Hola Mohalla

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Hola Mohalla
The Khalsa celebrating the Sikh festival Hola Mohalla or simply Hola.
Type Sikh
Celebrations Three day[1] fair at Anandpur Sahib ending on Hola Mohalla day. Martial arts.
Date second of lunar month of Chet
2015 date 7 March
Frequency annual

Hola Mahalla (Punjabi: ਹੋਲਾ ਮਹੱਲਾ, Hindi: होला मोहल्ला; also Hola Mohalla or simply Hola) is a one day Sikh festival which takes place on the second day of the lunar month of Chett) (a day after Holi which is a two day festival starting with Holika Dahan on the last day of the lunar month of Phagan on full moon and the actual day of Holi the next day on the first[2] day of Chett) and most often falls in March,[3] and sometimes coincides with the Sikh New Year.[4]

The fair held at Anandpur Sahib is traditionally a three day event but participants attend Anandpur Sahib for a week, camping out and enjoying various displays of fighting prowess and bravery, and listening to kirtan, music, and poetry.[5] For meals, which is an integral part of the Sikh institution (Gurdwara), visitors sit together in Pangats (Queues) and eat vegetarian food of the Langars.[6] The event concludes on the day of Hola Mohalla with a long, military-style procession near Takht Sri Keshgarh Sahib, one of the five seats of temporal authority of the Sikhs.[7]


Damdami Taksal Head Sant Harnam Singh & Dal Baba Bidhi Chand Jathedar Sant Avtar Singh Sur Singh Wale during Holla Mohlla 2014 at Anandpur Sahib

Bhai Kahan Singh, who compiled the Mahan Kosh (the first Sikh encyclopedia) at the turn of the 20th century, explained, "Hola is derived from the word halla (a military charge) and the term mohalla stands for an organized procession or an army column. The words 'Hola Mohalla' would thus stand for 'the charge of an army.'"[6] Dr. M.S. Ahluwalia notes that the related Punjabi term mahalia (which was derived from the root hal, meaning to alight or descend) refers to "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 to another."[3]

Hola is a Sanskrit word meant to be distinguished from Holi;[3] the Hindu spring festival of colors (Holi) which takes place the day before Hola Mahalla.[8]


The festival was founded by Guru Gobind Singh, the tenth Sikh Guru.[3] 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.[3][7] On February 22, 1701, Guru Gobind Singh started a new tradition by overseeing a day of mock battles and poetry contests at Holgarh Fort.[3][6] 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.[7]

Hola Mohalla builds upon the festival of Holi. The Sri Guru Granth Sahib Ji prescribes celebrating Holi by serving God. The colours of Holi manifest in the Lord's love. The celebration is described as follows:[9]

One Universal Creator God. By The Grace Of The True Guru: I serve the Guru, and humbly bow to Him.
Today I am in supreme bliss.
My anxiety is dispelled, and I have met the Lord of the Universe.
Today, it is springtime in my household.
I sing Your Glorious Praises, O Infinite Lord God.
Today, I am celebrating the festival of Phalgun.
Joining with God's companions, I have begun to play.
I celebrate the festival of Holi by serving the Saints (Lord).
I am imbued with the deep crimson colour of the Lord's Divine Love.
My mind and body have blossomed forth, in utter, incomparable beauty.
They do not dry out in either sunshine or shade; they flourish in all seasons.
It is always springtime, when I meet with the Divine Guru.
The wish-fulfilling Elysian Tree has sprouted and grown.
It bears flowers and fruits, jewels of all sorts.
I am satisfied and fulfilled, singing the Glorious Praises of the Lord.
Servant Nanak meditates on the Lord, Har, Har, Har (God).

As Holi starts with Holika Dahan on the full moon night of Phagan or Phalgan, the festival of Holi is referred to as the festival of Phalgun even though the actual day of Holi falls on the first day of the lunar month of Chett. Sri Guru Gobind Singh Ji built upon this method of celebrating Holi by adding a martial element and creating Hola Mohalla to be celebrated a day after Holi.


Hola Mahalla or simply Hola is a Sikh event, which takes place on the second day of the lunar month of Chet, which usually falls in March.

Mahalia, 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 place to another.

Holi, when people playfully sprinkle colored powders, dry or mixed in water, on each other[10] on the first day of Chet was given a new dimension by establishing Hola to be celebrated a day after. However, Guru Gobind Singh (1666–1708) held the first march at Anandpur on Chet vadi 1, 1757 Bk (22 February 1701) and therefore festivities start before the second of Chet. In Anandpur Sahib, the festival lasts for three days.[11]

The Guru made Hola Mahalla an occasion for the Sikhs (and many Hindus at the time who gave sons to Sikh families) to demonstrate their martial skills in simulated battles. This was probably done forestalling a grimmer struggle against the imperial power and channelizing the energy of folks to a more useful activity. 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 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 - Hola 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.

Anandpur Sahib[edit]

Anandpur Sahib (lit. 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. It lies 31 km north of Rupnagar (Ropar) and 29 km south of Nangal Township. Being one of the supremely important historical centers of the Sikhs it has been reverently called Anandpur Sahib. It was here at Anandpur that on Baisakhi of 1699, Guru Gobind Singh 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[clarification needed] a tradition of one of World's greatest Martyrs Guru Tegh Bahadur (the 9th Guru) who laid down his life in the defense 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), viz. Kes (uncut hair), Kangha (comb), Kacherra (drawers), Kara (an all-steel bracelet) and Kirpan (a sword) so that they could easily be recognized 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.[12]

Nihang Singhs[edit]

A group of Nihang Singhs

The Nihang are the members of the khalsa army known for their distinctive blue traditional robes and dumala, which are often embellished.[6] They are often prominent at the Hola Mahalla festival.[13]


  1. ^ http://www.holifestival.org/hola-mohalla.html
  2. ^ Yang, Ananad. A. (1998) Bazaar India: Markets, Society, and the Colonial State in Gangetic Bihar University of California Press [1]
  3. ^ a b c d e f Ahluwalia, M.S. (November 2004). "Tourism: The Festival of Hola Mahalla". SikhSpectrum.com Quarterly (18). Retrieved 2008-09-14. 
  4. ^ Amolak Singh. "Sikh Calendar". SikhWorld.co.uk. Retrieved 2008-09-17. 
  5. ^ Amolak Singh. "Sikh Ceremonies". SikhWorld.co.uk. Retrieved 2008-09-17. 
  6. ^ a b c d "The Hola Mohalla Festival". SikhChic.com. March 2007. Retrieved 2008-09-17. 
  7. ^ a b c T. Singh (August 15, 2008). "Celebrating Holi". Reflections On Gurbani. Retrieved 2008-09-17. 
  8. ^ "Hola Mahalla". BBC Religion & Ethics. British Broadcasting Corporation. August 28, 2002. Retrieved 2008-09-14. 
  9. ^ Sri Guru Granth Sahib Ji [2]
  10. ^ Arnej, Simran Kaur.Ik Onkar One God [3]
  11. ^ http://www.holifestival.org/hola-mohalla.html
  12. ^ Davinder Singh. "Hola Mohalla Anandpur sahib Celebration". Retrieved 2015-02-12. 
  13. ^ Neena Chaudhry. Nihang "Festival of war" Check |url= scheme (help). Singh Sabha of NY. Retrieved 2009-05-20.