Holika Dahan: The origin and significance of Holi

Holi is a traditional Hindu festival which marks the arrival of Spring. Widely known across the world as the Festival of Colours, it takes place over two days, and is a celebration of fertility, colour and love, as well as the triumph of good over evil. The first day of Holi is celebrated as Holika Dahan and the second day as Dhulivandan, which is best known around the world for the powdered colours that revellers throw on each other, eventually leaving them all coated in colour by the end of the day. Despite it being a Hindu festival, people of all religions and cultures take part and it’s now seen as a universal celebration.

Holi will be celebrated on 1st and 2nd March this year.

What is the significance of the Holi festival?

Holi’s different celebrations come from various Hindu legends, although one is widely believed to be the most likely origin. The word “Holi” originates from “Holika”, the evil sister of demon king Hiranyakashipu. King Hiranyakashipu had earned a boon that made him virtually indestructible. These special powers blinded him, he grew arrogant, thought he was God, and demanded that everyone worship only him. His son Prahlad was a staunch devotee of Lord Vishnu. This infuriated Hiranyakashipu. He subjected Prahlada to cruel punishments, none of which affected the boy or his resolve to do what he thought was right.  When the demonic king’s immortality turned him evil and he began to kill anyone who disobeyed him, Prahlad decided to kill him. However, when Hiranyakashipu found out, he asked his sister Holika to help him murder Prahlad. In their plan, Prahlad’s evil demonic aunt would wear a cloak which stopped her from being harmed by fire and take Prahlad into a bonfire with her. When she managed to trick him into sitting into the bonfire, the cloak flew from Holika’s shoulders while she was in the fire and covered Prahlad; he was protected but she burnt to death. This is how Prahlad’s immense devotion to Lord Vishnu saved him from all harm. This is the reason why huge bonfires are burnt on the first night of Holi, hence naming the ritual “Holika Dahan” or “the burning of Holika”. The bonfires represent the pyre in which Holika was killed. This mythological story greatly signifies the victory of good over evil.

PC: Firstpost Hindi
PC: Firstpost Hindi

People can see the Holika Dahan bonfires in every neighbourhood. This night is followed by celebration and fervour the next day, with people throwing vibrant colours at each other and eating delicious sweets. This festival is a way of celebrating the triumph of good.

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