Holla Mahalla: A Colourful Festival of the Sikhs

Dr Amrit Kaur | March 07, 2015 07:50 AM
Hola Mahalla festival Celeberations at Anandpur Sahib, Punjab
Dr Amrit Kaur

By Amrit Kaur* 

Holla Mahalla, which is sometimes termed as ‘Hola’ is a Sikh festival, which 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. This festival usually falls in March the day after Holi, which is a Hindu festival. 

And get baptized. The bastismal water, which the person receives to get initiated, is prepared from water and round sugar cubes called patasas. As far  back as 2004 in preparing this baptismal water 10 quintals of patasas were used. And every year this amount of patasas increases.

The genesis  Mahalla can be traced back to the time of the tenth Guru of the Sikhs, Sri Guru Gobind Singh ji (166-1708) who organized the kind of march at SriAnandpur Sahib, now part of 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 a Khalsa through Khande de pahul and created a community similar to him in appearance. The five devoted Sikhs, Bhai Daya Singh, Bhai Dharam Singh, Bhai Himmat Singh, Bhai Mokam Singh and Bhai Sahib Singh who were revived to life after being tested for their steadfastness in upholding righteousness, were dressed up in apparel similar to the one guru ji 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 guru ji 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. 

The tenth guru initiated the celebration of Hola Mahalla to enable the Sikhs to demonstrate their martial skills such as brandishing swords, gatka tir andazi (bow and arrow) neza bazi, and tent pegging (while riding a horse in full speed to hit an object on the festival soon after the battle of Nirmohgah, situated on top of a low hill, 4 km south of Kiratpur sahib which took place on October 1700 between the surrounding hill chief 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, Hola Mahalla became an annual feature at Anandpur Sahib, which was 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 the Guru sahib’s has lessened. However, the nihangs, in their traditional panoply have continued to march in the form of procession and display these skills. Every year, nihangs from places far and near assemble at Anandpur sahib to participate in the celebrations of Hola Mahalla. Every year about 10 lakh Sikhs pilgrims, both urban and rural, come to Anandpur Sahib on the day of Holla Mahalla to pay their obeisance at Takht Sri Keshgarh sahib and watch the procession and display of martial skills of the nihangs. This year Holla Mahala is being celebrated from march 4 to march 6, the main day being march 6. 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  Keshgarh Sahib. During these three days thousands of Sikhs will part take Amrit (nectar)

And get baptized. The bastismal water, which the person receives to get initiated, is prepared from water and round sugar cubes called patasas. As far  back as 2004 in preparing this baptismal water 10 quintals of patasas were used. And every year this amount of patasas increases. An additional highlight of the Holla Mahalla celebration was observation of the day as Dastar (turban) Day. On a gobal call given by the Sikh 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 turban 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. 

*Retd. Professor of Education, Punjabi university, Patiala, Punjab, India



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