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Hola Mohalla

Hola Mahalla or simply Hola is a Sikh festival, which takes place on the first of the lunar month of Chet, which usually falls in March. This follows the Hindu festival of Holi; Hola is the masculine form of the feminine noun Holi. Mahalia, derived from the Arabic root hal (alighting, descending), 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 Gurdwara to another.
This custom originated in the time of Guru Gobind Singh (1666-1708) who held the first march at Anandpur on Chet vadi 1, 1757 Bk (22nd February, 1701). Unlike 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 to demonstrate their martial skills in simulated battles. This was probably done forestalling a grimmer struggle against the imperial power following the battle of Ninnohgarh in 1700. Holla 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
Holla 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.
Warlike Sport Of The Nihangs
Holla Mohalla, or Hola Mohalla, is the festival of Punjab. Celebrated over three days, the festival retains the character of fun and enjoyment that Holi has embodied. In addition to this, it is also a community festival that brings people together in an atmosphere of sharing and caring. It is also an occasion to remember the valor of the Sikhs in battling the enemies of the land. The festival day begins with early morning prayers at the Gurdwaras. The Guru Granth Sahib is ceremoniously taken out and bathed ritually with milk and water. Thereafter, it is placed on a platform and venerated.
Kirtans are sung, the prasad is consecrated and everyone shares a part of it. After the service, community lunch is served at the common hall. Evening is a time for numerous cultural activities. The Nihang Sikhs, who are part of the Sikh army that Guru Gobind Singh founded, exhibit their martial skills and daring through mock battles, sword-fighting displays, archery and horse-riding exercises. The Nihangs also splash color on the spectators, and everyone follows suit. Stories and songs about the life, valor and wisdom of the ten Sikh gurus, right from Guru Nanak to Guru Gobind Singh, are told and recited.
Music, dance and poetry programs and competitions are held at many venues. A procession is carried through the important Gurdwaras in town marking the highlights of the last day celebrations. Holla Mohalla, while being an occasion to rejoice, is also a time to restore faith in the Khalsa Panth and rededicate oneself to the service of the community. Everyone, irrespective of their social standing, involves themselves in kar seva - manual labor, such as helping in the langars or public kitchens, cleaning the Gurdwaras and washing dishes.

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