Holla Mahalla: A Colourful Festival of the Sikhs

Dr Amrit Kaur | Holla Mahalla: A Colourful Festival of the Sikhs | February 24, 2018 06:07 PM
Nihangs showing their horse ridding expertise at Anandpur Sahib on Holla Mohall (file pic)
Dr Amrit Kaur

                    Holla Mahalla, which is sometimes termed as ‘Holla’ is a Sikh festival, which usually falls on 1 vadi (the day after the full moon day) of the Lunar month of chet, the first desi month in the lunar calendar. However, this year it is falling in the month of Phaggan  the last desi month in the lunar calender. This   festival usually   falls in March on the day After Holi, which is a Hindu festival. This year i,e in 2018 Holla Mahalla is being celebrated on March 2.

      After its introduction in 1701, Holla Mahalla became an annual feature at Anandpur Sahib, which is held in the open space near Logarh Fort, which is northwest of the town of Anandpur Sahib. 

                    The genesis of Mahalla can be traced back to the time of the Tenth Guru of the Sikhs, Sri Guru Gobind Singh ji (1666-1708) who organized a kind of march at Sri Anandpur Sahib, which now  falls in Ropar District of Punjab. This march was organized by the Tenth Guru Shaib on Chet vadi 1, 1757 birkrami i.e. 22 February 1701, two years after the creation of the Khalsa at Sri Anandpur Sahib. On April 14, 1699 Sri Guru Gobind Singh ji gave birth to Khalsa by administering   Khande de pahul(nectar) and created a community similar to him in appearance. The five devoted Sikhs, Bhai Daya Ram ji, Bhai Dharam Das ji, Bhai Muhkam Chand ji,  Bhai Himmat  ji and Bhai Sahib Chand ji who were revived to life after being tested for their steadfastness in upholding righteousness, were dressed up in apparel similar to the one Guru Sahib himself was wearing. This was neela bana i.e. blue apparel, a loose shirt hanging like a skirt below the knees and a blue turban. In creating Khalsa by administering amrit(nectar) Guru Sahib directed each member to always have five marks of distinction—hair like ascetics as a sign of dedication, steel bracelet to denote universality of God, a comb to keep the hair clean, underwear to denote chastity and sword for defending the oppressed. The Tenth Guru declared that ‘Khalsa has been coined in my shape and I reside in the Khalsa. Khalsa is the army of God and has emerged because of God’s will.’ In his bani Guru Sahib has stated that he loves the rahit (means the five symbols) and not the Sikh himself.  But as time passed only Nihangs continued to wear blue robes and a blue turban similar to that worn by Guru Sahib. 

Nihang singhDisplaying their Tent-pegging feat

The Tenth Guru initiated the celebration of Holla Mahalla to enable the Sikhs to demonstrate their martial skills such as brandishing swords, gatka, tir andazi (bow and arrow)and neza bazi in which while riding a horse in full speed the horse rider pulls out with his spear and carries away an object pitched into the ground. The festival was started soon after the battle of Nirmohgah, situated on top of a low hill, 4 km south of Kiratpur Sahib which falls in District Roper of Punjab which took place in October 1700 between the surrounding hill chiefs and the Sikh soldiers. Guru Sahib’s idea was perhaps to prepare the Sikhs for more fierce battles, which were awaiting ahead. 

                   After its introduction in 1701, Holla Mahalla became an annual feature at Anandpur Sahib, which is held in the open space near Logarh Fort, which is northwest of the town of Anandpur Sahib. 

                   With the passage of time and emergence of sophisticated weapons the significance of the military skills displayed during the time of Guru Sahib has lessened. However, the Nihangs in their traditional panoply have continued to march in the form of a procession and display these skills. Every year, Nihangs from places far and near assemble at Anandpur sahib to participate in the celebrations of Holla Mahalla. Every year about 10 lakh Sikh pilgrims, both urban and rural, come to Anandpur Sahib on the day of Holla Mahalla to pay their obeisance at Takht Sri Kesgarh Sahib and to view  the procession and display of martial skills of the Nihangs. As far  back as 2004 in preparing this baptismal water 10 quintals of patasas were used. And every year this amount of patasas has been increasing.         

                      In 2016, an additional highlight of the Holla Mahalla celebration was to observe this day as Dastar (turban) Day. On a Gobal call given by the Sikhs Nation Organisation, all male Sikhs were  asked to observe March 7, as a Dastar Day and wear kesari (yellow) turbans. This organization called upon all Sikhs to wear yellow turbans on all Thursdays. This call had been given as a reaction to the ban imposed by the Government of France on display of religious symbols in Government run schools. 

                      This year i.e  in 2018 Holla Mahalla is being celebrated on March 2 It will be celebrated for three days and  during these three days more than 10 lakh Sikh pilgrims are expected to come to Sri Anandpur sahib to pay their obeisance at Takht Sri  Kesgarh Sahib. During these three days thousands of Sikhs will partake of amrit (nectar) and get baptized. The baptismal water, which the person receives to get initiated, is prepared from water and round sugar cubes called patasas. 

*Dr. Amrit Kaur, Retd.Professor, Punjabi university, Patiala, Punjab, India                                                                                                               





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