Dr. Visham Bhimull

Holika Dahan


Holika Dahan (The Burning of Holika): Etymology of the word ‘Holi’
The mythological origins of this festival vary in different parts of India. The celebration of Holi is very ancient in origin. It celebrates the ultimate triumph of “good” over “evil”. While a feast of colours is associated with Holi the original reason for celebrating Holi lies in the soul of the festival. Literally “Holi” is the Hindi word meaning “burning”. How it became associated with “burning” is a myth. The reference is found in ancient Indian Mythology. The celebration of Holi is associated with the King, Hiranyakashipu. In the pre-Christian era, there lived a evil king named Hiranyakashipu in ancient India. He wanted to avenge the death of his brother who was killed by Lord Vishnu, one of the supreme trio, who preserves life and death in the Universe. unhappy with the death of his brother, he performed severe penance and prayer for many years and was granted a boon. Powered by the boon, Hiranyakashipu thought he had become invincible. Filled with arrogance he ordered all in his kingdom to worship him instead of God.The King however had a young son, named Prahalad. He was an ardent devotee of God and despite his father’s orders he continued to pray to God. So the evil King wanted to get rid of his son. He tried many methods to get rid of his son but Prahalad always escaped unscathed. The king asked a favor of his sister Holika who was granted a boon which made her immune to fire, she would sit in the fire with Prahalad on her lap. A pyre was built and Holika sat with Prahald in her lap. At the end Prahalad emerged and Holika was burned to ashes. The complete submission to God saved young Prahalad. Thus Prahalad, the representative of good triumphed while Holika the symbol of evil was defeated. It is from Holika that Holi originated. This legend is relived today, on the Holi-eve the pyre is re-lit in the form of bonfires. Huge bonfires are lit up every year on the eve of the full moon night to symbolise the burning of Holika and to celebrate “good” over “evil”.



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