Holla Mohalla Hola is derived from the word halla (a military charge) and the term mohalla stands for an organised procession or an army column. The words ‘Hola Mohalla’ would thus stand for; ‘The charge of an army.’
Hola Mahalla begins on the first day of the lunar month of Chet in the Nanakshahi calendar. It most often falls in March, and sometimes coincides with the Sikh New Year. The event lasts for a week, and consists of camping out and enjoying various displays of fighting prowess and bravery, followed by kirtan, music, and poetry. This three-day festival ends with a procession, led by Panj Pyarae (Five beloveds), which starts from Takth Keshgarh Sahib (Holy Shrine at Sri Anandpur Sahib) and returns to its original location after marching past various Gurdwaras.
The event was originated by Guru Gobind Singh Ji, the tenth Sikh Guru. The Guru was in the midst of fighting both Aurangzeb of the Mughal Empire and the Hill Rajputs, and had recently established the Khalsa Panth. On February 22, 1701, Guru Gobind Singh started a new tradition by overseeing a day of mock battles and poetry contests at Holgarh Fort. 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 tradition 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. Hola Mahalla is presently the biggest festival at Anandpur.
Thousands flock to the holy city of Anandpur Sahib to celebrate the Sikh way of life which comprises meditation, contemplation and fitness. This rejuvenates the ‘Saint and Soldier’ belief and strengthens allegiance towards upholding truth and justice to protect dignity and freedom.
Anandpur (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. Being one of the supremely important historical centres of the Sikhs it has been reverently called Anandpur Sahib. It was here at Anandpur that on Baisakhi of 1699, Guru Gobind Singh Ji 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 World’s greatest Martyrs; Guru Tegh Bahadur Ji (the 9th Guru) who laid down their life in the defence of the Hindus on behalf of the Pandits of Kashmir.
The order of the Khalsa, at the wish of Guru Gobind Singh’s would henceforth be distinguished by five symbols (a uniform of 5Ks) so that they could easily be recognised 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.
The Nihang Singh, part of the Khalsa Panth are unique among Sikh orders for being militaristic in nature and for the distinctive rich blue of their traditional robes and large turbans, which are often embellished. Today, these warriors of the past are prominent figures at Hola Mahalla: they carry traditional weapons and modern fire-arms as well, and “are skilled at tent-pegging, sword wielding, jousting and other war-like sports.” They are also proficient at horseback-riding stunts and archery.
Holla Mohalla symbolises Sikh ideology and does not merely commemorate a past event. It reminds Sikhs to display valour and chivalry. This Sikh festival symbolises a Sikh’s commitment towards universal brotherhood and fight for justice.
The event is being marked by Khalsa Foundation on Saturday 4th March at 5.30pm at Khalsa Primary School in Slough.