Kathai Kathaiyam Karanamam

Tales We Heard Sitting In Ammupatti’s Lap

Holika Dahan

Posted by ammupatti on March 17, 2011

Holi is a festival celebrated on the full moon day of the Phalgun month (February-March) to commemorate the victory of good over evil. The most important ritual of Holi is Holika dahan which is a symbolic bonfire created to remember the burning of the evil Holika and emergence of Prahalada out of the fire unscathed. The story as I have learnt in my school days is thus.

The gate keepers of Lord Mahavishnu, Jaya and Vijaya were cursed by a sage to be born as Rakshasas (demons). They were born as brothers by name, Hiranyaksha (one with the goden eyes) and Hiranyakashipu (one with golden hair).They were very powerful demons and fought with the Gods. Hiranyaksha  took the earth (Bhooma Devi) and hid it in the pathala (netherworld). Lord Mahavishnu took the form of a boar (Varaha) and rescued Bhooma Devi  after killing Hirnyaksha. Hirnaykashipu was very saddened by the slaying of his  brother by Mahavishnu and decided to avenge the death of his brother. He decided to do a long and severe penance so he could be blessed with immortality and gain super powers to kill the devas (Gods). While he was meditating,  Sage Narada took Hiranyakashipu’s pregnant wife  Kayadhu to his ashram and took care of her. Sage Narada narrated the Puranas and stories of Mahavishnu to the pregnant Kayadhu.The child in her womb listened to the stories narrated by the sage and started meditating on Mahavishnu from inside the mother’s womb. In time Kayadhu gave birth to Prahalada. Influenced by the Bhagavatha stories of Sage Narada even when he was in his mother’s womb, Prahalada grew up as  great Bhagavatha (devotee of Lord Mahavishnu). His father after doing the great penance and bestowed with super natural powers from Brahma came back to his kingdom. Prahalada and his mother were brought back to the palace of Hiranyakashipu. Hiranyakashipu ordered that nobody in his kingdom should  chant the name of Narayana (Lord Mahavishnu). Instead they should chant “Hiranyaya Namah” (Obeisance to Lord Hiranya). But Prahalada being a great devotee of Lord Mahavishnu would chant only “Om Namo Narayanaya.” Angered by his son’s Narayana-bhakthi (devotion to Lord Mahavishnu), he ordered his soldiers to kill his own son, such was his anger towards Lord Mahavishnu for slaying his brother. The soldiers tried several methods to kill Prahalada. They threw him from the top of mountains, gave him poison to drink, let poisonous snakes in his bed, etc. But no harm came to the great devotee of Lord Mahavishnu. With each failed attempt at killing Prahalada, Hiranyakashipu became mad with anger. At this, his sister, Holika consoled him saying she would bring an end to Prahalada. Holika had  the power to not be harmed by fire. She suggested she would enter a big bonfire with Prahalada in her lap. Prahalada would be burnt to death and she would emerge safe. Thus a big bonfire was lit and Holika sat in the fire with Prahalada. Since Prahalada’s devotion to the Lord was more powerful than Holika’s power, Holika was burnt to ashes and Prahalada came out of the fire unscathed.

To commemorate the victory of this good over evil, the holifire is burnt during Holi.


2 Responses to “Holika Dahan”

  1. jyotishi said

    Charmingly told!

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