Hola Mohalla – a unique Sikh festival

The Sikh warriors way of celebrating Holi


Photo reportage

March 9, 2018

/ By and / New Delhi

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Hola Mohalla is a festival celebrated by Sikhs, held annually at Takhat Sri Keshgarh Sahib Gurdwara (Sikh place of worship) in Anandpur Sahib in north Indian state of Punjab. It is usually celebrated one day after the Hindu festival, Holi that celebrates the arrival of spring.

Hola Mohalla was created by the tenth Sikh Guru Gobind Singh in 1757 to appeal to the bravery and courage of his community as it struggled against the Mughal invaders. The Nihangs (members of the Sikh army founded by Guru Govind Singh) still perpetuates the martial tradition with demonstrations of fencing and horse riding.

The festival begins with the morning prayers in the gurdwaras. The Guru Granth Sahib (sacred book of Sikhs) was brought out ceremoniously and placed on the dais. The festival brings together all ages and everyone indulges in adventurous activities such as standing races on a motorcycle or on a horse or shooting contests. Sikhism is a monotheistic religion. There are nearly 27 million followers around the world. Sikhs are usually identified by the turban they wear. During Hola Mohalla, the Sikhs take part in the procession dressed in an electric blue suit and a saffron turban. The festival remains peaceful, however, the Nihangs (the warriors) exhibit impressive weapons.

During this three-day festival, simulated battles are organised during which the Nihangs perform demonstrations of Gatka (the Sikh martial art). Activities also include music and poetry competitions.

For people visiting Anandpur Sahib during the festival, langars (community canteens) are organised by local people. Raw materials such as wheat flour, rice, vegetables, milk and sugar are offered by villagers living nearby. Women and men volunteer to cook and others help clean the utensils. Traditional cuisine is served to all participants, who eat while sitting in rows, on the floor.



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