Holika Dahan – Victory of Good over Evil
Holika Dahan is the ritual that precedes the festival of Holi. It signifies the victory of Good over Evil. This is the ritual where the demoness Holika who represents evil is symbolically burnt. Large pyres of wood are made in open and common spaces like parks, fields, community centers and even on roads. An effigy of Demoness Holika is put atop the pyre which is set on fire.
The Story of Bhakta Prahlad, Hiranyakashipu and Holika
Hiranyakashipu was a demon king with great powers granted by Lord Brahma as a result of long and severe penance. Hiranyakashipu used these powers to terrorise heaven and earth. Because of the boons granted by Lord Brahma, Hiranyakashipu could not be killed by a man or beast, in the day or at night, not inside a house or outside, not in the sky or on earth and not by any weapon. He was invincible and the power went to his head. He went so far as to say that he should be worshipped instead of God. Accordingly his subjects started worshipping him and rejected other Devas and God.
Prahlad was Hiranyakashipu’s son. Though born into the demon race, Prahlad was an ardent devotee of Lord Vishnu and refused to bow to his father Hiranyakashipu. This enraged the demon king and he even tried to kill his own son but failed each time. Determined to kill Prahlad, Hiranyakashipu sent his evil sister Holika for that purpose. She caught Prahlad and sat down in a huge fire with the intent of burning him to death. Holika herself was protected by a special garment. Bhakta Prahlad prayed in earnest to Lord Vishnu. Just then a gust of wind blew the protective garment off Holika and covered Prahlad. Holika burned to death and Prahlad emerged unharmed. Some time later Lord Vishnu appeared in His Narasimha Avatar and killed Hiranyakashipu. By this act, Lord Vishnu made the world a much safer and better place.
Holika Dahan preparation and lighting
On the evening before Holi people gather wood and flammable items from wherever they can and assemble it in one place. Earlier Vedic mantras were chanted before lighting the pyre. Ingredients used in Havans were tossed into the fire. Nowadays grains like Bajra (Millet) and Jowar (Sorghum) are used. People walk around the fire tossing in handfuls of Jowar. They also break coconuts on the ground in front of the fire. After the fire is extinguished the ash that remains is taken and applied on foreheads. Holika Dahan is also known as Holika Deepak and Chhoti Holi in some parts of India. The ritual is done during Pradosh Kaal that starts after the sunset and while the Purnima (Full Moon) Tithi (Lunar Calendar Date) has started.
The eight days preceding Holi are considered highly inauspicious and no work is started on those days. The period is known as Holashtak. This unfavourable period also comes to an end and the festival of Colours (Holi) is celebrated with great enthusiasm the next morning across the country marking the beginning of good days.
Holika Dahan around the World
The ritual of Holika Dahan and the festival of Holi is not restricted to India. It is celebrated wherever people of Indian origin are settled. People celebrate in the same way as they would have in India. The ritual of Holika Dahan is observed faithfully. Among the places outside India where this is done include USA, UK, Australia, Canada, Guyana, Mauritius, Nepal, South Africa, Fiji, Trinidad and Tobago, Surinam, Singapore and more.
Date and Timing for Holika Dahan 2021
This year Holika Dahan is on the 28th of March, 2021. The timing for Holika Dahan is from 06:36 PM to 08:56 PM.