Blog Piece

The Story of Holi- Spiritually Speaking

March 21, 2019

Divinity in most cases leads to the ability to wield supernatural powers and though in the material world  power corrupts and absolute power corrupts absolutely, it is unfortunate to see the shadow of this looming large even in the world of spiritual existence.

The story of Hiranyakashyap is one such story amongst others.  He was supposed to be a man with immense amount of energy or Shakti with the ability to wield it effortlessly.  Just like energy or power (Shakti) can be used to help and benefit other life-forms, so can it be used to destroy or suppress.  It was his inability to properly balance his power with philosophy and gyan or cosmic knowledge that lead Hiranyakashyap to be a lesser demi-God than he could have been. We cannot take away from him the fact that he was a great tapaswi and it was his dedication and concentrated effort that got him his attainments.  To quote a famous line from Julius Ceaser, a play by Shakespeare, Mark Anthony at the funeral of Ceaser says ‘the evil that men do lives after them, the good is oft interred in their bones’.  And so it was with Hiranyakashyap. In order to achieve the super powers, he had to make a huge number of sacrifices to dedicate himself to spiritual upliftment. This process would have taken innumerable years and a super human grit. (The power of Vishnu had killed his brother, because of which Haranyakashyap had dedicated his life to vengeance by attainment of super powers).

His son Prahlad was a divine, kind hearted soul who worshipped the Supreme Power in the form of Vishnu.  He had probably seen through his father’s uncooked philosophy.  He was aware of his flaws and did not hold him in the highest esteem.  Hiranyakashyap who was the strongest and most powerful on earth expected to be worshipped by all including his own.  The fact that his son was a devotee of the power he hated, drove Hiranyakashyap out of his depth.  His psychological imbalance led him to desire the destruction of his son.  However, his son was protected by Vishnu who also incarnated at other times in the physical form of Ram & Krishna.  Being brilliant, Hiranyakashyap resorted to devious treachery and asked his sister, Holika to sit in the fire, (for which she had a boon, never to be burnt by) with Prahlad in her lap, thus leading him to a death by trickery.  To cut a long story short, Holika’s incident back-fired and her boon did not work, as it was a boon that worked only if she was encompassed by fire alone by herself. a solitary basis.  So she was burnt to ashes and Prahlad an ardent devotee of Shiva and a protectee of Vishnu walked out of the fire unharmed.

As this is a story about spiritual celebrities, it has become a part of our mythology and a significance in every Hindu’s life.  If this had happened to a villager in Bihar or a poor man in Africa, this story would not have become a festival of India’s heritage. The festival of Holi is considered by Hindus as the victory of positive energy over the negative ones.  It is also a lesson to fear for those who might consider using power of energy in negative ways.  Besides a lesson in moral science, the story also shows the manifestation of Karma Yoga. Prahlad the man who practiced kindness and goodness managed to come out unscathed, while his father and aunt who practiced treachery suffered defeat and paid for their Karmas.

However, there are some spiritualists in this country, who though they may agree with this entire line of thinking, do not celebrate Holi (because they believe in a status of non-duality). The fact that she earned the boon from the super powers clearly showcases that she was no ordinary mortal and must have done many acts of greatness to get this boon. However, she was manipulated by her brother to collaborate with him in this act of treachery. But one swallow does not a summer make!! Though these spiritualists recognize her treachery, they also realize the manipulation at the hands of her brother. They believe she was punished instantly by death and so celebrating her defeat would be like punishing someone multiple times. Also it was her failure and villainy that helped Prahlad become a historic icon of goodness and Dharma. Ironically her fall played a role in his rise to greatness. To them the destruction of Shakti is an act neither to be celebrated nor to be condemned.


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