It’s Hola Mohalla: Let the Games Begin!

by Vicki Garlock on March 22, 2019

Sikh Man, Agra, India by Yann

Hola Mohalla is a 3-day festive holiday celebrated by Sikhs. One of the symbols of baptized Sikhs is wearing a turban. It’s a practice that is routinely misconstrued and feared by people, which is why it’s important to educate your kids about Sikhism — a faith tradition with over 25 million adherents around the world.

The Sikh religion began in the northwestern Punjab region of India, so you could begin by showing your kids where this region is on a map/globe. You could also show them pictures of Sikh men and women who have chosen to wear their uncut hair in a Sikh turban. Turbans come in a variety of colors, and there are many YouTube videos that show how they are tied. (Click here for an example.)

As sacred holidays go, Hola Mohalla is relatively new, started by the tenth (and final human) Sikh guru in 1701. It’s a joyous festival that originally focused on the martial arts skill and military prowess of the Sikh people. Today, the holiday is celebrated with three days of processions, mock battles, daredevil horseback riding, poetry, music, and kirtan (chanting). Sikh houses of worship, called gurdwaras, are decorated, and everyone eats food together during open-air community meals.

There aren’t many kids’ books about Sikhism, but you might start with Sikh Gurdwara (Places of Worship) by Kanwaljit Kaur-Singh or I Belong to the Sikh Faith by Katie Dicker and Singh Perihar. You could also cook up a meal and invite a few people to share it with you. Serving free meals to all people, regardless of color, religion, age, or social status, was one of the founding practices of Sikhism. It ran counter to the caste system prevalent in India at the time and was intended to symbolize the oneness of all humankind. Many times, vegetarian meals are served to ensure that even those with dietary restrictions can join in.

Sikhs are widely known for their dancing skills. Do a search on bhangra videos to find all sorts of amazing examples. Here’s one to get you started.

Many Sikhs also enjoy playing instruments that might be unfamiliar to your kids. Stringed instruments, such as the dilruba, taus and rabab, and percussion instruments, such as the jori, are good examples. Simply playing Sikh music, with its very distinctive sound, is a great way to expose even young children to the unique musical culture of this tradition. Here are a few links to get you started.

Sikh Playing Dilruba

Sikh Playing Taus

Sikh Men Chanting and Playing Dilruba and Jori

Group Playing Jori and Several Stringed Instruments

It’s a natural human tendency to fear what we do not recognize or understand. With a small amount of effort, you can share a few aspects of this peace-loving religious tradition with your kids. If we want to end the faith-based violence happening all over the world, we need to start with our children.

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