Southern spin to a Punjabi fest

Holla Mohalla

Was it the dizzying image of the whirling ropes in the air amidst a landscape beaming with scores of people or the painting of a tractor with blaring loudspeakers, crowded with men against the backdrop of a Gurdwara that piqued our interest?

A difficult choice it is when coloured in the shades of tangerine and blue, a mix of paintings and photographs infuse the energy of the vibrant festival of Holla Mohalla in the stills. The recently held four-day exhibition titled ‘Holla Mohalla – an Enduring Celebration’, which was inaugurated by the guest of honour Gursharan Kaur, staged the magnificence of the Punjabi festival through the works of the painter Suresh Muthukulam and photographer Cop Shiva at India
Habitat Centre.

Seen through the sensibilities of Karnataka-based artists, this exhibition combined the charm of paintings and pictures as Suresh and Cop Shiva revived the Punjabi festival through their interpretation after attending it in Anandpur Sahib this year. 

The significance this festival holds for Punjab is enshrined in the fact that every year during the colourful festival of Holi, a theatre of life, Holla Mohalla, plays out in Anandpur Sahib for three-long days. For the uninitiated, it is the same festival where the leading stars from the film Rang De Basanti were seen tripping to the tunes of Punjabi music while the performers amazed us with their acts of gatka (mock fights) against a background rich with colour, crowds, and of course, galloping horses.
Unfurling the bewildering cityscape of Anandpur Sahib during the fest, the paintings and the pictures capture the spectacle of shining weaponry, martial arts and daring horsemanship during this festival, as Nihangs – the descendants of Khalsa Dal – converge in this holy town . 

As fas as the historic importance goes, Anandpur Sahib was the township where the 10th Guru of Sikhism, Guru Gobind Singh established Khalsa Panth (the league of the pure) and declared a holy war against tyranny and oppression. Combining the elements of history with the current scenario, Suresh captured the details of the festival by leaving a mark of his traditional Kerala mural painting style, while Cop Shiva probed the pulse of the fest with an array of pictures of turbaned men dressing up for their act and a wide shot of Kabaddi players, amongst others, lending it a dramatic effect.

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