A Sikh celebration of ‘valour and defence preparedness’ (17 March 2014)
by Helen Redfern
Suitable for Whole School (Pri)
To explore Hola Mohalla, a Sikh celebration of ‘valour and defence preparedness’.
Preparation and materials
- You will need four cards with ‘When?’, ‘Why?’, ‘How?’ or ‘What?’ written on them, plus four volunteers to hold the cards.
- For Step 4, about ‘How?’, it would be good to have images of or, even better, the following: swords and shields, hobby horses or riding hats, musical instruments and a poetry book, a history book and a holy book and bowls). Then you can invite children to come and act out the festival. Visit <ww.allaboutsikhs.com> for information and pictures.
- In this assembly, we are going to find out about Hola Mohalla.
Is it the latest dance craze? Is it a type of curry? Is it an exotic beach destination for the rich and the famous? No, it is an important Sikh festival and we are going to discover more by asking these four questions.
The children need to hold their cards up in turn as follows.
- The first child holds up the ‘When?’ card.
When does the festival of Holla Mohalla take place? Well, Holla Mohalla is celebrated in the month of Phalguna in the Sikh calendar. It takes place every year on the day after Holi, which is a religious festival celebrated by Hindus in spring. The festival is held at the Sikh’s holy city of Anandpur Sahib, in the Punjab, and all round the world. It is a moveable festival, but, in 2014, it takes place on 17 March.
- The second child holds up the ‘Why?’ card.
Why does the festival of Hola Mohalla take place? It was established by the last of the Sikh leaders, Guru Gobind Singh in his lifetime. At that time, the Sikh people were being attacked by those around them and Guru Gobind Singh organized them into a community of soldier-saints to protect and defend themselves. The Sikh soldiers stood together, united in their bravery and were able to withstand the onslaught of a mighty enemy. This festival became a gathering of Sikhs to take part in military exercises and mock battles to remind them of the need for ‘valour and defence preparedness’ (remember these words).
- The third child holds up the ‘How?’ card.
How does the festival of Hola Mohalla take place?Well, this is where the fun begins. This great festival lasts for three whole days.
Invite children to come up and give out the props so that they can act out each of the activities described below in turn as you mention them, then freeze in position when you move on to the next one.
– Mock battles are held and people dress up in colourful costumes, carrying long shiny spears and swords. They pretend to fight like the Sikh army would have fought its battles many years ago. There is also a parade of Sikh martial arts.
Using swords and shields, the children pretend to fight.
– There are great displays of horse riding, where people gallop past the crowds at great speed. They also perform daring stunts riding bareback, even standing upright on two speeding horses.
Using hobby horses or wearing the riding hats, children perform mock stunts pretend to be riding horses back and forth.
– Music and poetry competitions take place to find the best musicians and poets in the land.
Using musical instruments and poetry books, children pretend to play instruments and give poetry readings.
– Stories are told of the amazing bravery of Guru Gobind Singh and passages are read from the Sikh holy book, the Sri Guru Granth Sahib.
Using a history book and a holy book, children pretend to give readings from the books.
– All the visitors to the area are invited to share in a traditional meal prepared and provided by the local people.
Using the bowls, children pretend to be taking part in a communal meal.
Just imagine how much fun it is to be at this festival with all these activities going on at the same time.
Encourage the children to act out all of their parts together.
What a fantastic celebration!
Thank the children, then ask them to all now sit down.
- The fourth child holds up the ‘What?’ card.
So, finally, what can the festival of Hola Mohalla remind us of today? Guru Gobind Singh wanted Sikhs to remember the importance of two things: valour and being prepared to defend ourselves.
What do those two concepts mean for us today? What does ‘valour’ mean?
It means courage or bravery. It means standing up for what is right, even when you are afraid. It means overcoming your fear and doing the right thing.
What does ‘being prepared’ mean? Being prepared to defend the truth. Being prepared to stand up for the weak. Being prepared to stand by your friends.
Time for reflection
Let us finish our assembly by reflecting on these two concepts – being brave and being ready – and combine them into one question: are you ready to be brave?
When your friends start picking on the new kid in the playground, are you ready to be brave and stand up for what is right?
When your teacher is trying to find out the truth about an incident in the classroom, are you ready to be brave and tell the truth?
When you see an old person struggling with some shopping bags, are you ready to be brave and lend a helping hand?
When you hear people make unkind comments about people who are different from them, are you ready to be brave and stand up for equality?
When you see other children dropping rubbish on the ground, are you ready to be brave and set a good example?
When we remember what we have learned about the festival of Hola Mohalla, let us remember to be ready to be brave, any time, any place, any day.
‘Would you walk by on the other side’ (Come and Praise, 70)