Dulla Bhatti: More than a Robinhood

Dulla Bhatti is a famous folklore hero of Punjab. Punjab means here the erstwhile Punjab of undivided India. His ballad called Dulle Di Vaar (Ballad of Dulla) is very popular in the rural area of Punjab. It extols the deeds of his extraordinary bravery in the form of songs. I still remember in our younger days, the ballad sung by folk singer Kuldeep Manak was a craze in whole of Punjab.

He is seen like Robinhood, who was savior of the poor and helpless, rescuer of the young girls abducted by Mogul soldiers during their raids. Dulla was a contemporary of Great Akbar. His real name was Rai Abdullah Khan Bhatti, was a famous legendary muslim Rajput who refused to be subdued by the Governors of Akbar in Punjab.

The bravery of the Rajputs is well known world over. His father was hanged by Akbar to instill a fear in the hearts of the Punjabi Rajputs who refused to submit to his rule. At that time Dulla was not born and somehow the truth of his father’s death was not told to him by his mother till he became a handsome and dashing youth. He vowed to take revenge from Akbar and for a time Akbar’s son Salim who had revolted against his father on the disapproval of his infatuation with Anarkali, sided with Dulla and even incited him. Dulla began by looting the horses from a trader who worked for Akbar. Then he looted the valuables sent by Akbar to Middle East and distributed them to the poor and needy people.  Such was the level of resistance put up by Rai Abdullah Khan that Akbar had to shift his capital from Delhi to Lahore for nearly 20 years, making the Lahore Fort his headquarters, and renovating its basic structure.

Akbar wanted to capture Dulla dead or alive and brought to his capital. He dispatched two of his able generals; Meerza Ala-ud-din and Meerza Zia-ud-din with the command of over 12000 troops. The army reached Dullah’s village but could not find him. Due to his Robin Hood personality, Dullah was popular among masses. Akbar had ordered the generals to bring Dullah, dead or alive and failing that, bring the women of his house to the court. In obedience of the orders, the army secured the women and started marching towards Lahore.

When word reached Dullah, he charged back. The two sides fought with courage but the Moghul army was soon on the run. The generals begged Ladhi, mother of Dulla, for their life, who then ordered Dullah to forgive them. After the shameful defeat, the Moghuls invited him for talks and deceitfully arrested him. Upholding tradition, he was kept for a while at the Shahi Qila and was hanged in front of Kotwali, a police station now marks the place. His funeral was administered by the Sufi poet, Shah Hussain.

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