Are you ready for something exciting on Holi 2014? - Glipses of Hola Mohalla 2013 by Ramit Mitra

Halla Bol—that piercing war cry immortalized by Bollywood! In this case, it is an invitation for explosive action, calling for fun, fearless, fantabulous times! That’s the Hola Mohalla Mela of Punjab, a carnival of action-packed, adrenaline-pumping feats that rouses the quiet foothills of the Shivalik range every year in the month of March.

Every year, the Hola Mohalla Mela stirs the historic township of AnandpurSahib into action, making it the playground for thousands of brave-heart ‘Nihangs’ (Armed Sikh warrior order, known for their bravery in the battlefield), who with their feats of swordsmanship, horse-racing, wrestling and team games have retained the legacy of the famed, war-hardened Sikh warriors and their guerilla skills. (The word ‘Hola’, interchangeable with Halla or Holla, signals the onset of an attack. Mohalla, which refers to a neighbourhood in Hindi, has Arabic origins which mean a battalion marching in full ceremonial regalia)


The festival is celebrated annually on 3 days including Holi and the day after. Originally organised around 1701CE by the tenth Sikh Guru Sri Gobind Singhji to celebrate Holi, the Hindu festival of colors, albeit with a unique twist, the festival has continued through the centuries, reminding, strengthening and bringing Sikhs closer to their roots.

Hola-as the annual fiesta is referred to in short can be said to represent the more ‘masculine’ aspects of the festival of Holi. Unlike the sublime and gregarious celebrations of holi where people throw gulal and coloured water on each other, Hola is an occasion for the boys and men of the Sikh order to demonstrate their martial skills and physical agility through simulated battles, colorful ceremonial parades and nail-biting duels of dagger-fights, archery, swordsmanship, and horse races.

At the Hola Mohalla at Anandpur Sahib, you rarely see people playing with colors, though contemporary culture has caught up with the youngsters who indulge in some fun and frolic with gulaal and water guns.

Imagine a Sikh Nihang standing on the back of 2 or 3 horses which thunder past you, his blue and bright orange robes flying in the wind as you try to capture the energy of the moment in your lens.

Imagine a dusty village playground coming alive with adrenaline-pumping bouts of wrestling and kabbadi!
 Experience up-close the terrifying clash of steel hitting steel as swordsmen duel with each other. Participate in the turban-tying contests and ‘gatka’ which are acrobatic military exercises and multiple mock battles or be part of long, colorful processions winding through the town’s alleys in full military ceremonial regalia, complete with weapons and firearms.

The three days of celebration are a kaleidoscope of the colorful and quirky - the serene sounds of the Gurudwara’s ‘Shabads’ are juxtaposed with the clang of metal and clamour of devotees; the humility of selfless service at the holy site with the fierceness of military aggression on the village grounds!


This is a picture of what Anandpur Sahib, the seat of the last two Sikh spiritual gurus, and an important site of pilgrimage for the community transforms into.


DelhiByFoot presents you the opportunity to be part of this unique celebration to experience the real and the rustic, a slice of the Indian cultural experience, a little-known variant of the festival of colours that is bound to leave you with vivid memories. For photographers and bloggers, HolaMohalla presents infinite opportunities to take back a strong body of work.

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