Holika Dahan, also known as Kamudu pyre is celebrated on the eve of famous Hindu festival Holi. This festival is celebrated by burning Holika, the evil sister of Prahlad. In Hindu culture, the death of Holika was necessary in order to save Prahlad. In olden days, people of a community used to contribute pieces of wood for the Holika bonfire. Children playfully stole all sorts of things that could be burnt and put them in Holika pyre.

Significance

The night of Holika, pyres are burnt in North India, Nepal and parts of South India in keeping with this tradition. In many parts of India the day is actually called Holika. There are other activities associated with the story of Prahlad, but the burning of Holika is the most significant one. Fire burnt on the eve of Holi (Holika Dahan) symbolizes the burning of Holika. The story as a whole is testament to the power of devotion over the evil represented by King Hiranyakashyap, as Prahlad never lost his faith.

Legend of Holika

The Bhagvata Purana mentions that there was once a demon king named Hiranyakashyap, who like many others harbored an intense desire to become immortal. He sat in penance till the time Brahma was pleased and granting him the five-parted boon, which stated that he could be killed by neither a human being nor an animal, neither indoors nor outdoors, neither at day nor at night, neither by weapons that could be launched nor by any weapons that are hand held, and neither on land nor in water or air. As the wish was granted, he became arrogant and demanded that he be worshipped as a god by the people. But his son Prahlad differed, enraging the demon king. He sought to kill him numerous times, but his attempts were unsuccessful. So he called upon his sister Holika, who had a special garment in the likeness of a cloak, which prevented any person wearing it from burning.

Plotting to kill Prahlad, Hiranyakashyap asked Holika to wear this magical garment and sit on a bonfire, tricking his son to sit on her lap. However, as the fire roared, the garment came off Holika and covered Prahlad instead. Holika burnt to death, and Prahlad emerged unharmed.

After watching this, Vishnu appeared in the form of Narasimha–a creature half human and half lion, at dusk when it was neither day nor night and led Hiranyakashyap to a doorstep – which was neither indoors nor outdoors, placed him on his lap – which was neither land, water nor air, and used his lion claws to tear his belly, using neither a hand held weapon nor a launched weapon. This way, he honored the five-parted boon granted to Hiranyakashyap, slaying him still. His son reigned justly over the people, and the good was victorious over evil.

Holika Dahan 2017

Common Rituals

On the eve of Holi, which is Holika Dahan, people light bonfires. Placed on top of the pyre is an effigy of Holika, who tricked Prahlad to sit on her lap in the fire. Inside homes, people stock-up on color pigments, food, drinks, and start preparing festive foods like gujiya, matthi, malpuas, and other regional delicacies. Some people even take fire from the bonfire to their homes as it is believed to be auspicious, bring good and keep their bodies from all physical afflictions.

Holika dahan Muhurat

18:23 – 20:23 12th March

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