Sikhs in British Army celebrate colourful Festival of Holla Mahalla


Our Bureau

London, UK

As per the British Military, the Military personnel from the Defence Sikh Network (DSN) celebrated their version of the Sikh military festival of Holla Mahalla at the Ash firing range in Surrey. The Defence Sikh Network is the official organisation within the UK Ministry of Defence, supporting inclusion from a Sikh perspective.

Traditionally held in March, the event which dates to the 10th century, celebrates the Sikh’s military prowess and where their skills are exhibited in fierce but good-natured competition.

Holla Mahalla brings together Sikhs from all walks of life and is a time for celebration, reflection, and strengthening community bonds. The activities and events during the festival not only entertain and engage the participants but also serve as a reminder of the Sikh values of courage, service, and spiritual devotion.

Sikhs are also renowned for their marksmanship, so a shooting competition took centre stage at Ash Ranges near Aldershot with those taking aim and hoping to top the leader board.

Event Organiser, Major Daljinder Singh Virdee MBE, Land Operations Command, Field Army said, “It has been a jam-packed day of both modern and traditional activities, steeped in Sikh military history for personnel from across the British Army. The competitive shooting competition from various distances and positions was fiercely contested. Followed by a Sikh martial arts display, Sikh folk music (Dhad Sarangi) and traditional games.”

During the festival, participants also took part in traditional games, like Tug-of-War and Quoits (a game where you throw rings over a small post). Both events dating back many centuries and ones that their Sikh military forebears would have taken part in.

The day ended with the cultural tradition of Rang, where all those present were invited to throw brightly coloured neon powders at one another in celebration of the day.

Initiated by Guru Gobind Singh Ji (10th Guru of the Sikhs) Hola Mahalla, evokes within the community the spirit of courage, preparation, and heritage. The DSN began celebrating Holla Mohalla in the British Army in 2021.

Sikhs have fought alongside the British Armed Forces for over 150 years. Over 400,000 served in World War One and Two, and there were many regiments of Sikhs who won battle honours and multiple Victoria Crosss.

Over 84,000 died and over 100 thousand were injured during the two conflicts.

This legacy of valour has carried on to the present day where Sikhs proudly serve in armed forces across the world. The UK MoD has ensured that Sikh characteristics are protected, meaning they can serve in the UK Armed Forces and fully practice their faith.

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