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The Story of Holi

Retold by Rohini Chowdhury


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Holi is celebrated all over India with colour, music, dance and bonfires. It marks the beginning of summer. It also celebrates the end of cold and hardship, and the successful harvest of the winter crop.

For Hindus all over the world, Holi also celebrates the victory of good over evil, symbolised in the story of Prahlad, the young boy who overcame evil and tyranny, by his steadfast faith in Vishnu.

Now read the story of Prahlad that lies behind the Hindu celebration of the festival.


Long ago, there lived in this world a race of giant demons called Daityas. The Daityas were very strong and very powerful, so much so that they would often challenge the gods themselves, and sometimes even win. The king of the Daityas was the demon Hiranyakashyap.

Hiranyakashyap, by praying hard and long to the great god Brahma, obtained Brahma's blessing in the form of a boon that protected him from death. Hiranyakashyap could not be killed by man or animal, god or demon, or by any weapon made under the sun. He could not be killed inside or outside his palace, or during the day or night.

Hiranyakashyap, secure against his enemies, began conquering the world. He became king of the underworld, and of earth, and finally of heaven. Indra, king of the gods, defeated by Hiranyakashyap, fled his throne. The other gods saved themselves from Hiranyakashyap by descending to earth and taking on the appearance of ordinary men and women.

The Story of Holi cont'd...  next page
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Last updated: April 2010. Copyright © Rohini Chowdhury 2002. All rights reserved.

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