Festivals are integral part of any religion/culture that reminds us our rich past and also how we reached where we are now. It also reminds us the values by which our ancestors lived and at times the morals that seems to have little value in our busy lives today. Festivals also give us the opportunity to get together and share the mutual past.
Hola Mahalla also Hola Mohalla or just Hola, as described in Mahan Kosh (first sikh encyclopaedia), “Hola” is derived from the word halla (a military charge) and “Mahalla”stands for organised procession or an army column. It reminds us about the time when our ancestors fought for our future against the cruel and despicable regime. Hola Mahalla takes place on the first day of lunar month of Chet most often falls in the month of March. This tradition was started by the tenth master Guru Gobind Singh in the year 1701. The festival first took place in February in Anandpur Sahib, Punjab, India. Hola Mahalla means “mock fight”. Under the supervision of Guru Gobind Singh, this was gathering of sikhs for military exercise and mock fights. It reminded people of valour and defence preparedness of the sikhs against the Moghul empire and hill Rajputs. Since then this festival is celebrated every year.
This is a three day festival where mock battles, exhibitions, display of weapons are held followed by kirtan, music and poetry competitions. Daring feats are performed by the participants, such as Gatka (sikh martial arts with real weapons), tent pegging, bareback horse riding, standing erect on two speeding horses and other feats of bravery. The darbars are set where religious lectures/preaching takes place. On the last day a procession, led by Panj Pyare, starts from Takht Sri Kesgarh Sahib and passes through other important sikh Gurdwaras before terminating back at the Takht.
People visit from various parts of India and abroad to attend Hola Mohalla. Langars (free community kitchens) are organised by volunteers as a part of selfless service. Fruits, vegetables and other raw materials are donated in huge quantity to the kitchens by people visiting and by the nearby villages. Men and women volunteer to run the free kitchens by cooking, washing up and serving the food to the pilgrims. Anyone can come and eat in the langar irrespective of their cast, creed, gender or religion, the tradition started by the founder of Sikhism, Guru Nanak Dev which is still practised by the sikh.
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