Holika Dahan: A Joyful Bonfire

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India is known to be a land of festivals. Festivals of light, colors, kites, dandiya, relationships and so on… Each festival celebrated here has a special story behind it and same is the festival of colors; the Holi. According to Hindu calendars; every year Holi is feted on the last full moon day (lunar month) of Phalguna month (Phalguna Purnima), which as per the Gregorian calendar, falls somewhere in the middle of March month. Following the rituals, the eve before Holi’s day is celebrated as Holika Dahan and the next is devoted for merriments with colors. This year Holika Dahan (Kamudu pyre) is to be done on March 12, Sunday and Holi is to be celebrated on March 13, Monday. The festival also grips implication regarding completion of winters and the beginning of summers.

The Story behind Holika Dahan

In line with the mythological stories, once there was a cruel king Hiranyakashipu, who had a boon of not being killed by any man or animal, in the day or night, and by any armaments. He was mighty enough to win over the kingdom of earth. This made him egoistic and he started believing himself to be the God. Prahlad, his son was a true and ardent devotee of Lord Vishnu, which Hiranyakashipu did not like. He tried numerous methods to slay Prahlad, but Lord Vishnu protected him every time. Ultimately; he decided to take help of his sister Holika, who was blessed of not being burnt in the fire.

Somehow Holika persuaded young Prahlad to sit in her lap while she herself took her seat in the intense fire. But this was the time when Holika has to pay for her evil aspiration. She was unaware about the boon working only when she goes into the fire unaccompanied. Prahlad kept chanting “Om Namo Narayana” while he was in Holika’s lap and thus God saved him and burnt the evil Holika.

Hence the festival derives it celebration’s reason as the victory of good and a true devotion over evil. Next morning, people of the kingdom celebrated the victory by putting Gulal on each other’s face and thus the festival took its shape.

Even today, people follow the ritual and burn the statue of Holika in many states across India. This also has a scientific reason that burning cow dung cakes and wood in the Holika Dahan would kill the disease-breeding germs from the environment.

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