Holi is not only a festival of colours; it has a deep connection with Hindu mythology too. Holi generally brings to mind the images of colours, water balloons, water guns and buckets filled with colourful water. But, other than this side of fun, laughter and celebrations, the festival also has a religious side filled with faith and devotion. One night before the colour and fun-filled celebrations, the rituals of Holika Dahan are performed. The legend behind this ritual is symbolic of the victory of good over evil.
What is the legend behind the ritual of Holika Dahan?
Hiranyakashyap was an egoistic king and a ruthless ruler, who did a Tapasya and prayed to Lord Brahma, who was pleased by the devotion and gave the king a boon. Hiranyakashyap asked the Lord to be blessed in a way that he could not be killed by any human or animal; by any sort of weapon; during day or night; neither on the ground nor in the sky; and neither within nor outside a residence. After being blessed by such a boon, the king thought he is blessed by immortality which made him even more egoistic and ruthless. He forced everyone to worship only him. But, his son Prahlad went against him and worshipped Lord Vishnu. This angered his father so much that he decided to get his son killed. Taking advantage of the fact that his sister Holika could not be burnt by fire, he made Prahlad sit on Holika’s lap and made them sit on fire. However, Lord Vishnu came to the rescue and saved Prahlad, while burning Holika. What they did not know that Holika could be unhurt by fire only if she sits in it alone! At the same time, a ferocious avatar of Lord Vishnu – Lord Narasimha (half human, half lion) – arised from a pillar and killed Hiranyakashyap. Thus, not going against Lord Brahma’s boon, Lord Narasimha appeared in the form of half human-half lion, and killed Hiranyakashyap at dusk, on the doorstep, and on his lap with his lion claws.
How is Holika Dahan performed?
The Holika Dahan begins with cleaning the site where the ritual is to be performed with Gangajal and cow dung. The idols of Holika and Prahlad are created with cow dung and placed at the center. Using a wooden pole and hay, a 7-8 feet tall heap is created. The Puja begins with praying to Lord Vishnu and Lord Ganesha while chanting mantras and making offerings of flowers, fruits, haldi
. Then, Devi Ambika and Lord Narasimha are worshipped. People circumambulate the heap a few times tying a raw yarn and empty the water around the heap too. Then, the heap is lighted with fire, around which devotees do a Parikrama
You may now have understood that Holika Dahan marks how steady faith can surpass even the test of fire. So, from this year onwards, make it a point to worship and pray to the holy Holika before indulging yourself in the colourful and fun-filled celebrations of Dhuleti the next morning.