Being Women

The Enduring Legacy Of Dulla Bhatti: Celebrating Warmth, Courage And Bravery

Lohri celebrates Dulla Bhatti's heroic tale and leaves us with a hopeful message about the enduring power of courage and compassion.

The transition

Lohri celebrates the end of a chilling winter month, the month, Poh of the Nanakshahi calendar (luni-solar calendar). People venture out of their homes to gather around bonfires, soaking in the warmth and planning for the upcoming harvest of Rabi crops like Wheat and Lentils.

Unmasking the hero in ‘Sundar Mundariye’

‘Sundar Mundariye’ is a folk song sung at every Lohri celebration. The song narrates a folklore from Punjab about two young girls, Sundari and Mundari. The dialect is discreet yet powerful. I sing it with the same fervour that I did as a kid. It wasn’t until very recently that the lyrics intrigued me and I dived into the online resources.

What seems like a lyrical accompaniment to the ritualistic singing and dancing around the Lohri bonfire, actually goes much beyond that. It celebrates the courage and chivalry of Dulla Bhatti, a local Robinhood. I laugh at my ignorance and also everybody else’s.

It is my Granny who on my eager insistence narrated the story entwined in the lyrics. In addition to celebrating the end of the nerve-biting winter in the plains, it also celebrates this man who fought tyranny for the self-respect of women. The song narrates how Dulla Bhatti risked his life to rescue Sundari and Mundari, from the lecherous eyes of the Zamindar. He is described as fearless and an aide to the less privileged.


The birth of the Robinhood

I wonder what would have led this gentleman onto this path. “No. It wasn’t atonement of any sort.” Grandma insisted when my very feminist spirit voiced surprise. “When I was younger, people did say that his sister and mother were forcibly taken away by dacoits. Ever since then, he set out to help the needy and save the women.” Grandma continues.

Modern quest for heroes

As I sit back and close my eyes to the thumping dhol and ascending musical notes, Dhulla Bhatti leaves an impeccable mark on my conscience. I dig into the Google reserves for imagery around this fictional character, but there isn’t much that I encounter. The writer within has transcended into the mystical charm of the character and wishes there could be more like him. I wiggle the twig in my hand through the smouldering ashes of the bonfire, yearning for warmer days and cosy nights. A tiny itch that hasn’t yet given up on looking out for the Dulla Bhatti of the modern times.

Closure – bidding adieu

“Let go of the twig and return inside.” Grandma’s insisting tone is a realization of the cold creeping through the soles. Bidding adieu to the bonfire is also saying goodbye to the bone-chilling winter and the innumerable layers of warm clothing. As the quilt fits in snugly around my frame, I’m sure what dreams the night will bring along. An eerie silence descends and bright lights are replaced by snores.

Where myths meet reality

I wake up to a bright blue Sunday sky with the sun shining through. The sleep has refreshed my questions about Dulla Bhatti as I grab my bedside notebook to jot down additional aspects that can be researched. I lazily pick up the newspaper and cringe as the headline catches my gaze.

“Local lad turns Robinhood for a woman in the middle of an eerie winter night.” Intrigued, I jostle through the heavy quilt in search of my spectacles to get a clear reading of the news piece. It feels like the hankering for a modern-day Dulla Bhatti has manifested itself. I continue reading and the story bears resemblance to the folklore.

A young woman working in a local Customer contact centre hailed an autorickshaw for the return ride home. Unfortunately, the dense fog supported the evil plans of the driver. He rode into an uninhabited stretch while the woman cried for help. Her wails woke up a middle-aged bus driver snoozing in the warmth of a broken-down bus nearby. In the dense fog, the autorickshaw driver had missed the bus parked close by.

Not only was the young woman saved from a mishap, but the autorickshaw driver was also beaten up black and blue before being handed over to the police. It was later found that the bus driver had previously on two instances reported the loss of passenger belongings left in his bus.

As I finish reading, I realize that Dulla Bhatti needs no face, no physical description. He lives in every man who carries humanity as a star on his shoulders, reaching out to the needy from unexpected corners and unknown depths.

Happy Lohri! Happy Sankranti! Happy Pongal


Lohri- a festival celebrated in Punjab as winter comes to an end

Dulla Bhatti – a fictional character who lives in folklore

Dhol – a musical instrument that is thumped forcefully to accompany songs and dance


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