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Holi Dahan, Holi Bonfire

Holi is spread out over two days. On the first day, bonfire is created and on the second day, holi is played with colors and water. In some places, it is played for five days, the fifth day is called Ranga Panchami. Holi bonfire is known as Holika Dahan also Kamudu pyre is celebrated by burning Holika, the devil. For many traditions in Hinduism, Holi celebrates the death of Holika in order to save Prahlad, and thus Holi gets its name. In olden days, people use to contribute a piece of wood or two for Holika bonfire.

Holi Dahan, Holi Bonfire
Holi Dahan, Holi Bonfire

Holika
Holika (होलिका) was a demoness in Hindu Vedic scriptures, who was burnt to death with help of God Vishnu. She was the sister of King Hiranyakashipu and aunt of Prahlad.
The story of Holika dahan (Holika’s death) signifies the triumph of good over evil. Holika is associated with the annual bonfire on the night before Holi, the Hindu festival of colors.

Hiranyakashipu and Pralhad
Hiranyakashipu and Pralhad

According to Bhagavat purana, there was a king named Hiranyakashipu who, like a lot of demons and Asuras, had the intense desire to be immortal. To fulfill this desire he performed the required Tapas (penance) until he was granted a boon by Brahma. Since the God’s do not usually grant the boon of immortality, he used his guile and cunning to get a boon which he thought made him immortal. The boon gave Hiranyakashyapu five special powers: he could be killed by neither a human being nor an animal, neither indoors nor outdoors, neither at day nor at night, neither by astra (weapons that are launched) nor by any shastra (weapons that are hand held), and neither on land nor in water or air. As this wish was granted, Hiranyakashyapu felt he was invincible, which made him arrogant. Hiranyakashyapu decreed that only he be worshiped as a God, punished and killed anyone who did not accept his orders. His son Prahlad disagreed with his father, and refused to worship his father as a god. He continued believing and worshipping Lord Vishnu.

Holika with Pralhad in bondife
Holika with Pralhad in bondife

This made Hiranyakashipu very angry and he made various attempts to kill Prahlad. During a particular attempt on Prahlad’s life, King Hiranyakashyapu called upon his sister Holika for help. Holika had a special cloak garment that prevented her from being harmed by fire. Hiranyakashyapu asked her to sit on a bonfire with Prahlad, by tricking the boy to sit on her lap. However, as the fire roared, the garment flew from Holika and covered Prahlad. Holika burnt to death, Prahlad came out unharmed.

Hiranyakashipu is said to be the brother of Hiranyaksha.  Hiranyakashipu and Hiranyaksha are Vishnu’s gatekeepers Jaya and Vijaya, born on earth as the result of a curse from the Four Kumaras

Hiranyaksha was killed by Lord Vishnu’s 3rd Incarnation which was Varaha. and Hiranyakashipu was later killed by Lord Vishnu’s 4th Incarnation which was Narasimha.

Tradition
The night before Holi pyres are burnt in North India, Nepal and parts of South India in keeping with this tradition. The youth playfully steal all sorts of things and put them in Holika pyre.

The festival has many purposes; most prominently, it celebrates the beginning of Spring. In 17th century literature, it was identified as a festival that celebrated agriculture, commemorated good spring harvests and the fertile land. Hindus believe it is a time of enjoying spring’s abundant colours and saying farewell to winter. Holi festivities mark the beginning of new year to many Hindus, as well as a justification to reset and renew ruptured relationships, end conflicts and accumulated emotional impurities from past.

Prepare Holika pyre for bonfire
Days before the festival people start gathering wood and combustible materials for the bonfire in parks, community centers, near temples and other open spaces. On top of the pyre is an effigy to signify Holika who tricked Prahalad into the fire. Inside homes, people stock up on color pigments, food, party drinks and festive seasonal foods such as gujiya, mathri, malpuas and other regional delicacies.

Holi Dahan, Holi Bonfire
People walking in circle, praising the bonfire

Holika dahan
On the eve of Holi, typically at or after sunset, the pyre is lit, signifying Holika Dahan. The ritual symbolises the victory of good over evil. People sing and dance around the fire.
The next day people play Holi, the popular festival of colors.

Reason for Holika burning
The burning of Holika is the most common mythological explanation for the celebration of Holi. In different parts of India varying reasons are given for Holika’s death. Among those are:

  • Vishnu stepped in and hence Holika burnt.
  • Holika was given the power by the Brahma on the understanding that it can never be used to bring harm to anyone.
  • Holika was a good person and it was the clothes that she wore that gave her the power and knowing that what was happening was wrong, she gave them to Prahlad and hence died herself.
  • Holika wore a shawl that would protect her from fire. So when she was asked to sit in the fire with Prahlad she put on the shawl and sat Prahlad down in her lap. When the fire was lit Prahlad began praying to Lord Vishnu. So Lord Vishnu summoned a gust of wind to blow the shawl off of Holika and on to Prahlad, saving him from the flames of the bonfire and burning Holika to her death

The next day is known as Color holi or Dhulheti where people play with colors and water spraying pichkaris.
The next article will be on second day of Holi …

Holi Dahan, Holi Bonfire
Holi Dahan, Holi Bonfire

Credits:
Image credits to the owners of the images and the original photographers. Images are use for article purpose and are not owned by Hindu FAQs

Panchamukhi Hanuman

Sri Hanuman assumed Panchamukhi or five-faced form to kill Ahiravana, a powerful rakshasa black-magician and practitioner of the dark arts during the Ramayana war.

Panchamukhi Hanuman
Panchamukhi Hanuman

In the Ramayana, during the battle between Rama and Ravana, when Ravana’s son Indrajit is killed, Ravana calls his brother Ahiravana for help. Ahiravana, the king of Patala (the Underworld), promises to help. Vibhishana somehow manages to hear about the plot and warns Rama about it. Hanuman is put on guard and told not to let anyone into the room where Rama and Lakshmana are. Ahiravana makes many attempts at entering the room but all of them are thwarted by Hanuman. Finally, Ahiravana takes the form of Vibhishana and Hanuman lets him enter. Ahiravana quickly enters and takes the “sleeping Rama and Lakshmana” away.

Makardhwaja, Hanuman's Son
Makardhwaja, Hanuman’s Son

When Hanuman realizes what has happened, he goes to Vibhishana. Vibhishana says, “Alas! They have been abducted by Ahiravana. If Hanuman does not rescue them fairly quickly, Ahiravana will sacrifice both Rama and Lakshman to Chandi.” Hanuman goes to Patala, the door to which is guarded by a creature, who is half Vanara and half reptile. Hanuman asks who he is and the creature says, “I am Makardhwaja, your son!” Hanuman is confused since he did not have any child, being an adept Brahmachari. The creature explains, “While you were jumping over the ocean, a drop of your semen(veeriya) fell to the ocean and into the mouth of a mighty crocodile. This is the origin of my birth.”

After defeating his son, Hanuman enters Patala and encounters Ahiravana and Mahiravana. They have a strong army and Hanuman is told by Chandrasena that the only way to vanquish them is by blowing out five different candles located in five different directions, all at the same time in return for a promise to be Lord Rama’s consort. Hanuman assumes his five-headed form (Panchmukhi Hanuman) and he quickly blows out the 5 different candles and thus kills Ahiravana and Mahiravana. Throughout the saga, both Rama and Lakshmana are rendered unconscious by a spell by the demons.

Bajrangbali Hanuman slaying Ahiravana
Bajrangbali Hanuman slaying Ahiravana

The five faces with their directions are

  • Sri Hanuman  – (Facing East)
    The significance of this face is this face removes all blemishes of sin and confers purity of mind.
  • Narsimha (Facing South)
    The significance of this face is this face removes fear of enemies and confers victory. Narasimha is the Lion-Man avatar of Lord Vishnu, who took the form to protect his devotee Prahlad from his evil father, Hiranyakashipu.
  • Garuda (Facing West)
    The significance of this face is this face drives away evil spells, black magic influences, negative spirits and removes all poisonous effects in one’s body. Garuda is Lord Vishnu’s vehcile, this bird knows the secrets of death and the beyond. The Garuda Purana is a Hindu text based on this knowledge.
  • Varaha (Facing North)
    The significance of this face is this face wards off the troubles caused by bad influences of the planets and confers all eight types prosperity (Ashta Aishwarya). Varaha is another Lord Vishnu avatar, he took this form and dug up land.
  • Hayagriva – (Facing Upwards)
    The significance of this face is this face confers knowledge, victory, good wife and progeny.
Panchamukhi Hanuman
Panchamukhi Hanuman

This form of Sri Hanuman is very popular, and is also known as Panchamukha Anjaneya and Panchamukhi Anjaneya. (Anjaneya, which means “son of Anjana”, is another name of Sri Hanuman). These faces show there is nothing in the world which does not come under any the influence of any of the five faces, symbolic of his all around security to all devotees. This also signifies vigilance and control over the five directions – north, south, east, west and the upward direction/zenith.

Sitting panchamukhi hanuman
Sitting panchamukhi hanuman

There are five ways of prayer, Naman, Smaran, Keerthanam, Yachanam and Arpanam. The five faces depict these five forms. Lord Sri Hanuman always used to Naman, Smaran and Keerthanam of Lord Sri Rama. He totally surrendered (Arpanam) to his Master Sri Rama. He also begged (yachanam) Sri Rama to bless him the undivided love.

The weapons are a parashu, a Khanda, a chakra, a dhaalam, a gada, a trishula, a kumbha, a Katar, a plate filled with blood and again a big Gada.

Narasimha Avatar (नरसिंह), Narasingh, Narsingh and Narasingha, in derviative languages is an avatar of Vishnu and one of Hinduism’s most popular deities, as evidenced in early epics, iconography, and temple and festival worship for over a millennium.

Narasimha is often visualised as half-man/half-lion, having a human-like torso and lower body, with a lion-like face and claws. This image is widely worshipped in deity form by a significant number of Vaishnava groups. He is known primarily as the ‘Great Protector’ who specifically defends and protects his devotees in times of need. Vishnu is believed to have taken the avatar to destroy the demon king Hiranyakashipu.

Narsingha Avatar | Hindu FAQs
Narsingha Avatar

Hiranyaksha’s brother Hiranyakashipu wants to take revenge by destroying Lord Vishnu and his followers. He performs penance to please Brahma, the god of creation. Impressed by this act, Brahma offers him any thing he wants.

Hiranyakashipu asks for a tricky boon from Brahma which goes like this.

“O my lord, O best of the givers of benediction, if you will kindly grant me the benediction I desire, please let me not meet death from any of the living entities created by you.
Grant me that I not die within any residence or outside any residence, during the daytime or at night, nor on the ground or in the sky. Grant me that my death not be brought about by any weapon, nor by any human being or animal.
Grant me that I not meet death from any entity, living or nonliving created by you. Grant me, further, that I not be killed by any demigod or demon or by any great snake from the lower planets. Since no one can kill you in the battlefield, you have no competitor. Therefore, grant me the benediction that I too may have no rival. Give me sole lordship over all the living entities and presiding deities, and give me all the glories obtained by that position. Furthermore, give me all the mystic powers attained by long austerities and the practice of yoga, for these cannot be lost at any time.”

Brahma grants the boon.
With virtually no fear of death he unleashes terror. Declares himself as god and asks people to utter no God’s name except his.
One day while Hiranyakashipu performed austerities at Mandarachala Mountain, his home was attacked by Indra and the other devatas. At this point the Devarshi (divine sage) Narada intervenes to protect Kayadu, whom he describes as sinless.Following this event, Narada takes Kayadu into his care and while under the guidance of Narada, her unborn child (Hiranyakashipu son) Prahalada, becomes affected by the transcendental instructions of the sage even at such a young stage of development. Thus, Prahlada later begins to show symptoms of this earlier training by Narada, gradually becoming recognised as a devoted follower of Vishnu, much to his father’s disappointment.

Narada and Pralhad | Hindu FAQs
Narada and Pralhad

Hiranyakashipu furious at the devotion of his son to Vishnu, as the god had killed his brother. Finally, he decides to commit filicide. But each time he attempts to kill the boy, Prahlada is protected by Vishu’s mystical power. When asked, Prahlada refuses to acknowledge his father as the supreme lord of the universe and claims that Vishnu is all-pervading and omnipresent.

Hiranyakashipu points to a nearby pillar and asks if ‘his Vishnu’ is in it and says to his son Prahlada. Prahlada then answers,

“He was, He is and He will be.”

Hiranyakashipu, unable to control his anger, smashes the pillar with his mace, and following a tumultuous sound, Vishu in the form of Narasimha appears from it and moves to attack Hiranyakashipu. in defence of Prahlada. In order to kill Hiranyakashipu and not upset the boon given by Brahma, the form of Narasimha is chosen. Hiranyakashipu can not be killed by human, deva or animal. Narasimha is neither one of these as he is a form of Vishu incarnate as a part-human, part-animal. He comes upon Hiranyakashipu at twilight (when it is neither day nor night) on the threshold of a courtyard (neither indoors nor out), and puts the demon on his thighs (neither earth nor space). Using his sharp fingernails (neither animate nor inanimate) as weapons, he disembowels and kills the demon.

Narsingha Killing Hiranyakashipu | Hindu FAQs
Narsingha Killing Hiranyakashipu

Aftermath:
There is another story of Lord Shiva fight with Narasimha to calm him. After slaying Hiranyakashipu, Narasimha’s wrath was not appeased. The world trembled, fearing what he might do. The Devas (the gods) requested Shiva to tackle Narasimha.

Initially, Shiva brings forth Virabhadra, one of his terrifying forms, in order to calm Narasimha. When that failed, Shiva manifested as the human-lion-bird Sharabha. Shiva then assumed the Sharabha form.

Sharabha, part-bird and part-lion
Sharabha, part-bird and part-lion

Sharabha then attacked Narasimha and seized him up until he was immobilized. He thus quelled Narasimha’s terrifying rage. Narasimha became a devotee of Shiva after being bound by Sharabha. Sharabha then decapitated and de-skinned Narasimha so Shiva could wear the hide and lion-head as a garment. The Linga Purana and Sharabha Upanishad also mention this mutilation and murder of Narasimha. After the mutilation, Vishnu assumed his normal form and retired to his abode, after duly praising Shiva. It was from here on that Shiva came to be known as “Sharabeshamurti” or “Simhagnamurti”.

This myth is particularly interesting because it brings to forth the past rivalries between Shaivites and Vaishnavites.

Narasimha as per Theory Of Evolution:
The mammals or semi-amphibians gradually evolved to become human-like creatures, which could walk on two legs, used their hands to hold things, but the brain was still not that developed. They had a human like lower body and animal like upper body.
Though not exactly apes, Narsimha Avatar fits into the above description pretty well. Though not a direct reference, it would certainly mean an ape man.
An interesting point here is that those who are aware of the story of Narsimha, he appears at a time, place and setting, where each attribute is in the middle of two things(neither human nor animal, neither at home nor outside, neither day nor night)

Temples: There are more than 100 temples of Narasimha. Of which, the famous are,
Ahobilam. Ahobalam is located in the Allagadda mandal of Kurnool district in Andhra Pradesh. This is the place where the Lord killed Hiranyakasipu and saved Prahalada.

Ahobilam, the place where the Lord killed Hiranyakasipu and saved Prahalada. | Hindu FAQs
Ahobilam, the place where the Lord killed Hiranyakasipu and saved Prahalada.


Sri Lakshmi Narasimhar Temple, Which is located about 55 km from Chennai and 21 km from Arakkonam, in Narasingapuram, Thiruvallur

Sri Lakshmi Narasimhar Temple | Hindu FAQs
Sri Lakshmi Narasimhar Temple

Credits: Photo and Image Credits to the Original Artists and Uploaders

Fascinating Stories about Lord Shiva Ep III - Shiva fight with Narasimha avatara - hindufaqs.com

Perhaps one of the least known stories about Shiva is his fight with Narasimha avatara of Lord Vishnu in the form of Sharabha. One version says he killed Narasimha! Another says Vishnu assumed another superhuman form Gandaberunda to fight Sharabha.

The mythical creature Sharabha shown here is part-bird and part-lion. Shiva Purana describes Sharabha as thousand-armed, lion-faced and with matted hair, wings and eight feet. In his clutches is Lord Narasimha, whom Sharabha slays!

Fascinating Stories about Lord Shiva Ep III - Shiva fight with Narasimha avatara - hindufaqs.com
Fascinating Stories about Lord Shiva Ep III – Shiva fight with Narasimha avatara – hindufaqs.com


First, Vishnu assumed the form of Narasimha to slay Hiranyakashipu, an asura (demon) king, who was terrorizing the universe and devotee of Shiva.The Shiva Purana mentions: After slaying Hiranyakashipu, Narasimha’s wrath was not appeased. The world trembled, fearing what he might do. The Devas (the gods) requested Shiva to tackle Narasimha. Initially, Shiva brings forth Virabhadra, one of his terrifying forms, in order to calm Narasimha. When that failed, Shiva manifested as the human-lion-bird Sharabha. Shiva then assumed the Sharabha form. Sharabha then attacked Narasimha and seized him up until he was immobilized. He thus quelled Narasimha’s terrifying rage. Narasimha became a devotee of Shiva after being bound by Sharabha. Sharabha then decapitated and de-skinned Narasimha so Shiva could wear the hide and lion-head as a garment. The Linga Purana and Sharabha Upanishad also mention this mutilation and murder of Narasimha. After the mutilation, Vishnu assumed his normal form and retired to his abode, after duly praising Shiva. It was from here on that Shiva came to be known as “Sharabeshamurti” or “Simhagnamurti”.

This myth is particularly interesting because it brings to forth the past rivalries between Shaivites and Vaishnavites.

The Vaishnavites have a similar story of Vishnu transforming into Gandaberunda to fight Sharabha, in yet another bird form: a 2 headed eagle.

Credits: Wikipedia
Harish Aditham