Today is Holi, the festival of colours, which is celebrated across India with pomp and fervour. The festival signifies the victory of good over evil, the arrival of spring, end of winter, and as a thanksgiving for a good harvest.There are many traditions and stories associated with Holi, the most significant of these practices being Holika Dahan. This year Holika Dahan was held on the evening of March 1.
Holi celebrations start on the night before Holi with a Holika Dahan where people gather, perform religious rituals in front of the bonfire, and pray that their internal evil is destroyed.
On the eve of Holi, typically at or after sunset, the pyre is lit, signifying Holika Dahan. The ritual symbolises the victory of good over evil. People sing and dance around the fire.
Story behind Holika Dahan:
According to scriptures, there used to be a demon king named Hiranyakashipu, who had become very powerful because of a boon granted by Brahma. Hiranyakashipu's son Prahlad was a devotee of Lord Vishnu. Hiranyakashyapu decreed that only he be worshipped as a God. He punished and killed anyone who did not accept his orders. His son Prahlad disagreed with his father and continued believing and worshipping Lord Vishnu.
This made Hiranyakashipu very angry and he made various attempts to kill Prahlad. During a particular attempt on Prahlad's life, King Hiranyakashyapu called upon his sister Holika for help. Holika had a special cloak garment that prevented her from being harmed by fire. Hiranyakashyapu asked her to sit on a bonfire with Prahlad, by tricking the boy to sit on her lap. However, as the fire roared, the garment flew from Holika and covered Prahlad. Holika burnt to death, Prahlad came out unharmed.
The next morning is celebrated as Rangwali Holi, where people smear each other with colours and drench each other.