Adelaide takes a shine to Punjab’s winter festival

Jospephs Gate

In Punjabi folk tradition, Dulla Bhatti’s role in rescuing innocent girls from the clutches of lecherous men is enshrined in folk poetry that is sung during the winter festival of Lohri. The chieftain is believed to have rescued two Brahmin girls, Sundri and Mundri, from Akbar, who wanted them in his harem. Dulla Bhatti became their godfather and is believed to have married them off on Lohri with much pomp and festivity, directly challenging the authority of the emperor. A popular song sung on Lohri goes:

“Sundri Mundriye hoe
Who will save you poor one
Dulla Bhatti is here for you
The Dulla married off his daughter.”

In pre-Partition Punjab, Dulla Bhatti emerged as the ultimate symbol of composite Punjabi culture—a Muslim landlord who fought for the honour of Brahmin girls, saving them from the Mughal emperor. Songs of his bravery were sung by Hindus, Sikhs and Muslims alike on Lohri, an indigenous festival that celebrates the end of the peak winter season. Much like other indigenous festivals of Punjab, Lohri slowly faded away from West Punjab. With the gradual death of the festival, the legend of Dulla Bhatti also faded away. Only occasionally are these stories and songs recalled by wayward travellers who happen to stumble upon his grave in the heart of Lahore, the glorious capital of the mighty Mughal Empire.

Adelaide’s Indian, Malaysian and Australian communities’ celebrated Lohri with utmost enthusiasm and fervour. The Lohri Mela was organised by the Guru Nanak Society Of Australia Inc. on 14 January at LJ Lewis Reserve Stirling Street, in the suburb of Northfield which saw some politicians from both Labor and Liberal in attendance.

Among the politicians who came included Therese Kenney who was followed Deepa Mathew, Rik Morris, Michael Brown and Jing Lee.

Shaun Osborne from SAPOL, who always volunteer for the community cause was invited to light the lohri fire and share a few words. He wished everyone Happy Lohri and thanked them for gathering and inviting him in the celebration. Then, he lit the beautifully decorated bonfire at the center of the venue. And thus, began the celebration of Lohri with the ritual of reciting the lohri hymns.

The management of the Society that includes Mahanbir Grewal (candidate MLC South Australia), Jung Bahadur and Neeraj Brar highlighted the importance of the festival on the occasion. The decor at the venue was rustic, with a huge bonfire and Punjabi dishes at the food counters. A troupe of gidha and classical dancers kept the guests entertained.

Once the bonfire was lit, the crowd tapped their feet to the beats of music played by the DJ Vivek Chabbra, founder of Downunder Adelaide Events. As a part of audience interaction, they gave the audience various interesting challenges to perform, and asked several questions like why Lohri is celebrated.

“This has by far been one of the best lohri celebrations organised in Adelaide,” said one of the spectators attending the celebration.


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