Dulla Bhatti

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Dulla Bhatti
Dulla bhatti samadh.jpg
Born mid-16th century
Pindi Bhattian, Punjab,
(modern day Pakistan)
Died 1599
Lahore, Punjab,
(modern day Pakistan)
Other names Abdullah 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 who led a revolt against Mughal rule during the rule 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] He also opposed the abduction and selling of girls into slavery, arranging marriages for them and also providing their dowries.[9]

His efforts may have influenced Akbar's decision to pacify Guru Arjan Dev, 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.[9] Among the significant modern literature inspired by the life is Takht Lahore, a 1973 play written by Najam Hussein Syed.[14]

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. ^ a b Purewal (2010), p. 83
  10. ^ Gaur (2008), p. 37
  11. ^ Ayres (2009), p. 76
  12. ^ Singh (1997), p. 448
  13. ^ Nijhawan (2004), p. 267
  14. ^ van Erven (1992), p. 174