Hola Mohalla : Celebrating Valour
Hola Mohalla is an annual Sikh festival which is celebrated on the day after Holi. It is an annual fair which is held for three days at Anandpur Sahib in Punjab, India. People from far off places come to Anandpur Sahib to attend Hola Mohalla and enjoy the daring feats of fighting prowess and listen to melodious kirtans, music & poetry. The event concludes with a majestic military-like procession near Takht Sri Keshgarh Sahib which is one of the five revered seats of Sikh authority.
The word Hola has been derived from 'halla' which means attack. Mohalla stand for an organized procession or an army column. Thus Hola Mohalla literally means 'the charge of an army'. Guru Gobind Singh Ji, the tenth Sikh Guru founded the tradition of Hola Mohalla. After establishing Khalsa Panth, Guru Gobind Singh Ji started the tradition of a massive Sikh gathering where mock battles, poetry contests and display of gatka, horse riding and other fighting skills were organized at Holagarh Fort. Guru Gobind Singh Ji started Hola Mohalla as an occasion for military drills and mock battles to train the army. Hola Mohalla was an occasion for Sikhs to to demonstrate their fighting skills in mock battles. Guru Gobind Singh organized the first Hola Mohalla in 1701.
Hola Mohalla is a reminder of courage and valour of the Sikhs who made supreme sacrifices during the Mughal regime. During the three days festival, the nihangs carry on the martial tradition with organizing mock battles, swordsmanship and horse riding. Daring feats like gatka, horse riding, sword fencing, archery are performed. Kirtans and religious lectures are held at the various gurudwaras at Anandpur Sahib. The highlight of the festival is the grand procession on the last day of the festival which is led by the Panj Pyaras starting from Takht Sri Keshgarh Sahib and passing through various historical gurudwaras like Qila Anandgarh, Mata Jitoji, Lohgarh Sahib etc. and finally ending at the Takht. The Nihangs dressed in traditional attires and carrying shining spears and swords look fierce as they gallop through the streets on horsebacks.
Langars or community kitchens are organized by local villagers for the people who have come to attend Hola Mohalla from various places. The nearby villages come forward to donate food material for the langar and the local women volunteer to cook and clean the utensils while the men take the responsibility of serving the food and cleaning the place. All the gurudwaras also serve langar on a grand scale.
Hola Mohalla serves as an occasion for the Sikhs to reaffirm their commitment to the principles laid down by the Gurus. It is an occasion to reaffirm unity and brotherhood. Hola Mohalla has been accorded the status of a National Festival recently by the Indian Government. Today the popularity of Hola Mohalla has grown into leaps and bounds. People from all over the world come to Anandpur Sahib to witness the festivities of Hola Mohalla and the locals welcome the visitors with open arms irrespective of caste, creed or religion.
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