Celebrating religion: Holla Mohalla set for March 1

Holla Mohalla (also known as Hola) is a Sikh festival, which begins on the first day of the lunar month of Chet in the Nanakshahi calendar. This year, the celebration begins on March 1 and lasts for a week.

This annual festival is held at Anandpur Sahib in Punjab, but other similar celebrations are held at Gurdwaras around the world. A Gurdwara is the home or dwelling of a Guru.

Visitors celebrate by camping out and enjoying exciting displays of combat skill and courage along with performances of traditional music and poetry. The festivities also include participating in a Kirtan; a call-and-response type of chanting traditionally performed in India. The “Kirtankar” chants hymns accompanied by instruments like drums and cymbals.

Volunteers provide vegetarian meals of customary Langars and visitors sit on the ground in rows called “pangats.” Red carpets are rolled out for bright colourful seating for the thousands of people who come out to join the party.

The weeklong celebration closes with a long, military-style march near Takht Sri Keshgarh Sahib, one of the five most sacred places in the Sikhism.

Holla Mohalla is a community festival that brings people together in an atmosphere of giving and compassion. Marking the heroism of the Sikhs in battling the enemies of the land, performances are held to display martial arts skills, sword fighting, archery and horse riding.

Mock battles are performed to remind people of the importance of valor and defense preparedness; two qualities of great significance to the 10th Guru Gobind Singh who originally started the festival.

Though a trip to India may not be possible for everyone this spring, it is certainly enjoyable to see and hear about lavish celebrations happening around the world.