Punjab

Holla Mahalla: A Colourful Festival of the Sikhs

Dr Amrit Kaur | March 20, 2019 06:28 AM
Devotees' Rush at Anandpur Sahib on the occasion of Holla Mohalla Festival at Anandpur Sahib
Dr Amrit Kaur

                    Holla Mahalla, which is sometimes termed as ‘Holla’ is a Sikh festival. Sri Guru Gobind Singh Ji (1666-1708) the tenth prophet-teacher of the Sikhs started Holla Mohalla a kind of March on Chet vadi 1 (the day after the full moon day), 1757 Bikrami of the lunar month of chet, the first desi month in the lunar calendar i.e. 22 February 1701 from Quilla Holgarh Sahib, Sri Anandpur Sahib, which now falls in Ropar District of Punjab.

                   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. Sri Guru Gobind Singh Ji started Holla Mohalla to enable the Sikhs to demonstrate their martial skills such as brandishing swords, gatka, tir andazi (bow and arrow), neza bazi, and tent pegging i.e. while riding a horse in full speed to hit an object. 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 Takht Sri Kesgarh Sahib, 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 lakhs of 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 which is prepared from water and round sugar cubes called patasas 10 quintals of patasas (round sugar cubes) were used and every year the amount of patasas has been increasing.

Nihnags at Holla Mohall Festival at Anandpur Sahib

                Guru Sahib started Holla Mohala two years after the creation of Khalsa at Sri Anandpur Sahib. On April 14, 1699 Sri Guru Gobind Singh ji gave birth to Khalsa by administering  Khande de pahul (nectar) also at Anandpur Sahib 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 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. Sri Guru Gobind Singh Ji 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 turbans similar to that worn by Guru Sahib.

Large number of women in Nihangs constumes also participate in Holla Mohalla

                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 (saffron) 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 2019 Holla Mahalla is being celebrated on March 21. It will be celebrated for three days (March 19-21) and  during these three days about 25 lakh Sikh pilgrims are expected to come to Sri Anandpur sahib to pay their obeisance at Takht Sri  Kesgarh Sahib. During these three days about one thousand Sikhs will partake off amrit (nectar) and get baptized.

                The pilgrims are wonder-struck to see two Nihangs riding 4 horses simultaneously.

Waheguru Ji Ka Khalsa !

Waheguru Ji Ki Fateh !

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

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