All over India last night, Hindus marked the beginning of spring with the ritual bonfires signaling the start of the festival of Holi. The story, which comes from Hindu mythology, is a reminder of the cyclical rhythm of nature, of destruction and renewal. Long ago there lived a demon king Hiranyakashipu who was angered by the death of his brother at the hands of Lord Vishnu. The king spent many years in disciplined spiritual practice, praying, performing pujas, and practicing yoga. His piety was noticed by the god Brahma, who agreed to grant him a boon. From that day forward, he could not be killed during the day nor at night, not by human nor animal, not inside nor outside, and not on the earth nor in the sky. He then ordered the subjects of his kingdom to worship him instead of god. The king’s son Prahlad refused, insisting that only god was worthy of worship. The king’s sister Holika had been granted a boon that she could not be destroyed by fire, so together they hatched a plan to kill Prahlad. Holika tricked Prahlad and dragged him into a fire set by the king. But they had forgotten that Holika was immune to fire only if she entered by herself. So Holika was destroyed, while the pious Prahlad was saved. The king in his anger smashed a pillar, out of which emerged a beast that was half lion and half human. The beast dragged the king to the doorway and threw him onto his lap. The last thing the king saw was the final sliver of the setting sun as the beast slashed his belly. The people of the kingdom rejoiced for their freedom from the tyranny of the demon king. They celebrated with a great feast, and decorated every home and building with the colorful flowers of spring.
- 22,858 hits