Holi is a cultural and traditional festival of India that’s celebrated by the people with complete devotion and happiness.
There are quite a few legends associated with this festival of color and Legend of Pootana is one such. Pootana if broken down means Poot (Virtue) and Na (No), implying someone who is devoid of virtues.
This legend is narrated in numerous Hindu texts such as Bhagavata Purana, Prem Sagar, and Vishnu Purana etc. Going by the legend, Pootana was an ogress or ‘Rakshasi’ whose help had been sought by Uncle Kansa of Lord Krishna to kill his infant nephew.
She is thus also called the “Killer of infants”. Kansa had tried several times to kill Krishna but all had been in vain. Finally, he instructed Pootana to kill Krishna by breast feeding him poisonous milk. Pootana took the disguise of a young, simple, beautiful pious woman and came to Krishna’s home town that’s Gokul (Vraj). Stunned by Pootana’s simplicity and beauty, Krishna’s foster-mother Yashoda let her take infant Krishna in her lap to breast-feed him.
In order to fulfill her motives, Pootana had covered her breasts with an intoxicant called ‘mandana’ that would kill Krishna. But unfortunately for her and Kansa, Krishna had come to know the truth behind this simple, young woman and sucked all of her blood instead of the milk which led to Pootana’s death. It’s said that Pootana was screaming and pleading for mercy but Krishna did not listen to any of that and she actually ran out of the town in pain with Krishna still clinging to her breasts and finally fell down to the ground dead.
During her last breaths, she came to her real demonic form and reduced trees up to 12 miles around into mere ashes. After her death, the residents of Vraj cut up her body and burned her flesh while burying the bones and feet. The smoke that arose from burning her body was fragrant and it cleansed Pootana of all sins. The reason behind this was because she breast fed Krishna and later on went to acquire a place in the heaven just like Krishna’s foster mother Yashoda.
Holi is a Hindu festival that’s associated with numerous legends and even more traditions. Due to the rigid beliefs of people in the legends of this festival, they carry out these traditions with utmost devotion. Out of these traditional celebrations, some are also related to the Legend of Pootana. On the night prior to Holi every year, it’s a traditional practice to burn a statue or effigy of Pootana.
This act is to symbolize the victory of divinity over demonic ones and thus reinforces the beliefs of people in this age old legend every year. Pootana is also considered to be the epitome of winter season and thus this tradition also implies the end and cessation of winter and onset of spring.