Holika Dahan, commonly known as Holika is celebrated in the northern states of the country. There are many stories about holi which are mythological, spiritual and social. The story behind holika dahan is a testament to the power of bhakti (devotion).
Story behind Holika:
Holika was sister of King Hiranyakashyap. The king worshiped Lord Brahma for years to become a great man. After penance, Lord Brahma was impressed with king Hiranyakashyap and therefore blessed him.
Lord Brahma granted wishes of the king;
- 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.
This made the king invincible as the blessings saved him from being killed easily. King Hiranyakashyap started taking advantage of this and forced people in his kingdom to preach him as God. Everyone obeyed except his son, Prahlad who preached Lord Vishnu.
King Hiranyakashyap was angry with his son's decision and therefore decided to kill him. H called his sister, Holika to kill him after failing in several attempts. Holika was blessed with a gift, she could not be effected by fire which means she can't burn in fire. The king planned to make his son, Prahlad. He asked Holika to sit on a bonfire and make Prahlad sit on her lap. King Hiranyakashyap thought his son would burn but Prahlad kept chanting Lord Vishnu's name.
Prahlad was saved from fire and Holika was burnt to death. This is the story of Holika Dahan. The death of Holika and Holika's conflict signifies the triumph of good over evil. This is why Holi is celebrated next morning. The night before Holi, pyres are burnt and worshiped. Several regions have different beliefs behind Holika's story. Some believe Lord Vishnu saved Prahlad by covering him with Holika's shawl. Few believe Lord Vishnu came in and saved Prahlad.
Holika Dahan story shows that the festival is a celebration where the evil is curbed by devotion and power of God!