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The story of the Bhakt Prahlad and his evil aunt Holika are said to be the origin of Holi bonfires.
Colors of India » Holi » Holi Legends » Bhakt Prahlad & Holika

Bhakt Prahlad & Holika

There was a mighty demon king named Hirnakashyipu who had won all the three worlds of heaven, earth and hell and had thus, become very proud. He assumed that he could defeat even Lord Vishnu with his valor. He went to the extent that he had enforced a law that everybody would worship him instead of gods and deities. However, his little son Prahlad refused to accept his commands and continued to worship Lord Vishnu with complete devotion. Infuriated by this defiance of his son, he ordered his soldiers to throw him down a hill. Praying fervently and having full faith in Lord Vishnu, Prahlad did not retract from his word. True to his faith, Lord Vishnu rescued him at the last moment.

Flustered by this news, Hirnakashyipu invoked the help of his sister Holika, who had a boon that she could walk through the fire unharmed to do away with his son. The wicked aunt agreed to the evil desires of his brother and entered the fire with her nephew Prahlad. However, the brother and sister had forgot that Holika could only enter the fire alone or she would perish. Thus, blessed by Lord Vishnu, the child Prahlad remained unharmed but Holika got burnt and died instantly. Holi is thus celebrated to commemorate the death of the evil aunt, after whom the festival is named, and the new life granted to Prahlad for his devotion and faith. To this day, cow dung is hurled into the fire and obscenities are shouted at the Holi fire at some places to insult Holika.

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