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There is a symbolic legend to explain why Holi is well celebrated as a colour fest. The word “Holi” originates from “Holika”, the evil sister of demon king Hiranyakashipu.
King Hiranyakashipu had earned a boon that made him virtually indestructible.
The special powers blinded him; he grew arrogant, thought he was God and demanded that everyone worshiped only him. Hiranyakashipu’s own son, Prahlada, however, disagreed. He was and remained devoted to Vishnu.
This infuriated Hiranyakashipu. He subjected Prahlada to cruel punishments, none of which affected the boy or his resolve to do what he thought was right.
Finally, Holika – Prahlada’s evil aunt – tricked him into sitting on a pyre with her.
Holika was wearing a cloak (shawl) that made her immune to injury from fire, while Prahlada was not. As the fire roared, the cloak flew from Holika and encased Prahlada. Holika burned, Prahlada survived. Vishnu appeared and killed Hiranyakashipu.
The bonfire is a reminder of the symbolic victory of good over evil, of Prahlada over Hiranyakashipu, of fire that burned Holika. The day after the Holika bonfire is celebrated as Holi.
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