| Brahma then appeared before Hiranyakshipu and the
demon asked for a boon thus “Let not my death occur at the hands of living beings
created by you. O’
Lord, let there be no death to me indoors or outdoors, by day or night, from anyone
or even through weapons, neither on earth nor in the air, by men nor animals;
nor should I meet my death at the hands of animate or inanimate beings, gods,
demons or serpents.” Brahma granted him the boon.Believing that he was now invincible,
Hiranyakshipu soon became pompous and ordered all his people to worship only him.
The demon how ever, had a son named Prahalad who was an ardent devotee of Vishnu.
Much to his father's chagrin, Prahalad continued to pray to Vishnu. The evil demon
decided to kill his son, but each attempt failed. The king then summoned his sister
Holika who, because of a boon, was immune to fire. He prepared a pyre, lit it
and asked Holika to sit on it, clutching Prahalad. Vishnu intervened to save Prahalad
and the evil Holika perished instead. This legend is relived on Choti Holi when
the pyre is re-lit. Holika also signifies the dirt and filth that collects during
the winter months. Hay and old rubbish is thrown into the bonfire for spring-cleaning.
Holi at Mathura and Vrindavana is celebrated with great gusto for many days, as
these were the places where Krishna spent most of his childhood. It is celebrated
for many days here. Each major temple celebrates Holi on a different day. People
throng the temples to get drenched with colored water and consider it a blessing
from the god. Of particular interest is the Holi festival in the village of Barsana,
42 km from Mathura. Radha belonged to Barsana while Krishna hailed from Nandagaon.
On Holi, men from Nandagaon come to Barsana to celebrate Holi with the women here,
who are ready to beat them with sticks instead of playing with gulal. This is
called lathamar Holi. This is very similar to the dulandi Holi played in Haryana,
where the bhabhi beats her devar with her sari rolled up into a rope. All this
is done in good humor and in the evening the devar brings sweetmeats for his bhabhi.
In Maharashtra and Gujarat, a grand procession of men soaked with colored water
through the streets shouting 'Govinda alha re alha, Zara matki sambhal brijbala''
or 'Here comes Govinda (another name of Krishna), take care of your pots of butter
and milk, oh girls from Brij'. This refers to Krishna's habit of stealing butter
and milk stored in terracotta pots from people's homes. As a child, Krishna was
extremely fond of milk and milk products. He would prowl into any accessible house
with his friends and steal pots of butter or break pots of milk. During Holi,
a pot of buttermilk is hung high up in the street. Men forming a human staircase
try to break this pot, and whoever succeeds is crowned the Holi king of the locality
for that year.
In Bengal, Holi is called Dol Yatra, or the swing festival. Idols of Radha and
Krishna are placed on swings and devotees take turns to swing them. Women dance
around the swing and sing devotional songs, as men spray colored water at them.
In Manipur too, Holi is extremely interesting. It is a six-day festival here,
commencing on the full moon day of Phalguna. The traditional and centuries-old
Yaosang festival of Manipur amalgamated with Holi in the18th century with the
introduction of Vaishnavism. The entire theme of the festival is woven into the
worship of Krishna and Chaitanya Mahaprabhu, also known as Lord Gauranga.