Here comes the festival of colors and happiness. Entire country is celebrating Holi, wearing a festive look. Everyone is painted in delight at the arrival of this festival as the season itself is charmingly beautiful and full of enthusiasm.

We also know Holi as the Spring Festival - it marks the arrival of spring, the season of hope and joy. Behind the fun, festivity, colors and sweets there is an interesting story about this auspicious festival.

The Puranic Tale of Hiranyakashipu

Many years ago, there lived an evil king Hiranyakashipu who had the intense desire to be immortal. To fulfill his desire, he performed strict penances to please Lord Brahma. Since the Gods rarely granted immortality, he used his sly intelligence to get a boon that he thought, made him immortal. He asked for death not to come by either a human being or an animal, either indoors or outdoors, either at day or at night. He could not be killed by either Astra (projectile weapons) or Shastra (handheld weapons), either on land or in water or air.

With this Boon, he became very domineering and egoistic. In this state of mind, he ordered that only he should be worshipped as God in his kingdom. He started considering himself invincible and started a reign of terror, hurting and killing everyone on earth who did not accept his orders.

But his son Prahlad was an ardent devotee of Lord Vishnu who disagreed with his father and refused to worship him as a God. Hiranyakashipu eventually became extremely furious and upset at his son's devotion to Lord Vishnu (who he saw as his arch-enemy) and made various attempts to kill Prahlad.

At first, he tried to influence his son against Lord Vishnu, but he failed. He ordered his demons to use their illusionary powers on Prahlad but none of their powers could stand before him. He ordered him to be trampled underfoot by an elephant, but the enraged elephant was unable to crush Prahlad’s body. They threw him over a very steep rock cliff, but he came down upon the earth as gently as a flower drops upon the grass. They tried to poison, burn, starve, and took every possible measure to kill the child, but nothing could harm the devotee of Lord Vishnu.

As the last hope, the king called his demoness sister, Holika for help. Holika had a special cloak which when worn, could prevent her from being harmed by fire. Hiranyakashipu asked Holika to sit in a bonfire, with his son Prahlad in her lap, in the hope that he will become a victim to fire. Without any fear of death Prahlad started chanting the Mantra of Lord Vishnu. As the fire grew, a strong breeze started swaying the cloak. The cloak flew from over Holika and covered Prahlad instead. It was then that she was charred to death and Prahlad remained unharmed.

Since then, the night before Holi is celebrated as Holika Dahan (Burning of Holika). Hindus build bonfire with wood and celebrate the victory and devotion of Prahlada as a reminder of the success of good over evil.

Later, Lord Vishnu appeared in the form of Narsingh (half human and half lion), at dusk (neither day, nor night), took Hiranyakashipu to the doorstep (neither indoors, nor outdoors), placed him on his lap (neither land, nor water, nor air), and then eviscerated and killed the king with his lion claws (neither Astra, nor Shastra). This form of the supreme God incapacitated the five special boons, granted to the evil king and thus ended his vain ambition of immortality.

May Holi fill everyone’s life with lots of colors, love and happiness. Happy Holi!!


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