Hola is derived from the word halla (a military charge) and the term mohalla stands for an organized procession or an army column. The words ‘Hola Mohalla’ would thus stand for ‘the charge of an army.The festival lasts for a week and consists of camping out and enjoying various displays of fighting prowess and bravery, followed by kirtan, music, and poetry. For meals, visitors sit on the ground in neat rows called pangats and eat vegetarian Langars provided by volunteers. The festival concludes with a long, military-style procession near Takht Sri Keshgarh Sahib, one of the five most sacred places in Sikhism.
The event was originated by Guru Gobind Singh, the tenth Sikh Guru. The Guru was in the midst of fighting both Aurangzeb of the Mughal Empire and the Hill Rajputs, and had recently established the Khalsa Panth fighting force. On February 22, 1701, Guru Gobind Singh started a new tradition by overseeing a day of mock battles and poetry contests at Holgarh Fort.