ISSO Shree Swaminarayan Temple - Los Angeles

Under Shree Nar Narayan Dev Gadi

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Origins of Holi

Story of Prahlad

Hiranyakashipu, the ruler of the demons, sought vengeance against Vishnu for the death of his brother, who had been slain by Vishnu for tormenting the deities. In retaliation, Hiranyakashipu aimed to annihilate Vishnu and subjugate the other gods in heaven. He commanded his troops to eradicate all followers of Vishnu, yet the gods safeguarded Vishnu's devotees.

Hiranyakashipu thought to himself "I will have to match my powers to Vishnu's to rule over the three worlds".

Engrossed in his own pursuits, Hiranyakashipu embarked on rigorous penance. During this time, the gods raided his city and razed his palace to the ground. Meanwhile, Hiranyakashipu's pregnant queen was escorted by the gods to the hermitage of Sage Narada. There, she resided in the ashram of the venerable sage, immersing herself in the teachings of religion and the magnificence of Vishnu. Her unborn child, Prahlad, also absorbed these profound teachings while in womb.

While residing in Sage Narada's hermitage, the queen learned from him about Vishnu being the essence of all creation, omnipresent in every aspect of existence. Meanwhile, Hiranyakashipu's rigorous penance impressed Brahma, who offered to fulfill any boon he desired. Hiranyakashipu requested immortality, but Brahma, unable to grant such a wish, instead blessed him with invulnerability. He could not be killed by any man or beast, with any weapon or without, neither during day nor night, indoors nor outdoors, on earth nor in the sky. This boon bestowed upon him dominion over the material realm.

Hiranyakashipu brought his wife back to his city, and Prahlad was born shortly after. Hiranyakashipu, with his new powers renewed his hostilities against Vishnu and his followers. He declared that he was the strongest in the three worlds and that only he should be worshipped. He grew arrogant, and attacked the Heavens and the Earth. He demanded that people stop worshipping gods and start praying to him.

Prahlad in the meanwhile was growing up and was Hiranyakashipu's delight. He once asked Prahlad, "Son, tell me what do you think is the best thing in life"?

Prahlad replied: "To renounce the world and seek refuge in Vishnu".

Hiranyakashipu chuckled, then summoned his son's teacher, instructing him sternly, "Keep a close watch on him; I suspect followers of Vishnu are influencing him in secret. Do not let him out of your sight!" After several months, the teacher approached him, saying, "Prahlad, I believe you are now ready to face your father." Hiranyakashipu questioned him, "You have been under your Guru's guidance for quite some time now. What have you learned?" Prahlad responded calmly, "I have learned that the most meaningful pursuit for anyone is the worship of Lord Vishnu." Enraged by this, Hiranyakashipu exclaimed, "You wretched child! Who filled your mind with such twisted beliefs?" Prahlad remained composed and replied, "Vishnu himself. He reveals his presence to all who are devoted to him."

Hiranyakashipu shouted angrily, "This boy must not live! Take him away and kill him! Kill this enemy disguised as my son. Poison him or attack him when he sleeps. Do whatever, but kill him!" The soldiers started attacking Prahlad when he was meditating on Lord Vishnu, but their weapons could not touch Prahlad. The most deadly snakes were let loose on Prahlad, but their fangs rendered harmless. Even elephants could not trample him. He was pushed off a cliff but was miraculously unharmed. In desperation Hiranyakashipu had him fed with deadly poison but it turned into nectar in Prahlad's mouth.

After numerous unsuccessful attempts, Hiranyakashipu resorted to one final scheme to end his son's life. Holika, Prahlad's malevolent aunt who possessed a boon granting her protection from fire, was dispatched by Hiranyakashipu to lead Prahlad into a raging inferno with the intent to kill him. However, Prahlad emerged unscathed while Holika met her demise engulfed in the flames.

Prahlad was once again sent to his teacher in hopes of swaying his beliefs. This time, the teacher attempted to instill in Prahlad an interest in acquiring wealth and indulging in physical pleasures. However, Prahlad pondered to himself, "How can the pursuit of material pleasures and riches lead to true happiness? Won't it only breed envy and anger?" Eventually, the teacher conceded defeat. Prahlad then boldly proclaimed to his father that Vishnu is the essence of all living beings and permeates every aspect of existence.

Hiranyakashipu thundered, "Where is Vishnu? If he truly exists everywhere, then why isn't he present in this Pillar? If he isn't here, then I shall sever your head with my sword. Let Vishnu, your supposed Lord, come to your aid." With a forceful strike, Hiranyakashipu aimed his sword at the Pillar. Suddenly, Lord Vishnu manifested in the form of Narasimha (half-man, half-lion) from within it. In the twilight, neither day nor night, Narasimha seized Hiranyakashipu and carried him to the threshold of the structure, where it was neither indoors nor outdoors. There, clasping Hiranyakashipu in his lap, Narasimha ended his life with his claws. Prahlad was then crowned and ruled with wisdom and benevolence for many years.

In Vrindavan and Mathura, where Lord Krishna grew up, the festival is celebrated for 16 days (until Rangpanchmi in commemoration of the divine love of Radha for Krishna). Lord Krishna is believed to have popularized the festival by playing pranks on the gopis here. Krishna is believed to have complained to his mother about the contrast between his dark colour and his consort Radha's fair colour. Krishna's mother decided to apply colour to Radha's face. The celebrations officially usher in spring, the celebrated season of love.

-: The End :-