What is Holla Mahalla?
What is Holla Mahalla? Why did Guru Gobind Singh Ji create it and is it still relevant today? In this article, I will answer these questions and much more.
In 1699, the first-ever Vaisakhi was celebrated. The following year in 1700, our Ithihaas (history) tells us that there is an instance where the Gursikhs were with Guru Gobind Singh Ji and a few of the Gursikhs had gone to the festival of Holi. What started out as a righteous festival, had taken a different path. The Gursikhs came to Guru Gobind Singh Ji Maharaj (great king) at Anandpur Sahib and said, “Maharaj, we have just come from this festival of Holi and there are bad things happening. There’s sin happening and corruption has found its way within these festivals.” They highlighted that Bibia (females) were being taken, kidnapped and wrongdoings were being done to them.
Guru Gobind Singh Ji Maharaj said that these festivals have become a place of Kukaram (bad actions) and Paap (sin). Initially, they started out as something very righteous. A festival where we remembered the victory of good over evil and the Rakhia (protection) of a Bhagat (devotional worshipper) of Vaheguru (Wonderous Enlightener). Guru Gobind Singh Ji sent out Hukamnaame (commands) to the Khalsa Panth (collective of initiated Sikhs) to come Tyar Bar Tyar (ready upon ready); to bring their Shastars (weaponry), their Ghorr Savaar (horse-riding skills) and meet Guru Gobind Singh Ji at Sri Anandpur Sahib.
The First Holla Mahalla
The first-ever Holla Mahalla was celebrated at one of the five Kille (forts) of Sri Anandpur Sahib, known as Holgarh. It was a beautiful scene! Our Itihaas tells us that Guru Gobind Singh Ji Himself got the Khalsa to practice battles, re-enact battles and physically train to be ready for the Jangs (battles) that were yet to come.
For this, Guru Gobind Singh Ji would split the Khalsa up in half. Half of them would stay in the fort of Holgarh and the other half would attack—playing a type of attacker versus defenders in the game. Guru Gobind Singh Ji would give prizes to those generals who showed excellence on the battlefield. If generals and soldiers needed help, Guru Gobind Singh Ji would come down Himself to provide personalized suggestions of how they should have attacked and how to attack next time.
Guru Gobind Singh Ji’s Blessings
Within the Ghazals (type of poetry) of Bhai Nand Lal Ji, who was a poet during the time of Guru Gobind Singh Ji, it is explained how Guru Gobind Singh Ji was blessing all the Gursikhs at the time. They say it was as if the fragrance of one flower was being pushed upon all the other flowers. Within Gurbani, we hear this kind of essence being spread as well. We hear,
ਗੁਰਪਰਸਾਦਿ ਪਰਮਪਦੁ ਪਾਇਆ ਸੂਕੇ ਕਾਸਟ ਹਰਿਆ ॥੧॥ ਰਹਾਉ ॥
By Guru’s Grace, the supreme status is obtained, the dry wood blossoms forth again in lush greenery. ||1|| Pause ||
With the blessings of Guru Sahib Ji (Gur Parsaad), the Khalsa is given the highest status (Param Pad). “Sooke” is referring to Suka (dry) and Kaasatt is referring to a piece of wood. So that Suka, piece of wood, what happens to it and when does it get Gur Parsaad?
When it becomes Hariaa (green) and it starts to blossom, with the Guru’s blessings. Similarly, Bhai Nand Lal Ji explains the scenes of Holla Mahalla and how Guru Gobind Singh Ji was literally looking at the Gursikhs and blessing them with this sense of Gur Parsaad. Thus, allowing the Khalsa to blossom during that time.
These events are still widely celebrated today. Many of us would have seen the beautiful videos of Singhs doing a Halla (a battle charge), Singhs riding horses, shooting guns and doing archery. But Saadh Sangat Ji (holy congregation), let’s not think that these things are done in vain and these things are just to show off. Our history tells us that they are important.
At the fort of Holgarh, the same practice that Guru Gobind Singh Ji got the Khalsa to do in 1700, was used a year later. These techniques were used when we hear within our Itihaas the Sakhi (true story) of Bhai Bachitar Singh Ji and the drunken Hathi (elephant). As a result, the Pahaarree Raaje (Hill Rulers) at the time had grown scared of Guru Gobind Singh Ji and the rise of power of the Khalsa. The Raaje tried to attack the fort of Lohgarh, which is another fort of Anandpur Sahib. But they simply could not penetrate it. The skills in the battle re-enactments that Guru Gobind Singh Ji gave the Khalsa in the previous year were being used and put to success the following year.
Holla Mahalla Today
As we finish off, we should go over what Holla means for us today and if it still has the same effect it did in Guru Gobind Singh Ji’s times. Of course it does! Holla for us today is a reminder to be Tyar Bar Tyar, both physically and spiritually. May we start to progress on our journeys and try to attempt to become a Sant (saint) and also a Sipahi (soldier).
There is one related Sakhi that some of us may have seen in the film, Chaar Sahibzaade. Our Itihaas tells us that when Guru Gobind Singh Ji Maharaj left Anandpur Sahib with His family, towards the back of the convoy on Ghorre (horse) was His eldest son, Baba Ajit Singh Ji. Along with him was a very famous Gursikh, named Bhai Chaupa Singh Ji. As they were vacating Anandpur Sahib, Baba Ajit Singh Ji continuously kept looking back. Bhai Chaupa Singh Ji asked, “Baba Ji, what are you looking at? What do you keep looking back for?” Baba Ajit Singh Ji explained,
“Bhai Chaupa Singh Ji, I’m just reminiscing about the times that we had at Anandpur Sahib. I’m remembering the place where I was born. Where the Khalsa was born. Where I sat in the laps of Gursikhs. Where I learnt Shastar Vidya (the science of weaponry). Where I learned Vidya (knowledge) as well. Where my brothers were born. Where the Khalsa blossomed and that place we enjoyed so much. I’m just thinking, will a time ever come for us to experience that again? Will this be the last glimpse I ever get of that beautiful place?”
Upon hearing this, the nearby Gursikhs fell in love with the emotion that Baba Ajit Singh Ji was spurring up. From their eyes, tears started flowing. Guru Gobind Singh Ji came to know of this and came across Bhai Chaupa Singh Ji. Guru Ji said, “Bhai Chaupa Singh Ji, why are all these Gursikhs crying?” Bhai Chaupa Singh Ji explained the situation to Guru Gobind Singh Ji.
Guru Gobind Singh Ji consoled Baba Ajit Singh Ji and said, “Ajit Singh, Koi Na (it’s okay). Every year when the Khalsa comes to Manaa (celebrate) Hola Mahalla, we ourselves will go and meet them. We ourselves will become Pargatt (visible) there and we ourselves will give Darshan (blessed vision).”
That Bachan (teaching) still stands today. So, the same blessings that Guru Gobind Singh Ji was giving, just as Bhai Nand Lal Ji explained, can be obtained from Holla Mahalla at Anandpur Sahib every year.
Video: What is Hola Mohalla?
The information above is a transcribed version of the Basics of Sikhi video: What is Holla Mahalla?