Hola Mohalla: Celebrating Valor

Updated on March 5, 2018
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India is a land of diverse cultures, festivals and traditions. I live in Punjab, the land of the five rivers. Hola Mohalla is a major festival in my region. All roads lead to Sri Anandpur Sahib during Hola Mohalla. The three days festival is a sight to behold and one feels proud of the rich culture of our country.

Hola Mohalla is an annual Sikh festival which often falls in the month of March and is celebrated on the day after Holi, the festival of colors. It is a big event for Sikhs around the world and also marks the beginning of the Sikh New Year. This annual fair is held for three consecutive days at Sri Anandpur Sahib in the state of Punjab in India. People from distant places come to Sri Anandpur Sahib to attend the festival of Hola Mohalla and enjoy the daring feats of the display of fighting prowess and listen to melodious & soul-stirring kirtans, music & poetry. Participants generally camp out for a week at Sri Anandpur Sahib for the event.The event culminates with a grand military-like procession near Takht Sri Keshgarh Sahib, one of the five revered seats of Sikh authority.

A
anandpur sahib:
Anandpur Sahib, Punjab, India

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Etymology & History

The word Hola has been derived from 'halla' which means attack. Mohalla stands for an organized procession or an army column. Thus the literal meaning of Hola Mohalla is 'the charge of an army'. Guru Gobind Singh Ji, the revered tenth Sikh Guru founded the tradition of Hola Mohalla after establishing Khalsa Panth at Anandpur Sahib. Guru Gobind Singh Ji started the unique tradition of organizing a massive Sikh gathering where mock battles, poetry competitions and display of gatka, combat arts, horse riding and other fighting skills were organized at the Holagarh Fort. Hola Mohalla was started as an occasion for military drills and mock battles so that the army could be trained. Hola Mohalla was an occasion for the valorous Sikhs to demonstrate their fighting skills in mock battle situations. The first Hola Mohalla was organized by Guru Gobind Singh ji in 1701.

Popularity

The popularity of this festival may be judged from the fact that out of five Sikh public holidays requested by the Khalsa Diwan, of Lahore in 1889, the Government of India approved only two - Hola Mohalla and the birth anniversary of Guru Nanak. Hola Mohalla is presently the biggest Sikh festival held at Sri Anandpur Sahib.

Blessed, blessed is the Knower of the Lord, my True Guru, He has taught me to look upon friend and foe alike.

— Guru Gobind Singh

Details

Hola Mohalla is a gentle reminder of the courage and valour of the brave Sikhs who made supreme sacrifices during the Mughal regime to protect the Hindus from the atrocities of Aurangzeb. During the three days festival, the Nihangs carry on the ancient martial tradition by organizing mock battles, display of swordsmanship and horse riding. Daring feats like gatka (an ancient martial art), horse riding, sword fencing and archery are performed. Kirtans and religious discourses are held at the various gurudwaras (place of worship for Sikhs) at Sri Anandpur Sahib.

The highlight of the festival is the majestic procession on the concluding day of the festival. The procession is led by the Panj Pyaras. It starts from Takht Sri Keshgarh Sahib and passes through various historical gurudwaras like Qila Anandgarh, Mata Jitoji, Lohgarh Sahib etc. and finally ends at the Takht. The Nihangs are dressed in traditional attires and carry shining spears and swords. Nihangs are the members of the Khalsa army known for their distinctive blue traditional robes and dumala. They look royal and fierce as they gallop through the streets of Sri Anandpur Sahib on horsebacks. They are often prominent at the Hola Mahalla festival.

I have visited Sri Anandpur Sahib numerous times. This small, peaceful town is quite charged up during Hola Mohalla festivities. If you want to experience the Sikh heritage and culture then you must visit there during Hola Mohalla. Since thousands of devotees visit the place during Hola Mohalla,so it gets a bit crowded. If you live nearby like me, then you can plan a day trip or else you must plan your travel and stay in advance to avoid any inconvenience.

Langar

Langars or community kitchens for the visitors are organized by the local villagers for the people. The nearby villages come forward to help and donate food material for the langar. The local women volunteer to cook the food and clean the utensils while the men take the responsibility of serving the food and cleaning up the place. All the gurudwaras also serve langar on a grand scale for the people who have come to attend Holla Mohalla.

Langar is a unique feature of the Sikh religion and the food served is considered as the blessing of the guru. Eating and serving in langar is quite an humbling experience in itself.

A mobile app named 'Hola Mohalla Suvidha' has been developed by District Administration in collaboration with Smart IT Ventures for the facility of devotees visiting Kiratpur Sahib and Anandpur Sahib during Hola Mohalla. The app can be downloaded from Google Play Store.

Commitment to the Guru

Hola Mohalla is an occasion for the Sikhs to reaffirm their commitment to the lofty principles laid down by the Gurus. It serves as an occasion to reaffirm unity & brotherhood. Hola Mohalla has been accorded the status of a National Festival recently by the Indian Government. The popularity of Hola Mohalla has grown into leaps and bounds in the recent years with people from all over the world coming to Sri Anandpur Sahib to witness the grand festivities of Hola Mohalla. The locals welcome the visitors with open arms irrespective of caste, creed or religion.

Hola Mohalla

© 2018 Shaloo Walia

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    • swalia profile imageAUTHOR

      Shaloo Walia 

      3 months ago from India

      Thank you Rajan ji for your kind words of encouragement!!

    • rajan jolly profile image

      Rajan Singh Jolly 

      3 months ago from From Mumbai, presently in Jalandhar,INDIA.

      Shaloo what a beautifully laid out article with detailed, impeccable description of the Hola Mohalla festival. Thank you for sharing this wonderful article.

    • swalia profile imageAUTHOR

      Shaloo Walia 

      6 months ago from India

      Yes, Devika. This is a unique festival celebrating the rich Sikh heritage.

    • profile image

      DDE 

      6 months ago

      A different culture and such celebrations make it fun and happy. An experience that is educational and new.

    • swalia profile imageAUTHOR

      Shaloo Walia 

      6 months ago from India

      My pleasure!

    • manatita44 profile image

      manatita44 

      7 months ago from london

      Certainly quite colourful and a lot of fun. A day after Holi, eh?

      Well, Guru Gobind Singh was by all accounts a great soul. Thank you for sharing.

    • swalia profile imageAUTHOR

      Shaloo Walia 

      7 months ago from India

      @Bill Since Hola Mohalla is just around the corner, I thought it would be the perfect time to write about it. Thanks for reading!

    • swalia profile imageAUTHOR

      Shaloo Walia 

      7 months ago from India

      @Mary yeah, it is celebrated with great enthusiasm in Punjab. I am glad you enjoyed the hub.

    • billybuc profile image

      Bill Holland 

      7 months ago from Olympia, WA

      My education continues! Thank you!

    • aesta1 profile image

      Mary Norton 

      7 months ago from Ontario, Canada

      This is quite a celebration especially its significance. This is the first tie I've heard of this so I am glad to have known of it.

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