For those looking to celebrate Holi in a different manner, Hola Mohalla in Anandpur Sahib in Punjab is worth the experience. Unlike the festival of Holi, when people playfully smear colour on each other, Hola Mohalla is an occasion for the Sikhs to demonstrate physical agility and martial art skills. The three-day long event is happening from March 22 to 24 this year. The reason why Sikhs indulge in martial-art demonstrations and battle re-enactments in Anandpur Sahib, is to celebrate the foundation of the Khalsa (Sikh brotherhood).
What started as a form of protest against the Mughals by Guru Gobind Singh in 1701, has today become the Sikh’s colourful display of pageantry. The impressive and colourful procession of Nihangs, in their traditional attire participating in mock battles, sword fights, and wrestling is a welcome change from playing with colours on Holi. The Nihangs are the prestigious armed sect of the Sikhs; who wear a striking costume of blue tunics and orange scarfs, and don thick twisted moustache and large, embellished turbans.
This annual Sikh festival is held a day after Holi. There’s also weapon exhibition, poetry reading followed by kirtan, singing, dancing and community service such as Langar (voluntary community kitchen) where free traditional meals are served to everyone irrespective of their religion or caste.
The highlight of the festival is the horse-riding show where the riders gallop bare back – performing stunts by riding astride two horses at once. It is estimated that over 100,000 Sikh devotees attend the festival every year because of which the whole town comes alive during this time of year.
The journey from Delhi to Anandpur Sahib by car takes upto 6 hours to reach. There are several trains that cover the distance in about the same time as well. The nearest airport is at Chandigarh, about 75km from Anandpur Sahib.