Fire is considered sacred in the Hindu religion & it’s a part of many of our prayers and offerings to the Gods. India as many of you know has many festivals, mythological stories, ancient beliefs & rituals that form a part of our lives. One such wonderful joyous festival is that of Holi which we celebrate to welcome spring here. We use coloured powder and apply it to friends and acquaintances and there’s a general atmosphere of bonhomie all around. Just the night preceding Holi, we also burn a bonfire called ‘Holika’. This blog is about her and why we continue to burn ‘Holika’ every Holi. Holika was the demon sister of a demon king called Hiranyakashipu. The king hated Lord Vishnu, as Vishnu was responsible for killing his brother Hiranyaksha in his Varaha avataar (you can read more about the avataars of vishnu in an earlier blog here) but his son Prahlad was a staunch devotee of Lord Vishnu. Hiranyakashipu tried numerous methods to kill his son Prahlad, but each time the lord intervened and saved him. His sister Holika had a boon of remaining untouched by fire and so Hiranyakashipu prevailed upon his sister to take Prahlad into the fire and burn him, while she would escape unscathed. So on the night before Holi, Holika stepped into a fire made for the purpose of burning prahlad; but the maya (greatness) of the lord is such that she was burnt to ashes while Prahlad remained unhurt. The whole of the city had been assembled by the King to teach them a lesson that they would suffer a similar fate and be burnt if they prayed to Lord Vishnu. When Holika was burnt, the people rejoiced and their faith in the lord was made stronger than ever before. In India, we still burn the Holika the night before Holi and it’s symbolic for us wherein we wish that all the evil inside us & impure thoughts would be burnt and only good would remain in us forever.
The picture here is of the Holika being burnt in my building society before Holi in 2015.