Nihangs constitute an order of Sikhs who, abandoning the fear of death, are always ready for martyrdom and remain unsullied by worldly possessions. The festival of Hola Mohalla offers a ring side view of their incredible life and military prowess.
This army of immortals (Akal Sena) to fight the wrong and protect mankind was founded by Guru Gobind Singh. Also called Sant Sipahi (Saint Warriors), they follow a strict code of conduct.
Their traditional dress (khalsa swarup) entails wearing electric blue clothing with high turbans (dumaala), a quoit of steel (chakram) around the turban, an iron bracelet (kada) and a dagger (kirpan). When fully dressed, a nihang is ready like a warrior, equipped with swords, war shield, bow/spear, and war shoes.
Bleed blue- being a Nihang
The fair grounds during Holla Mohalla are charged with an electric blue! A young Nihang Jatin Singh Khalsa, born into a Hindu family in Chandigarh, shared with the RoundGlass team, “Brotherhood, discipline and service to society attracted me to join the Waheguru ki Fauj.” The pride of being a nihang reflected strongly in his eyes and voice.
The headquarters of the two major Nihang Dals (Waheguru ki Fauj)-Tarna Dal and Buddha Dal are located in different parts of Punjab. Here is where they practise and keep themselves militarily fit to answer the call of God or Guru for war. They learn how to maintain discipline, learn Gurbani, and fulfil the distributed daily chores alongside their fellow nihangs. Their training in martial arts, weaponry and horse riding is imparted here.
Anyone can join the Guru’s army
Though Nihangs are often part of an hereditary process, anyone who wants to voluntarily join the Army of God from outside can be a part too.
Nihangs are well provided for and can be a family man. There’s no age or gender to be a Nihang, the minute a child can start to walk, he can get in to the Dal. Increasingly there are many women who opt to be a Nihang.
More than just a fair
At the Hola Mohalla, Nihangs come from far and wide and compete to showcase their valour and martial art skills which include outstanding swordsmanship, mind-blowing horse ridding, tent pegging and archery. The Nihang chief rewards the outstanding participants.
The three-day event is vividly captured by national and international media worldwide motivating the participants to do their best. Some might say it is a rural Punjab Sikh fair but there’s so much more to this festival. With the ever-increasing participation and attention being attracted by Hola Mohalla every year, it seems to be getting grander every year!
A Nihang’s first impression comes across as stern and strict, but, approach one at the festival and have a chat they are extremely humble and friendly. Their life story will inspire and a photo op with them will give a souvenir that will be cherished for a lifetime.