Hola Mohalla

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Hola Mohalla

Type of Holiday: Religious (Sikh)
Date of Observation: February-March
Where Celebrated: Anandpur Sahib, India, and by Sikhs all over the world
Symbols and Customs: Nihangs, Sports Competitions
Related Holidays: Holi


Hola Mohalla is a Sikh festival celebrated at Anandpur Sahib, in the Punjab region of India. Sikhism is an independent faith that developed during the fifteenth century in India. The word Sikh comes from the Sanskrit word shishya, which means disciple or student. Sikhs believe that God was the original guru (guru means divinely inspired prophet or teacher) and that he chose to reveal his message to Guru Nanak, the first Sikh guru. Sikhs believe that their gurus were prophets sent by God to lead people into truth. They emphasize equality among people of different castes, practice Kirat Karni (a doctrine of laboring), and follow the precepts of charity.

Sikhism resembles both Islam and Hinduism, but is not directly associated with either. Similar to Hindus, Sikhs believe that the human soul progresses through a series of births and rebirths and that its ultimate salvation occurs when it breaks free from the cycle. Sikhs, however, reject the Hindu pantheon and do not participate in bathing rituals. Instead they worship one God who they believe is the same God of all religions, including Allah of Islam. Unlike Muslims, however, they shun fasting and pilgrimages.

The Sikh holy scriptures are called the Guru Granth Sahib (Guru means divinely inspired teacher; Granth means book; Sahib means revered). A more ancient name is Adi Granth, which means first or original book. The Guru Granth Sahib was compiled by the fifth Sikh guru, Arjan, and revised by Gobind Singh, the tenth guru. It contains hymns composed by the gurus.

Sikhs do not have an established priesthood. Although individual gurdwaras may employ specially trained people to care for the Guru Granth Sahib, all Sikhs are free to read from their holy scriptures either in the temple or in their homes. In addition, there is no one person to whom all Sikhs look for guidance in religious matters. The Sikh community is called the Panth, and collective decisions may be made by the Panth for the entire community. The Shiromani Gurdwara Parbandhad Committee, whose members are elected, provides guidance for all the gurdwaras in the Punjab. Individual local gurdwaras elect their own committees to oversee local matters.

Hola Mohalla (which means "attack and counter-attack") is celebrated on the day after HOLI, the well-known Hindu springtime festival. It was in the Punjab that the Sikh religion was founded in the late fifteenth century, and it is here that the majority of the Sikhs still live.

Guru Gobind Singh, the tenth and last of the Sikhs' human gurus, established Hola Mohalla in 1680 as a substitute for the popular Hindu festival. He disapproved of Sikhs taking part in the Holi festivities and decided to provide an alternative gathering at Anandpur Sahib, where an important gurdwara or shrine was located. It was at Anandpur that Guru Gobind Singh had formed the order of the NIHANGS , a Sikh military force that fought against religious persecution at the hands of the Moguls. It seemed an appropriate place, therefore, to stage a festival designed to show off the Nihangs' skill in the martial arts.

Today, the three-day celebration features mock battles, SPORTS COMPETITIONS , and displays of martial arts using traditional weapons. It closes with a ceremonial procession through the streets of Anandpur. Outside the Punjab and especially in the West, Hola Mohalla celebrations are similar to those held in Anandpur. Military exercises are staged before the whole Sikh community, and there are games and tournaments organized by various Sikh institutions. On the last day, people go to the gurdwara (temple) to pray for their health and strength.



The Nihangs' skill in various martial arts still play a central role in the celebration of Hola Mohalla at Anandpur. They continue to use the same weapons their predecessors used in medieval times, and their performances show the results of years of devoted practice.

The Nihangs traditionally wear long, bright blue tunics and elaborate turbans, sometimes huge in size, with bands of bright yellow. They are armed with bows and arrows, spears, swords and shields, muskets, or whatever other weapon they might choose to display their skills. They travel to Anandpur from all over India to participate in the celebration.

Sports Competitions

The most popular sports competitions held during Hola Mohalla involve swordsmanship and horsemanship, although children's games are an important part of the modern festival observance. Archery, fencing, tent-pegging, and the skillful handling of ancient weapons continue to be the focus of the festival at Anandpur.


Bellenir, Karen. Religious Holidays and Calendars. 3rd ed. Detroit: Omnigraphics, 2004. Henderson, Helene, ed. Holidays, Festivals, and Celebrations of the World Dictionary. 3rd ed. Detroit: Omnigraphics, 2005. Kapoor, Sukhbir Singh. Sikh Festivals. Vero Beach, FL: Rourke Enterprises, 1989. Kennedy, Richard S. The International Dictionary of Religion. New York: Crossroad, 1984. Sanon, Arun. Festive India. New Delhi: Frank Bros., 1986.


Gateway to Sikhism allaboutsikhs.com/index.php?option=com_content&task=view&id=1148
Holiday Symbols and Customs, 4th ed. © Omnigraphics, Inc. 2009

Hola Mohalla

Hola Mohalla is a three-day Sikh festival celebrated in Anan ­ dpur Sahib, Punjab, India, on the day after Holi, the colorful water-tossing springtime festival. Mock battles with ancient weapons are staged, and there are also exhibitions of traditional martial arts like archery and fencing. The important Sikh prophet, Guru Gobind Singh, started this fair sometime between 1680 and 1700.
Ministry of Tourism, Government of India
Rm. No 123, Transport Bhawan, No. 1, Parliament St.
New Delhi, Delhi 110 001 India
91-11-23715084; fax: 91-11-23715084
Punjab Tourism Development Corp.
SCO 183-184
Sector 8-C
Chandigarh, Punjab 160 018 India
91-172-781138; fax: 91-172-548828
RelHolCal-2004, p. 203
SikhFest-1989, p. 38
Holidays, Festivals, and Celebrations of the World Dictionary, Fourth Edition. © 2010 by Omnigraphics, Inc.
References in periodicals archive ?
As we drove past the railway station, we found the roadsides teeming with tractors and trailers modified into makeshift caravans for the three-day Hola Mohalla fair.
It was clear even in the first hours of dawn that it was impossible to buy a meal in Anandpur Sahib, at least during the Hola Mohalla fair.
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A week- long fair, Hola Mohalla usually takes place mid- March beginning on the first day of Sikh New Year.
Christians have not objected to festivals such as Eid or Ramadan, Yom Kippur or Hanukah, Diwali, Hola Mohalla or Vaisakhi.
Getting back to the basics, writer-photographer Anshuman Sen returns from a visit to the soul stirring Hola Mohalla fair at Anandpur Sahib, totally in awe of the Nihangs, the Sikh warrior tribe who put up a show of valour and bravery like few others.
Poonch (Jammu and Kashmir), Mar.18 ( ANI ): Sikhs as well as people from other religions took out a holy procession from Poonch market in Jammu and Kashmir to the national highway to mark the celebration of Hola Mohalla, a Sikh festival, often called the festival of perfume and chivalry.
Season: Plan a trip during Hola Mohalla (March), an annual event dating back 400 years, where Sikhs display mock warfare and military drills.
Poonch (Jammu and Kashmir), Mar 2 (ANI): The Sikh community here celebrated the spring festival of 'Hola Mohalla' with devotion and took out a procession to mark the occasion.
Amritsar (Punjab), Mar 12 (ANI): A large number of Sikh devotees converged at the Golden Temple in Amritsar to participate in the annual 'Hola Mohalla' celebrations.
Amritsar, Feb.27 (ANI): To set a unique example by a community, various Sikh originations are going to hold world's largest blood donation camp on the occasion of the Hola Mohalla celebrations on March 10 at the Sikh shrine of Keshgarh Sahib, Anandpur Sahib.