Holla Mohala
Still From Hola Mohalla.jpg
The Khalsa celebrating the Sikh festival Hola Mohalla or simply Hola.
Also calledHola
Observed bySikhs
TypeSikhism
CelebrationsThree-day[1] fair at Anandpur Sahib ending on Hola Mohalla day.(Usually March) Martial arts.
DateSecond day of lunar month of Chet
FrequencyAnnual

Hola Mohalla, also called Hola, is a three day long Sikh festival which normally falls in March[2][3] and takes place on the second day of the lunar month of Chett, a day after the Hindu spring festival Holi[4] but sometimes coincides with Holi.[5] Hola Mohalla is a big festive event for Sikhs around the world.

The fair held during Holi and Hola at Anandpur Sahib is traditionally a three-day event but participants attend Anandpur Sahib for a week, camping out and enjoying various displays of fighting prowess and bravery, and listening to kirtan, music and poetry.[6] For meals, which is an integral part of the Sikh institution (Gurdwara), visitors sit together in Pangats (Queues) and eat vegetarian food of the Langars.[7] The event concludes on the day of Hola Mohalla with a long, "military-style" procession near Takht Sri Keshgarh Sahib, one of the five seats of temporal authority of the Sikhs.[8]

Etymology[edit]

A young practitioner with chakari

Bhai Kahan Singh, who compiled the Mahan Kosh (the first Sikh encyclopedia) at the turn of the 20th century, explained, "Hola is derived from the word halla (a military charge) and the term mohalla stands for an organized procession or an army column. The words 'Hola Mohalla' would thus mean 'the charge of an army.' "[7] Dr. M.S. Ahluwalia notes that the related Punjabi term mahalia (which was derived from the root hal, meaning to alight or descend) refers to "an organized procession in the form of an army column accompanied by war drums and standard-bearers, and proceeding to a given location or moving in state from one to another."[2]

Hola is a Sanskrit word meant to be distinguished from Holi,[2] the Hindu spring festival of colors (Holi) which takes place the day before Hola Mohalla.[9]

History[edit]

Hola Mohalla festival and sports, Anandpur Sahib Punjab India

Hola Mohalla builds upon the Spring festival of Holi. The Guru Granth contains passages prescribing the celebration of Holi by serving God.[10] The colours of Holi manifest in the Lord's love.[note 1] As Holi starts with Holika Dahan on the full moon night of Phagan or Phalgan, the festival of Holi is referred to as the festival of Phalgun even though the actual day of Holi falls on the first day of the lunar month of Chett. Sri Guru Gobind Singh Ji built upon this method of celebrating Holi by adding a martial element and creating Hola Mohalla to be celebrated a day after Holi.

The festival also has roots in the story of the child bhagat, Prahlad who would not accept his father, Harnakash, as god. According to Gandhi (2007), "in order to please her brother, Holka planned to burn Prahlad. She took him in her lap, sat in the midst of a heap of easily combustible straw".[12] Holka thought she would be protected by a cloth but it was Prahald who survived and Holka perished in the fire. The event gave rise to the belief that good triumphed over evil. Harnaksh, the King of Multan,[13] was defeated by good in the form of Prahlad. According to Lorenzen(1996), the story of Prahlad was popular with the early Sikhs. The Guru Granth contains verses reciting Prahald by the saints Namdev and Kabir, and also by the third Guru Amar Das.[14]

Customs[edit]

Guru Gobind Singh, the tenth Sikh Guru built upon the story of Prahlad and founded the festival of Hola Mohalla. According to Thompson (2000), Guru Gobind Singh established Hola Mohalla in 1680.[15] Similarly, Cole (1994) states that Guru Gobind Singh summoned his followers to attend Anandpur on Holi when he introduced a new rally in 1680 to coincide with Holi where his followers could practice manoeuvres and combat training.[16] However, Guru Gobind Singh organised the first procession accompanied by drums in Anandpur on 22 February 1701 A.D.[17] The new tradition of overseeing mock battles and poetry contests at Lohgarh Fort[2][7] 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.[8] According to Singh (2018), "during the celebrations of Hola Mohalla a sword is most in demand at Nanded, since each participant in the procession (jaloos) must have it in his hand".[18]

Colours[edit]

According to Guru Gobind Singh's court poet Bhai Nand Lal, colours were thrown by the participants after completion of the mock battles: rose water, amber, musk and saffron-coloured water was used.[19] Sikh tradition holds that Guru Gobind Singh also participated in the colourful festival[20][21] with the use of gulal[22] which has survived into modern times with Nihangs "splashing gulal (red farinaceous powder) on each other and the audience".[23] The alternative view is that the practice of throwing colours was not observed by Guru Gobind Singh.[24]

Details[edit]

Hola Mahalla is a Sikh event which takes place on the second day of the lunar month of Chet, which usually falls in March.

Mahalia, is a Punjabi word that implies an organized procession in the form of an army column accompanied by war drums and standard-bearers, and proceeding to a given location or moving in state from one place to another.

Holi, when people playfully sprinkle colored powders, dry or mixed in water, on each other[25] on the first day of Chet was given a new dimension by establishing Hola to be celebrated a day after. However, Guru Gobind Singh (1666–1708) held the first march at Anandpur on Chet vadi 1, 1757 Bk (22 February 1701) and therefore festivities start before the second of Chet. In Anandpur Sahib, the festival lasts for three days.[1]

The Guru made Hola Mahalla an occasion for the Sikhs to demonstrate their martial skills in simulated battles. This was probably done to forestall a grimmer struggle against the imperial power and channeling people's energy into a more useful activity. 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 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 approved only two - Hola Mahalla and the birth anniversary of Guru Nanak. Hola Mahalla is presently the biggest festival at Anandpur.

Anandpur Sahib[edit]

Anandpur Sahib (lit. City of Bliss) is situated on one of the lower spurs of the Shiwalik Hills in Ropar District of Punjab and is well connected with the rest of the country both by road and rail. It lies 31 km north of Rupnagar (Ropar) and 29 km south of Nangal Township. Being one of the supremely important historical centers of the Sikhs it has been reverently called Anandpur Sahib. It was here at Anandpur that on Baisakhi of 1699, Guru Gobind Singh inaugurated the Khalsa and the Panj Piare (the five beloved ones); hence inaugurating the order of Saint-Soldiers who pledged their dedication to defend the needy, poor and oppressed and their respective social, economic and political rights. This was a tradition of one of the world's greatest martyrs Guru Tegh Bahadur (the 9th Guru) who laid down his life in the defense of the Hindus on behalf of the Pandits of Kashmir.[26]

The order of the Khalsa, at the wish of Guru Gobind Singh's would henceforth be distinguished by five symbols (a uniform of 5Ks), viz. Kes (uncut hair), Kangha (comb), Kacherra (drawers), Kara (an all-steel bracelet) and Kirpan (a sword) so that they could easily be recognized by anyone under attack. Sikhs were further instructed to live to the highest ethical standards, and to be always ready to fight tyranny and injustice.[27]

Nihang Singhs[edit]

A group of Nihang Singhs
Sikhs gathered at Hola Mohalla Holi festival in Anandpur Sahib


The Nihang are the members of the khalsa army known for their distinctive blue traditional robes and dumala, which are often embellished.[7] They are prominent at the Hola Mahalla festival.[28]

Notes[edit]

  1. ^ The celebration is described as follows:[11]

    One Universal Creator God. By The Grace Of The True Guru: I serve the Guru, and humbly bow to Him.
    Today I am in supreme bliss.
    My anxiety is dispelled, and I have met the Lord of the Universe.
    Today, it is springtime in my household.
    I sing Your Glorious Praises, O Infinite Lord God.
    Today, I am celebrating the festival of Phalgun.
    Joining with God's companions, I have begun to play.
    I celebrate the festival of Holi by serving the Saints (Lord).
    I am imbued with the deep crimson colour of the Lord's Divine Love.
    My mind and body have blossomed forth, in utter, incomparable beauty.
    They do not dry out in either sunshine or shade; they flourish in all seasons.
    It is always springtime, when I meet with the Divine Guru.
    The wish-fulfilling Elysian Tree has sprouted and grown.
    It bears flowers and fruits, jewels of all sorts.
    I am satisfied and fulfilled, singing the Glorious Praises of the Lord.
    Servant Nanak meditates on the Lord, Har, Har, Har (God).

References[edit]

  1. ^ a b "Hola Mohalla". Society for the Confluence of Festivals in India. Retrieved 6 April 2018.
  2. ^ a b c d Ahluwalia, M.S. (November 2004). "Tourism: The Festival of Hola Mohalla". SikhSpectrum.com Quarterly (18). Archived from the original on 17 May 2008. Retrieved 14 September 2008.
  3. ^ Amolak Singh. "Sikh Calendar". SikhWorld.co.uk. Retrieved 17 September 2008.
  4. ^ Yang, Ananad. A. (1998) Bazaar India: Markets, Society, and the Colonial State in Gangetic Biharr University of California Press [1]
  5. ^ Fieldhouse, Paul (2017) Food, Feasts, and Faith: An Encyclopedia of Food Culture in World Religions [2 volumes]. ABC-CLIO [2]
  6. ^ Amolak Singh. "Sikh Ceremonies". SikhWorld.co.uk. Retrieved 17 September 2008.
  7. ^ a b c d "The Hola Mohalla Festival". SikhChic.com. March 2007. Retrieved 17 September 2008.
  8. ^ a b T. Singh (15 August 2008). "Celebrating Holi". Reflections On Gurbani. Retrieved 17 September 2008.
  9. ^ "Hola Mahalla". BBC Religion & Ethics. British Broadcasting Corporation. 28 August 2002. Retrieved 14 September 2008.
  10. ^ Talib, Gurbachan Singh (1991) Sri Guru Granth Sahib in English Translation, Volume 4. Punjabi University [3]
  11. ^ Sri Guru Granth Sahib Ji
  12. ^ Gandhi, Surjit Singh (2007) History of Sikh Gurus Retold: 1606-1708 C.E. Atlantic Publishers & Dist[4]
  13. ^ M. Hanif Raza (1988) Multan: Past & Present. Colorpix[5]
  14. ^ Lorenzen, David N. (1996) Praises to a Formless God: Nirguni Texts from North India. Suny Press [6]
  15. ^ Thompson, Sue Ellen (2000) Holiday Symbols. Omnigraphics [7]
  16. ^ Cole, William Owen (1994) Sikhism. NTC Publishing. [8]
  17. ^ Singh, Barinder Pal (2018) Sikhs in the Deccan and North-East India. Taylor and Francis [9]
  18. ^ Singh, Barinder Pal (2018) Sikhs in the Deccan and North-East India. Taylor and Francis [10]
  19. ^ Gandhi, Surjit Singh (2004) A Historian's Approach to Guru Gobind Singh. Singh bros [11]
  20. ^ Fenech, Louise.E> (2013)The Sikh Zafar-namah of Guru Gobind Singh: A Discursive Blade in the Heart of the Mughal Empire. OUP USA [12]
  21. ^ The Sikh Review, Volumes 16-17 (1968)
  22. ^ Gandhi, Surjit Singh (2007) History of Sikh Gurus Retold: 1606-1708 C.E. Atlantic Publishers [13]
  23. ^ Census of India, 1961: Punjab
  24. ^ Punjab district gazetteers, Volume 9 (1987)
  25. ^ Arnej, Simran Kaur.Ik Onkar One God
  26. ^ "Religions - Sikhism: Guru Tegh Bahadur". BBC. Retrieved 20 October 2016.
  27. ^ Davinder Singh. "Hola Mohalla Anandpur sahib Celebration". Archived from the original on 19 February 2015. Retrieved 12 February 2015.
  28. ^ Neena Chaudhry. "Festival of war". Singh Sabha of NY. Archived from the original on 12 April 2009. Retrieved 20 May 2009.