is a Sikh
A Sikh is a follower of Sikhism. It primarily originated in the 15th century in the Punjab region of South Asia. The term "Sikh" has its origin in Sanskrit term शिष्य , meaning "disciple, student" or शिक्ष , meaning "instruction"...
Olympics event which begins on the first day of the lunar month
In lunar calendars, a lunar month is the time between two identical syzygies . There are many variations. In Middle-Eastern and European traditions, the month starts when the young crescent moon becomes first visible at evening after conjunction with the Sun one or two days before that evening...
of Chet in the Nanakshahi calendar
The Nanakshahi calendar is a tropical solar calendar that was adopted by the Shiromani Gurdwara Prabhandak Committee to determine the dates for important Sikh events. It was designed by Pal Singh Purewal to replace the Saka calendar and has been in use since 1998...
. It most often falls in March, and sometimes coincides with the Sikh New Year
The New Year is the day that marks the time of the beginning of a new calendar year, and is the day on which the year count of the specific calendar used is incremented. For many cultures, the event is celebrated in some manner....
. The event lasts for a week, and consists of camping out and enjoying various displays of fighting prowess and bravery, followed by kirtan
Kirtan or Kirtana is call-and-response chanting or "responsory" performed in India's devotional traditions. A person performing kirtan is known as a kirtankar. Kirtan practice involves chanting hymns or mantras to the accompaniment of instruments such as the harmonium, tablas, the two-headed...
, music, and poetry. For meals, which is an integral part of the Sikh institution (Gurdwara), visitors sit together in pangats
(Queues) and eat vegetarian food of the Langars. The event concludes with a long, military-style procession near Takht Sri Keshgarh Sahib
Takht Sri Darbar Sahib Kesgarh Sahib is one of the five Temporal Authorities of Sikhism. It is located in Anandpur Sahib in Punjab State ,...
, one of the five seats of temporal authority of the Sikhs.
Bhai Kahan Singh, who compiled the Mahan Kosh
Guru Shabad Ratnakar Mahan Kosh, known by its more popular name of Mahan Kosh, is a Punjabi language encyclopedia which was compiled by Bhai Kahn Singh Nabha over fourteen years...
(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.'" Dr. M.S. Ahluwalia notes that the related Punjabi
Punjabi is an Indo-Aryan language spoken by inhabitants of the historical Punjab region . For Sikhs, the Punjabi language stands as the official language in which all ceremonies take place. In Pakistan, Punjabi is the most widely spoken language...
(which was derived from the Arabic root hal
, meaning to alight or descend) refers to "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 to another."
is a Sanskrit word meant to be distinguished from Holi
; the Hindu spring festival of colors (Holi
Holi , is a religious spring festival celebrated by Hindus. Holi is also known as festival of Colours. It is primarily observed in India, Nepal, Pakistan, and countries with large Indic diaspora populations following Hinduism, such as Suriname, Malaysia, Guyana, South Africa, Trinidad, United...
) takes place the day before Hola Mahalla.
The event was originated by Guru Gobind Singh
Guru Gobind Singh is the tenth and last Sikh guru in a sacred lineage of ten Sikh gurus. Born in Patna, Bihar in India, he was also a warrior, poet and philosopher. He succeeded his father Guru Tegh Bahadur as the leader of Sikhs at a young age of nine...
, the tenth Sikh Guru. The Guru was in the midst of fighting both Aurangzeb of the Mughal Empire
The Mughal Empire , or Mogul Empire in traditional English usage, was an imperial power from the Indian Subcontinent. The Mughal emperors were descendants of the Timurids...
and the Hill Rajputs, and had recently established the Khalsa
+YouWebImagesVideosMapsNewsMailMoreTranslateFrom: ArabicTo: EnglishEnglishHindiEnglishAllow phonetic typingHindiEnglishArabicAssumptionGoogle Translate for Business:Translator ToolkitWebsite TranslatorGlobal Market Finder...
Panthan is the term used for several religious traditions in India.A panth is founded by a guru or an acharya, and is often led by scholars or senior practitioners of the tradition.Some of the major panthas in India are:...
. On February 22, 1701, Guru Gobind Singh started a new tradition by overseeing a day of mock battles and poetry contests at Holgarh Fort. The tradition has since spread from the town of Anandpur Sahib
Anandpur Sahib is a city in Rupnagar district in the state of Punjab, India. Known as "the holy City of Bliss," it is a holy city of the Sikhs and is one of their most important sacred places, closely linked with their religious traditions and history...
to nearby Kiratpur Sahib
Kiratpur is a city and a municipal board in Bijnor district of Uttar Pradesh.-History:Kiratpur as a part of the district Bijnor shares the same history for most of the time period...
and the foothills of the Shivaliks, and to other Gurdwaras around the world.
Street in Anandpur during festivities
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 follows the Hindu festival of Holi and was derived from Hindu celebrations. 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 place to another.
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. 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 two - 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.
Anandpur (lit. City of Bliss) is situated on one of the lower spurs of the Shiwalik Hills in Ropar District of Punjab and is well connected with the rest of the country both by road and rail. It lies 31 km north of Rupnagar (Ropar) and 29 km south of Nangal Township. Being one of the supremely important historical centers of the Sikhs it has been reverently called Anandpur Sahib. It was here at Anandpur that on Baisakhi of 1699, Guru Gobind Singh inaugrated the Khalsa and the Panj Piare (the five beloved ones); hence inaugurating the order of Saint-Soldiers who pledged their dedication to defend the needy, poor and opperesed and their respective social, economic and political rights. The was a tradition of one of World's greatest Martyrs Guru Tegh Bahadur (the 9th Guru) who laid down his life in the defense of the Hindus on behalf of the Pandits of Kashmir.
The order of the Khalsa, at the wish of Guru Gobind Singh's would henceforth be distinguished by five symbols (a uniform of 5Ks), viz. Kes (uncut hair), Kangha (comb), Kacherra (drawers), Kara (an all-steel bracelet) and Kirpan (a sword) so that they could easily be recognized by anyone under attack. Sikhs were further instructed to live to the highest ethical standards, and to be always ready to fight tyranny and injustice.
Nihang is an armed Sikh order. Early Sikh military history is dominated by the Akali Nihang military order, particularly for many famous military victories won while often heavily outnumbered. The Akali Nihang have historically been held in great affection and respect by Sikhs due the pivotal role...
Singhs are the modern day descendents of Guru Gobind Singh's army, and are unique among Sikh orders for being military in nature and for the distinctive rich blue of their traditional robes and large turbans, which are often embellished. Today, these warriors of the past are prominent figures at Hola Mahalla: they carry traditional weapons and modern fire-arms as well, and "are skilled at tent-pegging, sword wielding, jousting and other war-like sports." They are also proficient at horseback-riding stunts and archery.