Hola Mohalla Showcases The Martial Arts Skills Of Nihang Sikhs

During Hola Mohalla, the town of Anandpur Sahib comes alive with processions, incredible martial arts displays, and music, all deeply rooted in Sikh culture
 A Nihang Sikh during Hola Mohalla
A Nihang Sikh during Hola MohallaVerma Chetan/Shutterstock

The festival of Holi is widely celebrated across India. Apart from the mainstream festival of colour, there are lesser-known celebrations that hold unique cultural significance in various regions. Hola Mohalla is a vibrant and colourful Sikh festival that takes place annually in March, in the holy town of Anandpur Sahib in Punjab. The festival is a celebration of brotherhood, fraternity, and valour and is deeply rooted in Sikh traditions. It is celebrated at the shrine of Keshgarh Sahib and lasts for three days, starting from the day after Holi. The atmosphere during Hola Mohalla is electric, and it is a significant event, particularly for the Nihang Sikhs, a Sikh warrior order. During Hola Mohalla, the town of Anandpur Sahib comes alive with colourful processions, martial arts displays, and music performances. The festival offers a glimpse into the rich cultural heritage of the Sikh community and serves as a reminder of the values and principles that are vital to the Sikh faith.

The Origins

The festival of Hola Mohalla has become a crucial part of Sikh culture ever since Guru Gobind Singh, the tenth Sikh leader, initiated it. It is celebrated at the birthplace of the Khalsa, Takht Shri Anandpur Sahib. In 1699, the tenth Guru, Guru Gobind Singh Ji, baptised five men and established the Khalsa Panth, which is the modern-day Sikh faith. The festival began in 1701 and continues today as a three-day extravaganza at Anandpur Sahib. During the festival, Nihang Sikhs participate in activities that recall their legendary martial prowess. This unique festival celebrates brotherhood, fraternity, and courage and holds great significance for the Sikh community.

Nihangs performing martial arts as culture during the celebration of Hola Mohalla at Anandpur Sahib
Nihangs performing martial arts as culture during the celebration of Hola Mohalla at Anandpur SahibAbhishek Mittal/Shutterstock

The Festival

Hola Mohalla is a grand celebration of Sikh martial culture. The event is a showcase of the Nihang Dals' sportsmanship and military skills. The Nihang Singhs are a unique order of Sikh warriors who adhere to traditional military customs and lifestyle. They are the center of attention at Hola Mohalla, exhibiting their horsemanship and martial arts skills to a large crowd. The parade by Nihangs is a breathtaking sight to behold. They wear their traditional blue attire and carry weapons, showcasing their impressive sword fighting, tent pegging, archery, and other martial skills. The Gatka, a highlight of the event, involves mock encounters with real weapons, which are performed with great precision and skill.

Horseback sports is an integral part of the festival
Horseback sports is an integral part of the festivalVerma Chetan/Shutterstock

Langars are set up throughout the holy town to feed the thousands of visitors, day and night. On the way to the main shrine of Keshgarh Sahib, you see roadside tents offering free food to visitors. Before the event, people flock to Anandpur carrying raw ingredients for food, such as wheat and other grains, for the camps and the Shri Keshgarh Sahib Gurudwara's community kitchen. Hymns from the Guru Granth Sahib are read day and night at numerous locations. Of the five fortress-gurudwaras built by Guru Gobind Rai in 1688, Takht Sri Kesgarh Sahib is the most important and also the best preserved. Some of the old fortifications still survive, although the modern gurudwara complex sprawls much further.

Gurdwara Takht Sri Kesgarh Sahib in Anandpur Sahib is the birthplace of the Khalsa
Gurdwara Takht Sri Kesgarh Sahib in Anandpur Sahib is the birthplace of the KhalsaAbhishekMittal/Shutterstock

About Anandpur Sahib

If Amritsar is the holy city of the Sikhs, Anandpur is their holy citadel, forever identified as the place where the political Sikh nation was born, where Guru Gobind Singh forged a mass of peasants into a martial race. However, the story of Anandpur Sahib does not begin with Guru Gobind Singh, but with Guru Tegh Bahadur, who first settled here. Today, Anandpur Sahib is a popular pilgrimage centre revolving around Sikhism. Every one of its winding little streets seems to contain historic gurudwaras commemorating emotive events in the evolution of the Khalsa. Lakhs of people come here every year during the festivals of Hola Mohalla, Baisakhi and Diwali. The Virasat-e-Khalsa museum gives visitors an insight into Sikh history, including birth of the Khalsa displayed through a series of beautiful paintings, portraying lives of all Sikh Gurus, their struggles and the heritage which they have left behind.

The Virasat-e-Khalsa museum
The Virasat-e-Khalsa museum Aseem Mehta/Shutterstock

Getting There

Chandigarh Airport is 87 km away. The airport is connected via daily flights to major metros. Anandpur Sahib railway station offers connections to several cities in India.

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