The most colorful amongst all festivals celebrated in India, is Holi. Holi is a festival which is steeped in love and is joyous, celebrating the effervescence of spring.
It is a pan- India celebration taking place in the month of Falgun according to traditional Hindu calendar. Chhoti Holi or Holika Dahan is a festival taking place a day before that.
According to Gregorian calendar, this falls in the month of February March.
When does Holika Dahan or Chhoti Holi take place?
Holika Dahan, also known as Chhoti Holi or Holika Deepak is celebrated during pradosh kal, or exactly at dusk, while the purnimashi tithi is still prevailing. Bhadra prevails on the first half of the purnimashi tithi and all good work should be avoided during the period of Bhadra.
Choosing or getting the right time for the Holika Dahan is of extreme importance, in fact if not done at the correct time this may yield bad result or prove to be inauspicious and will bring suffering and extreme misfortune. This ritual is also known as Kama Dahanam in parts of South India.
What is the mythology related to Chhoti Holi or Holika Dahan?
Long ago, there lived a king called Hiranyakashipu. Boosted with a boon from Brahma, he was indomitable and terrorized his subjects far and wide. However, his own son, Prahlada, was a staunch disciple of Lord Vishnu. Hiranyakashipu tried to stop his worshiping of Vishnu, but to No avail. He finally enlisted the help of his evil and demonic sister Holika, who had a cape that shielded her from fire.
The plan hatched was that the cruel Holika, wearing that fire-shielding cape sat in a bowl of fire with little Prahlada on her lap to burn him to death. But a very strong wind blew away the drape from Holika and covered Prahlada, thus the evil Holika got burnt and died on the spot and Prahlada was saved. This once again established that a God is always with his devotee and evil cannot succumb over good. Thus people rejoiced at the triumph of true devotion over tyranny and the triumph of good over evil.
What are the ways in which Chhoti Holi or the Holika Dahan is observed?
Thus the Holi celebrations start from the evening before with the ritual of Holika Dahan, which is a bonfire. Holika Dahan is a symbolic ritual of the burning of the demon Holika. It symbolizes the triumph of good over evil and virtues over vices. It is a way of doing away with all our negativity in our souls from within before the onset of the festival of love and color (Holi). On the night before Holi, people collect wooden logs, old clothes, waste materials, broken furniture etc and put them up in a pile. Then this pile is set to fire. This bonfire is reminiscent of the demon Holika who dies in a fire and symbolizes of cleansing before Holi.