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Upcoming Festival

Hola Mohalla, Anandpur Sahib
13 – 16 March 2017

Boley..So Nihaal…..Sat Sri Akaal!!! Reverberates in the air as you witness swords flashing, deafening drum beats and war cry - enough to send a chill down the spine of any onlooker, or a bystander during this festival, which is much too prominent in the Sikh calendar. With a different connotation and significance in Punjab, Hola Mohalla or simply Hola is a Sikh festival that initiates on the first day of the lunar month of Chet in the Nanakshahi calendar. This mostly falls in the month of March, and sometimes coincides with the Sikh New Year.

The tenth Sikh guru, Guru Gobind Singh felt that the festival of Holi, had lost its original meaning over the years. In 1757 AD he decided to revive the spirit of Holi festival and weave its essence into a festival created in the Khalsa tradition. HolaMohalla is thence celebrated a day after Holi.

Hola as the name suggests phonetically is the masculine form of the feminine sounding Holi, lasts for almost a week, wherein participants from across Punjab come and display their much acclaimed fighting prowess and valour, which is synonymous with the Sikh community, duly testified in the pages of History. The word "Mohalla" is a consequent of an Arabic word hal (descending), and is a Punjabi word that denotes an organized procession in a regimented form. Clubbed together,"HolaMohalla" means "mock fight". Unlike Holi, where people gleefully smear each other with colored powder, dry or mixed in water, the tenth Guru defined HolaMohalla as an occasion for the Sikhs to demonstrate their martial art skills in simulated battles. The Sikhs, as we all know are an extension of the Hindu community, specially engendered as trained fighters in past, for protecting the community at large against any form of attack or attempt of invasion from foreign land.

The festival allows you to witness a series of war processions, which are organized in the form of army type columns accompanied by war-drums and standard-bearers, before proceeding to a given spot or moving in state from one Gurudwara to another. This military custom originated during the time of Guru Gobind Singh, who held the first such mock fight event at Anandpur Sahib in February 1701. It was there that on the first day of Chet (a month on the lunar calendar used widely in India) in 1701 AD, which Guru Gobind Singh presided over a gathering of Sikhs and declared that henceforth the HolaMohalla (sometimes spelt Mahalla) would be celebrated by the Sikhs as a day of fun and games.

This was a new tradition, where two groups of Sikhs acted as opposing parties in a mock battle. The winners were bestowed blessings by the Guru himself, who would also oversee the military exercises and festivities.

Early morning prayers at the Gurudwaras initiate the festival. The Guru Grantha Sahib (the Divine Holy Book) is brought out with ceremony and placed on the dais. It is given a symbolic bath with milk and water. Akhandpaaths, Kaarseva, Shabads and Kirtans are performed, followed by the much awaited Karah Prasad being distributed to the gathering, after it has been sanctified by the guru.

This culturally rich and famous festival of Punjab offers its visitors, a plethora of events which include the martial arts of the Nihang Sikhs (members of the Sikh army that was founded by Guru Govind Singh), rich and divine Indian sufi music, not to forget the incomparable and flawless poetry to soothe the senses and transform anyone to a mystical and a divine level. There are number of durbars where Sri Guru Granth Sahib is present to bless the seeking public, amidst the mesmerising Kirtans sung by Raagis. These Kirtans are purely based on Hindustani Classical music, thus allowing the visitors to get the opportunity to hear the finest spiritual form of music, in addition to religious discourses provided by the seniors and spiritually acclaimed members of the Sikh community.

Brandishing their gleaming scimitars and sabres, long spears, distinct conical turbans, these Nihangs present a fierce picture as they gallop past you on horseback spraying colors of unity on everybody. This is a sight truly worth experiencing. It reminds the people of valour and defence preparedness, concepts dear to the Tenth Guru who was at that time battling the Mughal Empire. On this three-day festival mock battles are held, followed by music and poetry competitions. The Nihangs carry on the martial tradition with mock battles, displaying swordsmanship and horse riding. They perform daring feats, such as Gatka (mock encounters), tent pegging, bareback horse-riding and standing erect on two speeding horses much to the awe of the audience left gaping wide.

The final day witnesses a long procession, led by PanjPyaras, which commences from Takth Sri Keshgarh Sahib, one of the five Sikh religious seats, and passes through various significant and pertinent gurudwaras like the historic GurudwaraQilaAnandgarh Sahib, Lohgarh Sahib, and Mata Jitoji before finally concluding at the start point, Takth Sri Keshgarh Sahib. This is followed by narration of stories in prose and verse form, related to the bravery of Guru Govind Singh. Tribute is also accorded to Guru HarGobind, who led his army to free 52 captive kings from the Gwalior jail in 1612 AD.

HollaMohalla is thus celebrated to reaffirm fraternity and brotherhood, in congruence with "valour and defence preparedness", concepts very dear to the tenth guru of the Sikhs. It can be rightfully interpreted as an extremely important moment of occasion for the Sikhs, who reaffirm and pledge their commitment to the Khalsa Panth.

Anandpur Sahib, which hosts this festival, was founded in 1665 by the ninth guru GuruTegBahadur, and is a city in Rupnagar or Ropar district of Punjab. This city, also known as the "Holy city of Bliss" is one of the most important and sacred city for the Sikhs, as it has nuptial ties with history and the traditions of this gallant community. Located on the banks of river Sutlej, Anandpur Sahib is famous for the iconic GurudwaraTakht Sri Keshgarh Sahib where pilgrims flock from far and wide, especially during this festival. Anandpur Sahib has a variety of good hotels and luxury tented accommodation to offer its visitors and guests.