‘Hola Mohalla’, is a three day event celebrated at the Sikh shrine ‘Keshgarh Sahib’ in Anandpur Sahib, Punjab, India. The event has thrived with glory since its inception in 1701. The scintillating photo series captures the aura of the whole event in all its glory.
There are portraits of Sikhs with massive and unique turbans; landscapes starting from Anandpur Sahib Railway station to shrine, buses over-loaded with passengers and streets full of people thrown into revelry. The photo series covers the event from 2011 to 2015.
The series “Hola Mohalla” is a vibrant photo series about the unconditional love and faith of people in their guru. The series visually invites the visitor to immerse in the energy packed celebrations of the annually held Hola Mohalla celebrations at the holy city of Anandpur Sahib ( City of Bliss ), Punjab, India.
For this accomplishment the photographer Jagdev Singh went to Anandpur Sahib during the month of March annually in 2011, 2013, 2014 and 2015. Hola Mohalla is a three day festival, celebrated at the shrine of Keshgarh Sahib in the Sikh holy town of Anandpur Sahib in Punjab, India, every year.
Hola is the masculine form of the feminine sounding Holi. The word “Mohalla” implies an organized procession in the form of an army column. It was here in 1699 that the tenth master, Guru Gobind Singh Ji, baptized five men and founded the Khalsa faith, which is the modern day Sikh religion. The custom originated in the time of Guru Gobind Singh Ji who held the first such mock fight and polo event at Anandpur Sahib in February 1701.
People come in millions from all over the world to witness the celebrations every year. On the way, several kilometres well before the main shrine of Keshgarh Sahib, you see road side tent shelters offering free food to visitors, loudly playing holy hymns and praises of the Guru and One omnipresent. Day and night, hymns are read and sung from the Sikh holy book, Guru Granth Sahib Jee in scores of tent shelters. Free food is served 24 hours at these places, more commonly called ‘langar’. The narrow streets are lined up with shops selling little merchandise, keepsakes, gifts and eatables.
An attraction of the festival is the procession by Nihangs (a distinctive order among the Sikhs), with performance of ‘Gatka’ ( mock encounters with real weapons ), tent pegging ( polo ) and bareback horse riding. Nihangs constitute an order of Sikhs who, abandoning the fear of death, are ever ready for martyrdom and remain unsullied by worldly possessions. A Nihang is one who possesses nothing and is free from anxiety. The order is said to have been founded by Guru Gobind Singh Jee as a Martial form. Nihangs can be recognized from a distance as they wear dark blue robes with their legs bare below the knees and high blue and yellow turbans laced with steel discs. They usually carry spears, swords, daggers and shields. During Hola Mohalla, one gets to see several Nihangs sporting traditional massive turbans called “Dastar Bunga”. They invariably wear blue chequered dresses, and bangles or bracelets of pure iron round their wrists, and quoits of steel in their lofty conical blue turbans, together with miniature daggers, knives, and an iron chain turban.
The third and the final day of the event hosts a spectacular tent pegging and bareback horse riding event in an open space, where young Nihang Singhs ride two, three and four horses simultaneously. The slightest thought of getting crushed under the weight of the oncoming horses running at an alarming speed of nearly 120 km per hour serves little deterrent among spectators to stay at a safer distance. The horse riders take much care and precaution to save the public, and while doing so they even fall off the horses sometimes. They do get injured but they take it in the right spirit.
‘Chardi Kala’ meaning high spirits is the greeting exchanged among all. Hola Mohalla rejuvenates the centuries old tradition and zeal of sheer faith and belief that the tenth Guru plays amongst all the people present, much to the joy of millions.Undoubtedly, the undaunted spirit and fervour of the three day celebrations, unique in the world, is sure to leave you spellbound!
About Jagdev Singh
Jagdev Singh is a freelance photographer living in New Delhi, India. His work untangles the complex appearance of life, revealing a fine sense for a moment to pause. In his unique style of documentation photography, he loves to capture the moments and moods from people’s daily life. People and Street and his favorite subjects. [Official Website]