When I was at Anandpur filming the Hola Mahalla documentary, a horse came galloping past with a young woman on its back. I'd spent all day filming different people but not seen any women horse riders so I quickly tried to film as much of her as I could.
A week or two later I bumped into the young woman, Harsangat Kaur at Harimandir Sahib, Amritsar along with Angad Singh and few new friends. Harsangat now goes by the name Raj Kaur and I eventually got to interview her about the festival. She provides a brilliant first hand account of Hola Mahalla, I loved the energy that she was able to get across recounting her story.
This video and write up are part of an ongoing series exploring Hola Mahalla and the Sikh diaspora. There are more documentaries and short films coming soon so keep an eye out on the website and various social media channels.
Below is a write up of the interview with Raj Kaur.
I only knew some of the history of it, but I've never been there so I didn't know the experience, but I remember driving there and seeing all these people. People on the backs of lorries, trucks and tractors coming to Anandpur Sahib, that was so cool. I just thought it was a family affair. You know, in the west “yeah we're going in our RV and going camping" but it was kind of like that.
When I got to Anandpur Sahib, I was like “Wow' the energy of it was just... Yeah when I saw your film it just reminded me of all the energy.
I was with a group of people who had been there many times. So we're going through the procession and I saw horses and I was like “oh man”. Cos' I've been riding since I was five years old and you know... all I wanted to do was jump on somebodies horse the whole entire time I'm just staring at the horse like “when am I going to ride? Can someone get me a horse?”. “Yeah, yeah penji we'll let you ride later”, you know its like whatever. But I was really serious and I'm very stubborn sometimes. So I had to repeat myself a lot of the times but being in that energy though with the Singhs it felt like it was back in time, you know like in a story book of the history of the Sikhs.
We got into the field, it was all these horses running past and it was you know - really dangerous not knowing where you're going, theres no orgnisation at all.
I knew a couple of Singhs, still there. They were like "oh here's a horse" but it was a huge horse. This horse... nobody was riding it... it was kind of showcased, like "oh look at this huge amazing horse".
It was probably one of the biggest horses I've ever gotten on. So he jumps onto his back legs. Twice!!!
I'm like "alright, now I know what I'm working with". So I remember the horse, he goes down the second time, decides to turn around and RUN!!! Just full on race horse running. Not galloping, not canter, just run!!!
I was like "okay full throttle". There's all these people all over the field and I was like "oh my god".
I knew a certain method of stopping a horse on that kind of issue by my own trial and error, working with horses like that and so I stopped the horse.
I was kind of shaken up a little bit. It was a powerful horse. I felt really honored. It was a beautiful experience and next year I rode again, but this time I raced. No one got me a horse, I still had to go to try and get another horse and five minutes before I got a horse and ran down the field, you know, with all the other Singhs this time and by Gurus Grace I was alright.