Beyond the Blue Series: Hola Mohalla And The Nihung Youth

Throughout this week, Sikh sovereignty is evident as the local government and police are mere onlookers guiding traffic or coordinating logistics

Gurpartap Singh Toor
March 28, 2021 | 3 min. read

Hola Mohalla will be celebrated at Anandpur Sahib, Punjab, and across the world on March 29. 

As inaugurated by Guru Gobind Singh Ji, thousands of Sikhs will congregate at the different Gurudwaras and forts at Anandpur and march in a procession. There will be displays of the Khalsa’s martial skills through Gatka, Neje Baazi (a horseback sport), and wrestling, as well as the Khalsa’s poetry skills through Dhadhi Kavishri. Most notably, you will see the Nihung Fauj at its finest, both old and young. 

Throughout this week, Sikh sovereignty is evident as the local government and police are mere onlookers guiding traffic or coordinating logistics. An older viral video of a Nihung Youth on horseback pushing aside barricades sums up this sentiment well. 

The first time I saw this video, I wondered where does a teenager in today’s time find this amount of badassery? The answer is found when you look past the aesthetic. 

As much as we debate the place and relevance of modern weapons, such as guns (and “Chardikala Bad Boy Crossbows”) in Sikh spaces, or the Nihung Baana (attire) there is no denying the importance of traditional arts that are practiced at Hola Mohalla. Their traditions and lifestyle are what provide them both mental and physical strength, and are thus relevant in modern time and will continue to be so.

Young Nihungs are taught how to use what is available to them as effective tools in a fight. It can be a Kirpaan (sword), a Soti (stick) or even a flexible PVC pipe laying around; if you know how to use it you will survive and be able to protect those around you. They do not debate the historical origin of the tool at hand. If it can be thrown at the target, it is an Astar. If it can be handheld, it is a Shastar. If either of those are within reach of a Nihung, they are a force to be reckoned with no matter their age.

Physical fitness is stressed upon. Being ever-ready with a clean Dumalla (turban) on your head at all times is important. Equally important is taking care of your horses. It is beautiful to see young ones bathing and brushing their horses while playing with them and feeding them. 

If you have ever ridden a horse at a trail, you know the body aches after an hour. It is unbelievable to see Nihung youth riding their horse with nothing but a thick blanket cover on its back and locking their bare feet into the stirrups. 

Their discipline to their lifestyle at such a young age does not stem from fear of their elders. It comes from their practice and learning of Gurbani. 

While many of us at that age (and even older) would struggle, you can ask any youth to recite Bani from memory at any time. They can recite ancient poetry and monologues. They hold an eagerness to raise loud Jakarey (slogans) and make their presence known in their surroundings, akin to a lion roaring to establish its dominance on territory. I have seen many call them arrogant, failing to realize that their Jakarey are in praise of their Guru and not themselves. 

Their fearlessness can be traced back to their Nihung Jathedar Baba Fateh Singh ji, who did the same in a Mughal court when he was sentenced for execution at the age of 6 years old. Nihungs pride themselves to be his troops - Fateh Singh ke Jathe Singh.

As we watch images and videos from this year’s Hola Mohalla celebrations, including the historic one at the Farmers Protest in Delhi, let’s learn and understand that beyond the blue robes and Dumalle of these Nihungs, there are years of discipline and practice from a very young age. It is this source of power that many have unsuccessfully tried to suppress and continue to do so. 

Akaal ji Sahai.

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Gurpartap Singh Toor hails from the United Arab Emirates. He is on the Khalsa Aid Canada team, as well as a regional member of the World Sikh Organization of Canada. You can find him on Twitter at @gurpartapstoor


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