Why do we celebrate it ?


Holi is more than just a festival of colours.  It is a festival of faith ! 
Absolute FAITH !! 

द्रढ इन चरनन केरो भरोसो ll
Drada ena charanana kero bharoso" !!!

Holi is a festival of faith - absoloute faith in God's ability to protect his people.
Prahalad was fearless in his faith for God. His aunt Holika tried to kill him, but Prahalad's faith proved more potent than the fire his own father piled up around him.

Holi celebrates our absolute faith in God.  Faith of men, women and even children like Prahalad, which has allowed Hinduism to continue to survive and thrive for countless millenniums.


Once upon a time, a young boy was called to give test of his faith. 
Did he really believe that God was omnipresent and omnipotent ? 
Did he just think it as a philosophical ideal or did he actually, truly, absolutely believe it ?

He did believe. 
He had absolute faith in GOD.
His name was Prahalada !!

He believed in the absolute reality of GOD !  Not just believe, he experienced it too.  He was strong enough, charismatic enough and enthusiastic enough for the king, his own father, to fear him.  His father feared not the man, but more importantly his ideals.  He knew that if people believe in Prahalad’s ideals, if people actually grasped the idea of omnipresence of GOD, his own hold on terrestrial power would be doomed.

Hiranyakashyap tried to dislodge Prahlad’s faith in any number of ways.  When all covert and overt methods failed, he tried to have him burnt by having him sit in a raging fire with his own sister who had fire retardant clothes (what else would you call her shawl blessed by the gods so that it would not burn !?!).  Even this failed to kill  him.  Evil always ends up destroying itself.  Next day, the people celebrated with the ash of the dead holika and hence the day is called dhuleti - playing with dust / ashes.  Remember these ashes when you next play with colours on Dhuleti.

Eventually, Hrianyakashap had to confront the matter head on, in full view of his subjects, no longer covert, but as public as it could get.  About 5-6 weeks after his sister's death, he once again asked Prahalad to prove his faith or renounce it.  Prahalad proved it !!

After a lengthy discussion, Hiranyakashap asked Prahalad if God existed in animate or inanimate objects only.  The young boy’s emphatic answer was, GOD existed everywhere, at all times, and all at once ! 
Frustrated, the king pointed to a pillar and asked, “Is he in this pillar ?” 
Without a shadow of doubt, the young prince said “YES !”

As we know, Lord Narsimha came out of the pillar to prove the young man's faith in God.  Hiranyakashap fought with all his might, but he could not defeat God in this most unusual avatar of half human, half animal form.  To abide by Lord Brahma's boon to the demon king, Lord Vishnu came in this unusal lifeform which Brahma had not created.  He resolved to kill the demon when it was neither day nor night, not on earth or in the heavens, not indoors or outdoors and nor with any weapons.  As the sun reached the horizon, Lord Narsimha placed Hiranyakashap in his lap on the doorstep of his palace and tore out his entrails with his claws. 

Ever the caring God, Lord Vishnu placed Prahalad on the throne of Asuras and promised to protect Prahalad and his kingdom for as long as he lived.

This kind of devotion is the path of the fearless.
You have to be willing to do or die for GOD !!

Prhalada left his father, Bharat left his mother.  (there is a bhajan by Narsi Mehta and Meera bai that eloquently describes this.)  To be a vaishnav is not an easy road to God.  Those who see it as such are greatly mistaken.  To love God as intensly as these great vaishnavs takes courage, great amount of courage.  Sati (one of the forms of the great goddess) had this kind of fierce love.  She died rather than see her Lord disgraced.  If India had a few more dedicated people like Sati, India may never have been desecrated by the muslims.

On Narsiha-Jayanti, the Lord appeared from a pillar as Narsinha and killed the evil king.  That was the first holi played, and it was played with blood !  We may play with colour today, but, we must remember the blood that our ancestors have shed for our faith.  From the time of Prahalad, vaishnavs have been called on to play holi with their blood to protect Dharma.  Eg - Vanars died for Rama / Sita, Arjun and the Pandavas fought with their own relatives for Dharma, PrithviRaj Chauhan died to keep India independent, Rana Pratap, Raja Raja Chola, ChatraPati Shivaji - they all played holi with their own blood to protect our Vedic dharma.  Countless women have fought, died, committed johar and sati rather than fall in the hands of their enemies and loose their Vedic values.  For countless generations, women of India have raised their sons and daughters to be true to their faith with all the conviction of Prahalad.

Just as the warriors and their wives shed their blood, sages like Adi Shankara, Ramanuja, Madhvacharya, Chaitanya, Ramdas and others spent their energy to keep our society on the path of Dharma.  Shri Vallabh, Gopinathji, Vitthal, Gokulnathji, Hariraiji and others of Pushti Marg have completed endless rounds of pilgrimages to safeguard our sacred religion.  

Countless others have died, rather than convert to the religions of those who came to conquer us.  These are the great souls who have died for their faith, for us, so that we can play the holi with abil and gulal !!

Remember them when you next play holi.


© Bhagwat Shah

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