ Ayres (2009), p. 76
  12. ^ Singh (1997), p. 448
  13. ^ Nijhawan (2004), p. 267
  14. ^ Purewal (2010), p. 83
  15. ^ van Erven (1992), p. 174


  • Ahsan, Aitzaz (1996), The Indus Saga and the Making of Pakistan (2nd ed.), Oxford University Press, p. 120, ISBN 9780195776935
  • Ayres, Alyssa (2009), Speaking Like a State: Language and Nationalism in Pakistan, Cambridge University Press, ISBN 9780521519311
  • Gaur, Ishwar Dayal (2008), Martyr as Bridegroom: A Folk Representation of Bhagat Singh, Anthem Press, ISBN 9788190583503
  • van Erven, Eugene (1992), The Playful Revolution: Theatre and Liberation in Asia, Indiana University Press, ISBN 9780253112880
  • Hobsbawm, Eric (2010) [1969], Bandits, Hachette UK, ISBN 978-0-297-86531-5, retrieved 4 February 2014
  • Nijhawan, Michael (2004), "Transitions in the Public Realm: Dhadi in the Early Twentieth Century", in Muthukumaraswamy, M. D.; Kaushal, Molly (eds.), Folklore, Public Sphere, and Civil Society, National Folklore Support Centre (India), ISBN 9788190148146
  • Purewal, Navtej K. (2010), Son Preference: Sex Selection, Gender and Culture in South Asia, Berg, ISBN 9781845204686
  • Singh, Harbhajan (1997), "Medieval Pubjabi Literature", in Paniker, K. Ayyappa (ed.), Medieval Indian Literature, 1, Sahitya Akademi, ISBN 9788126003655
  • Singh, Surinder (2008), "Mughal Centralization Local Resistance in North-Western India: An Exploration of the Ballad of Dulla Bhatti", in Singh, Surinder; Gaur, Ishwar Dayal (eds.), Popular Literature and Pre-modern Societies in South Asia, Pearson Education India, ISBN 9788131713587