Hola Mohalla or Hola Mahalla or simply Hola is a Sikh festival that takes place on the first of the lunar month of Chet which usually falls inMarch. This, by a tradition established by Guru Gobind Singh, follows the Hindu festival of Holi by one day; Hola is the masculine form of the feminine sounding Holi.
The word “Mohalla” is derived from the Arabic root hal (alighting, descending) and is a Punjabi word that implies an organized procession in the form of an army column. But unlike Holi, when people playfully sprinkle colored powder, dry or mixed in water, on each other, the Guru made Hola Mohalla an occasion for the Sikhs to demonstrate their martial skills in simulated battles.
Together the words “Hola Mohalla” stands for “mock fight”. During this festival, processions are organised in the form of army type columns accompanied by war-drums and standard-bearers and proceeding to a given spot or moving in state from one gurdwara to another. The custom originated in the time of Guru Gobind Singh who held the first such mock fight event at Anandpur in February 1701.
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Kesgarh Sahib Anadpur Sahib Photo By Manjot Singh
Holla Mohalla festival, Photo:Reuters/Kamal Kishore
Panj Pyara leading a march (Photo:www.bbc.co.uk)
Panj Pyara leading a march (Photo:www.bbc.co.uk
The foothills of the Shivaliks in Ropar district of Punjab‘s north-eastern region, especially around the historic townships of Anandpur Sahib andKiratpur Sahib, have, since 1701 been playing host to Hola Mohalla. Recently, the Indian government accorded it the status of a national festival. The military exercise, which was personally supervised by the guru, was carried out on the bed of the River Charan Ganga with the famous Hindu temple of Mata Naina Devi in the Shivaliks as the backdrop.
This annual festival held at Anandpur Sahib in Punjab and now replicated at other Gurdwaras worldwide was started by the tenth Sikh Guru, as a gathering of Sikhs for military exercises and mock battles on the day following the festival of Holi at Anandpur Sahib. It reminds the people of valour and defence preparedness, concepts dear to the Tenth Guru who was at that time defending the Sikhs from the attacks of the Mughal empire and the hill kings.
3 days of celebrations
On this three-day grand festival, mock battles, exhibitions, display of weapons, etc., are held followed by kirtan, music and poetry competitions. The participants perform daring feats, such as Gatka (mock encounters with real weapons), tent pegging, bareback horse-riding, standing erect on two speeding horses and various other feats of bravery.
There are also a number of Darbars where the Sri Guru Granth Sahib is present and kirtan and religious lectures take place. On the last day a long procession, led by Panj Pyaras, starts from Takhat 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 Takhat (Keshgarh).
For people visiting Anandpur Sahib, langars (voluntary community kitchens) are organized by the local people as a part of sewa (community service). Raw materials like wheat flour, rice, vegetables, milk and sugar are provided by the villagers living nearby. Women volunteer to cook and others take part in cleaning utensils and other manual tasks that need to be carried out. Traditional cuisine is served to the pilgrims who eat while sitting in rows on the ground. (Pangat)
The Festival of Hola Mahalla
(Based on an article by M S. Ahluwalia)
An enlightened person has no identification. Their values are universal and in tune with the timeless state of existence. This timeless state of existence can be given any name like Akal Purukh, God, Raam, Rahim, Hari, Parmaatma etc. But these names point to the same ultimate truth. It is useless to worship any name unless it becomes your own experience.
In our own times, developing countries like India have brought tourism into the forefront, owing to the twin advantages of employment generation and capacity to earn foreign exchange. Recent studies, however, have also pointed out the negative effects such as the cultural erosion (of ones own identity), materialism, increase in crime, social conflicts, overcrowding (of the tourists?) and environmental deterioration, which have not only proved counter productive in some cases but have also led to strong opposition, especially in the case of the sexual based-tourism as has developed in Tailand and other under-developed countries, including even India (which involves profit seeking adults enslaving the young and innocent children of many ‘third world countries”. The only remedial measures to this is the strict adherence to the development of community/religious tourism and its allied branches.
In this brief paper an attempt is made to study the prospects and impact of community/religious tourism and its potential to develop and prosper. The case study is related to the Sikh community’s celebrations of Hola Mahalla at Anandpur Sahib (the birth-place of the Khalsa in 1699) in Punjab, an event that coincides with the Indian festival of Holi celebrated all over North India. This study concludes that community oriented tourism, such as ones similar to Hola Mahalla, can bring economic benefits while promoting partnership with others even as we protect the unique Sikh cultural heritage. The paper briefly discusses the history of Hola Mahalla festival, which has been declared a State festival by the Government of Punjab. It also analyses the importance of community tourism and its impact on economic and socio-cultural environment vis-a vis the host community and tourism development.
Street in Anandpur during festivities
Street in Anandpur during festivities
Hola Mahalla or simply Hola is a Sikh festival, which takes place on the first of the lunar month of Chet, which usually falls in March. This follows the Hindu festival of Holi; Hola is the masculine form of the feminine noun Holi. Mahalia, derived from the Arabic root hal (alighting, descending), 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 Gurdwara to another.
This custom originated in the time of Guru Gobind Singh (1666-1708) who held the first march at Anandpur on Chet vadi 1, 1757 Bk (22nd February, 1701). 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. This was probably done forestalling a grimmer struggle against the imperial power following the battle of Ninnohgarh in 1700. Holla 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 – Holla Mahalla and the birth anniversary of Guru Nanak. Hola Mahalla is presently the biggest festival at Anandpur. It will be appropriate here to discuss briefly the town and the participants of this festival.