On the Eve of Hola Mohalla

Photos: Courtesy Satbir Singh Billing
Photos: Courtesy Satbir Singh Billing
Photos: Courtesy Satbir Singh Billing
Photos: Courtesy Satbir Singh Billing
Photos: Courtesy Satbir Singh Billing
Photos: Courtesy Satbir Singh Billing
Photos: Courtesy Satbir Singh Billing
Photos: Courtesy Satbir Singh Billing
Photos: Courtesy Satbir Singh Billing
Photos: Courtesy Satbir Singh Billing

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

This custom originated in the time of and by Guru Gobind Singh (1666–1708) who held the first march at Anandpur on Chet vadi 1, 1757 Bk (22 February 1701). Holi, when people playfully sprinkle colored powders, dry or mixed in water, on each other 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.

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.'”

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