સમીર મંદ મંદ મંદ વાય પુષ્પ કુંજ મા,
સુણાવે છંદ ભૃંગ વૃંદ કો અનેરી ગૂંજ મા,
બજાવી વેણુ ગોપી સંગ રાસમંડળો રચે,
રમે આનંદકંદ નંદલાલ કુંજ કુંજ મા…
ફાગ ખેલો હો હો રી, ફાગ ખેલો,
રંગ રેલો હો હો રી, રંગ રેલો…
ગુલાબી અંચળો સર્યો નિશા ના મુગ્ધ સ્કંધનો,
સમુદ્ર ઉમટ્યો પ્રફુલ્લ ફુલ ની સુગંધનો,
ઉગી મયંક રંક રાય નો સમાન અંબરે,
વશીકરણ થી બાંધે અંક અંક પ્રેમ બંધનો…
ફાગ ખેલો હો હો રી, ફાગ ખેલો
રંગ રેલો હો હો રી, રંગ રેલો…
ભરી વસંતના ઉડે ગુલાલ અંગ અંગ મા,
અનંત અંતરો ભિંજાવિને અનંગ રંગ મા,
નશામાં ચૂર ઘેલાતૂર હો રી સૂર ઝણઝણે,
બજે ઢમાર્ ઢિટ્ટ ઢિટ્ટ ધા મૃદંગ ચંગ મા…
ફાગ ખેલો હો હોરી, ફાગ ખેલો
રંગ રેલો હો હોરી, રંગ રેલો…
The first question which will come to the mind of my reader is that the post is on Prahlad and the poem is on Krishna. Frankly, for me, it is very difficult to imagine Holi without Krishna. And if I want to write on Prahlad, then need to mention Krishna somewhere so why not begin with Him. Afterall as He has said in Shreemad Bhagwad Geeta “I am the beginning and the end”…
The day of Holi has arrived. We all will lite up wooden logs to mark the arrival of Summer. The Prasad of coconut and Jaggery is to cool our body and prepare it for the coming summer’s. The next day is celebrated as “Dhulivandan” or “Rang Panchami”. The people of Mathura and Vrindavan celebrate the festival for 10/12 days and forget everything, even themselves, in this colourful celebration. The “lathmaar holi” of Barsana is famous.
But do we know the historical significance of Holi?
Why do we celebrate it?
How is it related to Prahlad?
Who is Holika, who is supposed to have been burnt of the Holy pyre?
Let us take ourselves back to a time, more than 15000, maybe 17000 years back, (a time I leave upto archaeologists to decide) when Man had learnt agriculture and started settling down. The Varah Avtaar had started a civilisation. The Avtaar of Vishnu had just killed Hiranyaksh (the one whose eyes see Gold everywhere and in every thing). People were moving from an only materialistic outlook to a spiritual one. From looking outside to inside oneself. For that they needed to settle down, and not move from one place to another like nomads in search of food. Vishnu, the Operator, had taught his people to sow and cultivate and this led to their settling down at a place. Once the problem of basic necessities was solved, people started looking inwards. Now it is very easy to write the whole transformation in a few sentences, but it must have taken years of hard work to do this. Imagine how much time we take when we want to change one habit!
But, the road to civilisation is always filled with obstacles. There were many people who just loved the life of a Nomad and just loved accumulating wealth. Their leader at that time was Hiranyakashyap, the brother of Hiranyaksh. He did not believe in the ways of Vishnu and did not want a civilisation to thrive. He believed that action is the highest good and sitting back, looking inside oneself, would make people, lazy and overdependent on a God who was never seen nor heard. So he simply didn’t believe in God and tormented and tortured people who believed. He had built his empire on the basis of Action, Action and only Action to earn Gold, Gold and only Gold. Many people despised him and his ways but did not have the courage and strength to fight Hiranyakashyap. Such people like Hiranyakashyap have been called “Rakshas”, the one who believes that one can take care of oneself. They did not have any horns on their head or have any long teeth like the ones shown in serials or as articulated in books and by “kathakaars”. They were normal people like you and me, dressed in their best attire and ornaments. Only difference was they believed only in today and worked for today. They did not believe in the authority of the Vedas. They did not believe in Life after Death. They believed in “Aham Rakshyami” ( I can take care of myself)
Nature has its own ways. Hiranyakashyap had a son “Prahlad”. He was an ardent devotee of Shree Vishnu. He believed in civilisation and uses to go house to house to spread His thought. He was a small kid so used to share his thoughts with his friends. Some elders found this irritating so they complained to Hiranyakashyap. The King tried many methods of changing Prahlad’s way of thinking. The first being through education. He sent Prahlad to the best teachers in town. Prahlad would question and counter question them leading to the other kids gathering around Him and slowly they started doing what Prahlad said. The teachers tried to drive sense in this boy!, but he was very firm in his thoughts. The kids in turn would go home and share with their parents. The thoughts spread like wild fire and slowly the tide started changing. The believers of Vishnu started gaining strength. Now all this must have taken some years to happen. At last the teachers became completely frustrated and sent back Prahlad to Hiranyakashyap citing their inabilities to teach him.
This enraged Hiranyakashyap. It was like the whole world listened to him and did his biding, except his son. He tried various methods to kill him. Throwing him down a cliff and setting the most poisonous of the snakes onto him. He also planned to get Him killed by intoxicating an elephant, which failed. The people who were given the tasks loved Prahlad so much that they either refrained from performing the tasks or went underground to escape the wrath of Hiranyakashyap. This torture by Hiranyakashyap slowly started increasing the already growing love, of the people, for Prahlad. Cause even in all difficulties Prahlad stood firm in his belief. The anger against Hiranyakashyap started brewing inside the hearts of the people.
The torment reached its pinnacle when Hiranyakashyap with his sister Holika planned to burn Prahlad to ashes on a pyre. It is said that Holika had some kind of technology (maybe what the fire fighters wear today, a coat of asbestos which does not burn) with which she could stay alive in fire and not get burnt. They both decided to make a spectacle of this. So, in midst of the town, Prahlad was asked to sit on the lap of Holika on a wooden pyre and the pyre was lit. But the winds that day were so forceful that the coat which Holika wore to save herself from fire, blew off and killed her before she could even get Prahlad on her lap. The people rejoiced. Now the anger had reached its peak.
By then, Hiranyakshyap was back in his palace with Prahlad bound in chains. The people had followed them to the palaces. He shouted at Prahlad to show him his God. Prahlad said that He is everywhere. Hiranyakashyap took his mace in hand and pointing to the people standing there asked whether God existed in those people who stood in front of him like dead pillars? And Prahlad replied in positive. This enraged Hiranyakashyap who lifted his mace to kill Prahlad. But this time, the people had seen and heard enough. They just lost all their senses and in a bid to save Prahlad, pounced upon Hiranyakashyap and killed him. The “nar” (people) had turned to “simha” (lion). After killing, they just went on a rampage. Prahlad approached them and asked them to come back to their senses. People realised that it was only Hiranyakashyap who was to be blamed and not others, accepted their folly and apologised. They lifted Prahlad on their shoulders and crowned him their King. And they celebrated the Day with colours and ashes left from the pyre lit to kill Prahlad. From that day, Holi is lit to remember the trouncing of evil and the advent of the good. The next day is celebrated as Rang Panchami.
Shree Krishna gave Rang Panchami a different dimension. He made it a point to gather people to play colours. He is truly Purna Purshottam. He accepted that everything in a society has to be within limits, but there should be a day when such limitations are shed off. The animal within every person should be given it’s own space. So that it does not show it’s face during the year. And even today we see people celebrating the festival without any inhibitions. When one visits Uttar Pradesh or Gujarat or any place in India which celebrates Holi, we see all inhibitions cast off for a day. People just play colours. There are many poems / songs which taunt each other sung in this day.
On this divine day of Holi and Rang Panchami, when we will immerse ourselves in colours,
Let us remember Mahatma Prahlad and the beliefs for which he fought his own father.
Let us remember Shree Krishna who has showered mankind with utmost love and warmth.
Let us remember Shree Vishnu who has always been present for the good of Mankind.
Wishing you all and your families a very Happy Holi and Happy “Dhulivandan”.
(The way of writing the story of Prahlad has been inspired by Pandurang Shashtriji Athavale, my mentor. Any discrepancy in thought is mine alone)