Sat, Mar 03, 2018 - Page 14 News List

The ancient legend behind the Holi festival

College girls smear colored powder on one another during the Holi festival celebrations in Kolkata, India on Monday.

Photo: AFP

There is a Hindu legend about a woman named Holika, who was the sister of a demon king called Hiranyakashipu. Hiranyakashipu had been granted immortality, and he was told he could not be killed by either animals or humans, indoors or outdoors, during the day or at night, on land, water or in the air, or by either projectiles or handheld weapons.

Hiranyakashipu allowed his powers go to his head. He would kill anyone who disobeyed him. He discovered his son, Prahlad, planned to kill him, to put a stop to his excesses. Hiranyakashipu concocted a plan with Holika to kill Prahlad, but the plan failed.

At this point the Hindu Lord Vishnu intervened. Appearing in the form of Narasimha, who was half-human and half-lion, Vishnu met the demon king on a doorstep, at dusk, placed him on his lap, and killed him with his lion claws. He had circumvented all five of the demon king’s powers.

The legend is widely regarded as the origin of the ancient Hindu festival of Holi, known as the “festival of colors.” Hiranyakashipu and Holika represented evil; Prahlad and Vishnu represented good. The Holi festival signifies the victory of good over evil, the arrival of spring — therefore the beginning of the year — and a chance to forgive, forget and start anew. The date is decided according to the Hindu calendar. This year it fell on March 1.

(Paul Cooper, taipei times)






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