Hola Mohalla or Hola Mahalla or simply Hola is celebrated on the second day of the lunar month of Chett which usually one day after Hindu spring festival Holi. It is one of the biggest events for Sikhs all over the world and also marks the beginning of the Sikh New Year.
Hola is the masculine form while Holi is a feminine form. The word “HOLA” has been derived from halla meaning attack and hence Mohalla for the place of attack. Together the words “Hola Mohalla” stands for “mock fight”. Unlike Holi, when people playfully sprinkle colored powders, dry or mixed in water, on each other the Guru made Hola Mahalla an occasion for the Sikhs to demonstrate their martial skills in simulated battles.
Hola Mohalla is actually a fair held annually in Anandpur Sahib in Punjab which was initiated by Guru Gobind Singh, the tenth Sikh guru. It is a three day grand festival with mock fights and exhibition of weapons and the main purpose of the fair was to physically strengthen the Sikh community. There is a display of dare-devil acts like bareback horse-riding, standing erect on two speeding horses, Gatka (mock encounters), tent pegging, etc and followed by music and poetry.
Sikhs begin their Hola Mohalla celebrations with early morning prayers. At midday men and women of all castes and creeds gather to eat together at the guru ka langar (free community dining room) of the gurdwara (Sikh temple).
The festival was established in 1701 by the tenth guru, Gobind Singh, as a day for Sikhs to practice their military techniques. The Guru was in the midst of fighting both Aurangzeb of the Mughal Empire and the Hill Rajputs and had recently established the Khalsa Panth.
On February 22, 1701, Guru Gobind Singh started a new tradition by overseeing a day of mock battles and poetry contests at Holgarh Fort. Hola Mahalla became an annual event held in an open ground near Holgarh, a Fort across the rivulet Charan Ganga, northwest of Anandpur sahib. The tradition has since spread from the town of Anandpur Sahib to nearby Kiratpur Sahib and the foothills of the Shivaliks, and to other Gurdwaras around the world. Hola Mahalla is presently the biggest festival at Anandpur.
Celebration of Holla Mohalla
Colorful processions are organized on the occasion of Holla Mohalla, particularly in Anandpur Sahib and Muktsar (both in Indian Punjab). Sikhs, especially the Nihangs, dressed in their traditional martial costumes form part of the pageant.
Mock battles are also held followed by music, poetry and other competitions. The Nihang Singhs (members of the Sikh army founded by Guru Govind Singh) portray their skills with mock battles and displays of swordsmanship and horse riding. The Nihang Singhs also perform daring feats, such as Gatka (mock encounters), tent pegging, bareback horse-riding and standing erect on two speeding horses.
Special darbars are held where the pilgrims read the holy book, Guru Granth Sahib and various kirtan and religious lectures take place. On the last day a long procession, led by Panj Pyaras, starts from Takht Keshgarh Sahib, one of the five Sikh religious seats, and passes through various important gurdwaras like Qila Anandgarh, Lohgarh Sahib, Mata Jitoji and terminates at the Takht.
Langars (community kitchens) are organized by various Sewa (community services). People volunteer to cook and serve langar and cleaning utensils in all gurudwaras. Hola Mohalla brings out the most beautiful colors of India where locals get dressed in their traditional attires.
Happy Hola Mohalla!!