By Ravina Ramlugun
Living in muddy water, the lotus flower remains uncontaminated by it. Its beauty is not affected by its environment. Similarly, we have the story of Prahlad, a devotee who went through all kinds of perils but was never put off from his devotion. The story of Prahlad dates back to very long ago but his faith is still celebrated today through the festival of Holi.
Prahlad was the son of the evil king of asuras or demons, Hiranyakashipu. Although he had been living among demons since his birth, Prahlad was never influenced by their way of life. The young devotee was always engrossed in his prayers and contemplation. However, his father always felt deeply irritated by this. The king believed that he was more powerful than any God and that he was the one worthy of worship. Several times he tried to inculcate the same in the mind of his son.
In spite of these continuous persuasions by his father, Prahlad ignored his words and continued to worship Lord Vishnu. He could see how silly and immature the father’s thinking was. This behaviour angered Hiranyakasipu to the extent that he decided to murder his very own son. All sorts of plans were executed; Prahlad was forced into a pit full of venomous snakes, he was attacked by soldiers, and he was even thrown off from a cliff. Unfortunately for the demon king, his son emerged unharmed in all instances.
In a desperate attempt, Hiranyakasipu decided to give a try to one of his most powerful allies – his divinely blessed sister, Holika who had received a boon that she could never be burnt by fire. Considering the boon, she was asked to take Prahlad on her lap and sit on a bonfire. Without any hesitation, she coaxed her nephew to sit on the bonfire with her. But contrary to what had been planned, the fire consumed Holika leaving Prahlad without any injury!
Following this episode, people started to celebrate the festival of Holi to mark the death of malevolence. The name Holi was derived from Holika herself. Even now the scene of Holika being burnt to ashes is enacted every year to commemorate the victory of dharma over adharma.
This episode allows us to say that Holi is not merely a festival of colours but also the triumph of a devotee’s devotion in the face of adharma. Playing with colours is actually a symbol of happiness, harmony and love. At heart this festival represents the power of faith in God for no matter how powerful one may be, he cannot harm a true and pure devotee.
* Published in print edition on 18 March 2022
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