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The Story of Holi

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Hiranyakashyap turned away angrily. He called upon all the beings under his command and ordered them to kill his son.

First he called the snakes of the underworld. Huge serpents slithered towards Prahlad. They wrapped their great coils around him and tried to squeeze the life breathe out of him. They bit him in every part of his body with their great poisonous fangs. But they could not harm him. Prahlad stood unhurt in the middle of the serpents, a smile on his face and thoughts of Vishnu in his mind.

The demon King then called upon the great white elephants that live in the sky to crush his son beneath their great feet. The elephants came lumbering in, each animal as huge as a mountain. They threw Prahlad to the ground, and stepped on him, trying to crush him into the earth. They flung him into the air and tried to pierce him with their massive tusks. But each time Prahlad remained unhurt, with a smile on his face and thoughts of Vishnu in his mind.

'Throw him from the top of the palace walls!' thundered the king in anger. The guards bound Prahlad in chains, and threw him from the highest point of the palace walls onto the rocks below. But Prahlad was still unharmed, unhurt.

Hiranyakashyap tried every way he knew to get rid of Prahlad - poison, magic, murder, enchantments. But nothing could harm the child, who remained steadfast in his worship of Vishnu.

Hiranyakashyap had a sister called Holika. Holika was as arrogant and cruel as her brother. She too had received a divine gift - that no fire could burn or harm her. When she saw that none of the demon-king's schemes to get rid of Prahlad were working, she went to the king with a plan. 'Brother, ' she said, ' I know how much you want to get rid of Prahlad for his foul worship of Vishnu. You know that fire cannot injure me. So build a great fire, into which I will carry Prahlad. He will be burnt to death, and I will be unharmed.'

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Last updated: April 2010. Copyright © Rohini Chowdhury 2002. All rights reserved.

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