Hola Mohalla - Sikh Festival of Brotherhood and Bravery
Hola Mohalla is a famous and colourful 3-day Sikh festival celebrated during spring. It takes place on the second day of the lunar month of Chett which is the first month of the Nanakshahi calendar used by Sikhs. This procession takes place in Takht Sri Keshgarh Sahib in Anandpur, the Rupnagar district of Punjab, which is one of the 5 Sikh takhts holding special historical significance. It is home to the birth of Khalsa Panth and has real artefacts from those days.
While Hola means the charge of an army, Mohalla means an organised procession. Initiated by the tenth Guru of Sikhs, Guru Gobind Singh Ji, Hola Mohalla is the gathering of Sikhs to exhibit their martial arts, swordsmanship and horse-riding skills, the expertise of which was with Guru Gobind Singh Ji himself, for he was known to be a great fighter and leader of the Sikhs against Aurangzeb and the Mughals dynasty. He also fought against the Hill Rajputs, protecting the poor and helpless. It was he who felt that Holi had lost its meaning of brotherhood and coming together in the community, so he started the festival of Hola Mohalla, making it a similar celebration, but honouring the Khalsa custom.
Hola Mohalla has, thus, been known to mean fun and a jubilant procession of people, with people playing Gatka, a form of martial arts, enjoying the plethora of food which is served at various food stalls, and listening to soothing hymns, reciting the name of God.
Date of Hola Mohalla
It usually falls on the second day of the lunar month of Chett which is the first month of the Nanakshahi calendar used by Sikhs. Hola Mohalla is celebrated a day after the Hindu festival of Holi, but at times it takes place on the same day as Holi.
In 2019, it was held on March 21, which was the day Holi was celebrated.
Hola Mohalla Venue This procession takes place in Takht Sri Keshgarh Sahib in Anandpur, the Rupnagar district of Punjab, which is one of the 5 Sikh takhts holding special historical significance. It is home to the birth of Khalsa Panth and has real artefacts from those days.
How is Hola Mohalla Celebrated
1. The festival commences with early morning prayers. The Guru Granth Sahib Ji, the last and the only Guru that the Sikhs worship now, is given a holy bath with milk and water before keeping it at the podium and reading it.
2. Akhand Path, a continuous reading of Guru Granth Sahib Ji, takes place. It is an uninterrupted affair with people usually taking turns to complete the reading.
3. A number of celebrations take place simultaneously. The festival is also celebrated in other parts of India and around the world where there are proper Sikh communities. They gather, serving and enjoying delicious food, listening to Guru’s sermons and reciting the lives of all the Sikh Gurus. While there is community langar being served for everyone at one place, there are a number of stalls serving food to the visitors. Karha prasad is also served.
4. People from nearby villages donate raw materials like flour, sugar, wheat, etc. for preparation of the food.
5. All these services are provided by people free of any cost, of their own accord, as volunteers. People from all faiths and religions are welcome to do Seva, and the doors to the Gurdwara are open to everyone.
6. Unlike Holi, people don’t play with colours to celebrate Hola Mohalla. Instead, Nihang Jatthas, or Warrior Groups of Sikhs, come here to display their amazing and impressive martial arts skills. The martial arts skills are portrayed by various individuals and groups of people throughout the procession. In the evening, the main attractions happen in an open ground with thousands of spectators. Mock duels and fights take place.
7. The most anticipated and jaw-dropping stunts are with individuals riding astride not 1, not 2, but 3 or 4 horses. It is a sight to behold. The command and mastery on the horses is commendable.
8. Poetry competitions are also held, where people sing soulful hymns and enrapture the crowd with their voice and skills on the tabla, harmonium or any such instrument.
Delicacies During Hola Mohalla
The entire town of Anandpur is lit with merry smiles and heartfelt gratitude towards everyone. There is service of all kinds of vegetarian food from various stalls, and drinks such as Roohafza milk, buttermilk, juices, etc. People from far off places flock to the city to be a part of this celebration. The community food service of langar is also served to everyone.
History of Hola Mohalla
The festival was founded by the 10th Sikh Guru, Guru Gobind Singh Ji. In 1699, on the day of Vaisakhi (or Baisakhi), the annual harvest festival of Sikhs which is celebrated in Punjab, Guru Ji asked the Sikhs to gather in Anandpur Sahib where he appointed the Panj Pyaras, the Beloved Five. In 1701, Guru Ji felt that the Hindu festival of Holi has been losing its meaning over the years, and so he instituted Hola Mohalla, a festival for people to come together, rejoice and marvel at the talent and bravery of Nihang Jatthas, or Warrior Sikh Groups, and other individuals, who celebrate the legacy of the Guru himself.
The experience of visiting Anandpur during Hola Mohalla is an extremely enriching one. If you are a visitor to this place during that time, you will feel a high level of camaraderie with and amongst the people here as every volunteer would want to serve you and stuff your belly with delicious and mouth-watering food. The performances are world class and will leave you awed at their precision, technique and valour.
It is a time for Sikhs around the world to come together an celebrate their faith and the sacrifices of their brave warrior Guru, Guru Gobind Singh Ji. Sikhs are an inclusive community, with most of their Gurdwaras having 4 entries from all sides, representing how they are open to all people, regardless of their caste, colour or creed. It is celebrated by other communities as well, with people being selfless and doing Seva, enjoying the congregation of different faiths amongst the positive and infectious spirit of everyone.