...before entering today's post, a brief correction and apology; midlife mental maelstrom resulted in the months of March and April getting mixed up last week - Sri Ram-navaami is, of course, 15th April and NOT March - but shrug your shoulders - because any day is a good day to celebrate the Lord!!! Sorry for any confusion which this may have caused.
Story-day is for cultural exploration, puraanas and parables and finding out about leading lights in spiritual philosophy.
` © Yamini Ali MacLean
This coming week will see the celebration of Holi. There are those who would say that this is the least religious holiday of the Indian calendar, as virtually everyone in the country joins in, regardless of faith. It is seen as the celebration of spring and the throwing of colour and water represents this bursting forth of life and the nurturing of it to create something fresh and new. During this festival, all social barriers are dropped - all become as one colour - all have a blend of the other - by the end. It's a good ol' knees-up, in other words!
However, the basis of the festival is most likely to be the tale of Holika. In fact, the night before the day of colours, bonfires are lit and folk everywhere will throw in papers with things written on, such as vaasanas they want to 'burn' out of their psyche, or repentances of sins which they want offered up to the ether. The bonfire represents the fire in which Holika died. Why was she there in the first place?
Holika's brother was a demon king by the name of Hiranyakashyap who won over the kingdom of earth. He had been granted boons by Sri Vishnu that he could not be killed by the hand of any man. For his sister, Holika, the boon of being able to remain alive even through fire was granted, so that when her husband died, she could not be sacrificed like Sati. Hiranyakashyap was so egoistic that he commanded everybody in his kingdom to worship only him and to forget their devataas. To his great disappointment however, his son Prahlaad became an ardent devotee of Lord Naaraayana and refused to worship his father, spending his days in japa of the Lord of his heart.
Hiranyakashyap tried several ways to kill his son Prahlaad, but Lord Vishnu saved the boy every time. Finally, the evil king asked his sister, Holika to enter a blazing fire with Prahlaad in her lap. Hiranyakashyap knew that Holika had the boon, whereby she could enter the fire unscathed.
Treacherously, Holika coaxed young Prahlaad to sit in her lap and she herself took her seat in a blazing fire. Her intentions being as evil as her brother's, Holika was not aware that the boon worked only when she entered the fire alone. Thus Prahlaad, who kept chanting the name of Lord Naarayana all this while, came out unharmed, as the lord blessed him for his extreme devotion and saved him as in all previous attempts upon his life; but Holika died for her action.
Sri Vishnu was so angered that his devoted Prahlaad had been treated this way, he manifested as Narasimha avatar, and struck down the evil king Hiranyakashyap. The death could happen, for Narasimha was no man, but lion.
Thus, Holi derives its name from Holika. It is celebrated as the triumph of a devotee. Anybody, however devious or strong, cannot harm a true devotee. Those who dare torture a true devotee of God shall pay a price. It may take time and patience, but Good will always win over Evil.