Jagdev Singh – The story behind the ‘Hola Mohalla’ project

“His work untangles the complex appearance of life, revealing a fine sense for a moment to pause.” Our photographer Jagdev Singh stands up to this description of his work in every way. His work ranges from ordinary street life to year-long photojournalistic projects. He brings us closer to holy events, spends time with gurus and shows us the beauty and diversity of Indian people.

Daring by Jagdev Singh

Daring by Jagdev Singh

For his latest project he immersed himself into the holy gathering of ‘Hola Mohalla‘. A religious event very few people would know about, without his passionate effort to document and capture its wild and sacred execution. Jagdev documented the religious festival for three years to present a holistic and well attuned portrait of this gathering.

On Photocircle he presents a wide collection of his work to support three very inspiring projects for child education in Cambodia, India and Nepal. For the Photocircle Blog our photographer gives an exclusive insight into the story behind the pictures of ‘Hola Mohalla’.

Travel People by Jagdev Singh

Travel People by Jagdev Singh

How did you become a photographer?

Art always fascinated me, right from my childhood. As I grew, the urge to express and connect with the world through pictures kept building up till a time I guess the destiny gave me the start to shift from an amateur to a professional photographer in 2008.

What drives you as a photographer?

The sheer joy of freezing an intense moment from the incessant daily life of ‘we the wonderful humans’ living on this wonderful planet earth, drives me as a photographer. I feel an anonymous smile, the subtle expression on a face, should travel across the world and dispel the human anxieties. My pictures should provoke a thought to pause and connect with a moment which beholds life.

Saints by Jagdev Singh

Saints by Jagdev Singh

The story behind the Hola Mohalla project

The world knows very little about this festival and the spectacular way its celebrated. I planned the photo project “Hola Mohalla” as a vibrant photo documentary about the unconditional love and faith that people have for their guru!

Of the several splendid festivals celebrated in India, Hola Mohalla unfolds the phenomenal love, affection, selfless service, compassion and vigor in people while celebrating this for more than 4 centuries. Hola Mohalla is a three day festival, celebrated at the shrine of Keshgarh Sahib in the Sikh holy town of Anandpur Sahib in Punjab, India, every year in the month of March.

The word “Mohalla” implies an organized procession in the form of an army column. It was here in 1699 that the tenth Guru, Guru Gobind Singh Ji, baptized five men and founded the Khalsa Panth, which is the modern day Sikh religion. The custom originated in the time of Guru Gobind Singh Ji who held the first such mock fight event at Anandpur in February 1701.

Mock Fight

Mock Fight

The main attraction of the festival is the procession by Nihangs (a distinctive order among the Sikhs), with performance of ‘Gatka’ ( mock encounters with real weapons ), tent pegging and bareback horse-riding. One gets to see several Nihangs sporting massive turbans with Sikh symbols.

People come in millions from all over the world to pray, meditate, offer selfless service and celebrate during the festival. Day and night, hymns are read and sung from the Sikh holy book at scores of tent shelters. Free food is served 24 hours at these places, more commonly called ‘langar’.

victory by Jagdev Singh

victory by Jagdev Singh

Hola Mohalla rejuvenates the centuries old tradition and zeal of sheer faith and belief that the tenth Guru plays amongst all the people present, much to the joy of millions. Undoubtedly, the undaunted spirit and fervour of the three day celebrations is sure to leave you spellbound!

I invariably seek permission from my subject while making a portrait. And people reacted with excitement when being photographed. As for the celebration and action shots, the general public gave an overwhelming acceptance to accommodate me even in situations of huge chaos! Specifically for the horse riding event, it was amazing to see the concern to avoid any causalities by the horse riders even when the public almost pushed few people in front of the horses running wild at 200 km/ph.

Valour by Jagdev Singh

Valour by Jagdev Singh

What is your next project?

My next project is in Leh, India. This aims to unfold the life of the beautiful people of Leh!

Thank you Jagdev! We are very glad for this insight into your work!

You can buy his impressive artwork on Photocircle and  be enlightened with the energy of his pictures. A selected part of his pictures even give 100% of the price to social projects!

spellbound by Jagdev Singh

spellbound by Jagdev Singh

People by Jagdev Singh

People by Jagdev Singh

A Good Train by Jagdev Singh

A Good Train by Jagdev Singh

 Reflection People Walking by Jagdev Singh

Reflection People Walking Jagdev Singh

bottoms up! by Jagdev Singh

bottoms up! by Jagdev Singh

Namaste by Jagdev Singh

Namaste by Jagdev Singh

buddhist monks contemplating by Jagdev Singh

buddhist monks contemplating by Jagdev Singh