Monday, 28 April 2008

Hola Mohala in Anandpur Sahib

A view to the main temple in Anandpur Sahib.

Anandpur Sahib is the second holiest place in Sikhism and every year it hosts a grand festival celebrating the Sikh religion. This festival called Hola Mohala was the actual reason for our easter trip out of Delhi and thus we were excited to finally go there. However, our excitement dampened a bit when we found upon our arrival that the grand display of Khalsa (militant Sikh order) martial arts, which we wanted to see, had been held the day before. But we still ended up seeing and experiencing a lot on this the last official day of the Hola Mohala festival.

Decorated main street of Anandpur Sahib.

Jeppe, Nitoli and some new friends.

Young guys disregarding safety precautions during a thrill ride

Novelty hat salesman

Although filled with religious significance, Hola Mohala also has a much more worldly side to it. It's very much about partying and having fun, which means there are also thrill rides and many other non-religious activities going on. So we had a good time wandering around town observing the joyous activities. Some of the highlights of our day include eating at the large communal dining hall of Anandpur, visiting a local family and watching a bizarre show in the so called "death drome".

Jeppe and Nitoli enjoying a free and delicious (although spicy) meal at the communal dining hall.

The dining hall filled with a capacity crowd.

One of the things I love about Sikhism is that it is very hospitable and inclusive. You always feel welcome and unlike Hinduism and Islam you are never charged anything for access to any holy Sikh places. On the contrary you are offered free board and food. Donations are welcome of course, but they are completely non-pushy about it. We also felt the hospitality of Sikhs when a young man came up to us and invited us to his home. Normally I would be sceptical of such invitations fearing to be conned, but I quickly became convinced that there was nothing fishy in this case. And the visit turned out great - the paternal figure of the family was a retired professor, who spoke excellent English and was eager to engage us in conversation. We even enjoyed a musical performance.

The three of us with the whole Singh family in front of their house.

The young man, who invited us home plays devotional Sikh songs with the neighbour's son, who didn't utter a single word there. But he can express himself through music.

Last but not least we were shocked to experience the death defying stunts in the so called death drome. I literally felt sick to my stomach seeing these young men risk their lives for mere pennies, but still my morbid curiosity wouldn't allow me to leave ahead of time. We had long conversations about what life circumstances motivate people to chose such a profession.

Car and motorcycle in the death drome. No tricks here, the car really is driving round like that and the guy in the yellow shirt is the driver of the car.

Spectators staring in fascination. I would never allow my children to witness anything that scary and dangerous, but things are different in India.

Three cars simultaneously. Crazy!

A view from the main temple to the fairground. It's the death drome in the left side of the picture.

And finally a grand view of the whole spectacle seen from the death drome.


Harpal said...

Wow I love your blog, I'm a Sikh living in the UK and Ive never been to India before, looking at your blog makes me want to go more than ever. I especially want to go to Anandpur and Amritsar. Keep up the good work!

Esben said...

Hi Harpal,

You should definitely go to India! There's nothing stopping you. Tickets are not very expensive now, so just save for a bit, take a holiday and come :)

Vipan said...

hi esban u r realy great man b'coz u show up all awesome snaps by ur blog, those are i forget. i have already seen these all fair, sikh temple and all entertainment as well never forgotten festivals b,coz i belong from punjab but nw i m living in Australia so main reason i miss 2 much our punjab. thnx very much.