Kultureline INTL
on June 8, 2014 759 views
BRIEF DESCRIPTION

HOLIKA DAHAN/ASIAN CULTURE
Evening of bonfire is also called: “Holika Dahan” or “the lighting of bonfire”. It is an annual event in which effigy of Holika is burnt. It usually takes place on Holi eve which is popularly known as 'Chhoti Holi' or 'Small Holi'. Holika Dahan or evening of bonfire denotes or symbolizes the triumph of good over evil.

Historically, according to Narad Purana, it is said to commemorate the victory of Prahlad over his fire-immune aunt 'Holika' who in response to the order of demon king, Hiranyakashyap, sat in the burning fire with Prahlad in her lap to kill him because he became the follower of the Lord Naarayana. At the end of the bonfire, unexpected happened, the fire-immune Holika was burned to ashes but innocent Prahlad came out untouched.

Traditionally, in every participating denomination, logs of wood, twigs, dried leaves, branches of trees left through the winter etc, are expected to be kept in a prominent public place on the Vasant Panchami day about 40 days before the Holi Festival. With most of these materials the effigy of Holika is made with the effigy of the child, Prahlad [made of non combustible material] in her lap. At the end of the day, on the night of Phalguna Purnima, both are set on fire amidst chantings of Rakshoghna Mantras of the Rig Veda (4.4.1-15; 10.87.1-25 and so on) to ward off all evil spirits. Next morning the ashes from the bonfire are collected as prasad and smeared on the limbs. Apart from this, the remnant of coconut, spared by the fire, are also collected for consumption.

Another part of the story is that, the heat from the fire is said to depict the end of winter and beginning of the hot summer days. Asides, some scholars also believe that Holikotsav is named after parched grains or fried cereals called 'Holka' in Sanskrit which were used to perform hawana or a fire ritual. The sacred ashes or vibhuti obtained from this ritual is usually smeared on the forehead of those who participated in the ritual to keep away evil. The whole sacred ceremony is said to have started during the Vedic period in which sacred fire of Holi was burnt amidst the chanting of specific mantras.

It is primarily observed in most of the Asian countries like: India, Pakistan, Nepal, Bangladesh and other countries with large Indic diaspora populations like: Malaysia, Guyana, Suriname, Trinidad, Mauritius, Fiji etc. The bottom line is that the ceremony metaphorically depict the end of demonic forces and celebrates the dominance or triumph of good over evil as symbolized by Prahlad and Holika.

FOR FURTHER READING, GO TO:
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yiC73zSShz4
http://www.holifestival.org/evening-of-bonfires.html
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-0ukd3GCeUo
http://www.itsnature.org/wild-travels/yellowstone-national-park/
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