The festival of Holi is associated with different mythological and spiritual stories. Out of the many tales, the most prominent is that of a devotee – Prahlad, his father Hiranyakashyap and Hiranyakashyap’s sister Holika. This story behind holika dahan is a testament to the power of bhakti (devotion).
King Hiranyakashyap worshiped Lord Brahma for years and, with penance he was able to impress him. Lord Brahma granted wishes of the king which were:
- King Hiranyakashyap cannot be killed by human being or an animal
- He will not die either in his home or outside the home
- He will not die in the day or at night
- He will not die either by astra or shastra (weapons)
- King Hiranyakashyap will not die either on land or in the sea or in the air
With such blessings the king had become invincible and wanted people in his kingdom to preach him as God. Everyone did except King Hiranyakashyap’s son Prahlad who preached Lord Vishnu. Offended by his son’s disobedience, King Hiranyakashyap decided to kill Prahlad and made several attempts too. All his attempts went in vain as Prahlad was saved by Lord Vishnu each time. King Hiranyakashyap then asked Holika, his sister, to kill Prahlad. Holika had a gift – she could not be harmed or burned by fire. Holika’s blessing was in the form of a shawl, which would protect her. As asked by her brother, Holika get herself seated in the flames with Prahlad on her lap to kill him. All the while Prahlad kept chanting Lord Vishnu’s name. As soon as the fire soared, the blessed shawl of Holika fluttered away to cover Prahlad. In this way, Prahlad lived and Holika burnt and died. This is how Holi gets its name from Holika and is celebrated as a festival that marks the victory and power of bhakti (devotion).
In some parts of the country, story of Pootana or Putana is also prevalent as the reason to celebrate Holi. The demon king Kansa (uncle of Krishna) feared getting killed one day by Lord Krishna. Kansa sent Putana to kill Krishna through her poisonous breast milk. She came to baby Krishna and started feeding of her poisonous milk. Lord Krishna, knowing her demonic intentions, sucked out Putana’s life-force while she fed him her milk and she turned into her original giant and scary form. Lord Krishna sucked all her blood until Putana was killed. It is said that it was the night of Holi when Putana was killed and Lord Krishna proved his greatness. Some who view the origin of festivals from seasonal cycles believe that Putana represents winter and her death the cessation and end of winter.
We can follow whichever story behind celebrating Holi but all the stories have the same crux – Victory of good over evil. In 2015, Holika Dahan will be celebrated on 5th March.
Shubh Muhurt for Holika Dahan in 2015 are:
Holika Dahan: 18:19 hrs – 20:48 hrs
Purnima starts: 20:57 hrs (4th March)
Purnima ends: 23:35 hrs (5th March)