Holi: Celebrating Burning of Holika and Survival of Prahalad.
Lord Vishnu's worship saved Prahalad from burning in the fire & the day celebrated as Holi since then.
Holika Dahan celebrated the day before the whole moon night on Falgun month(March Month in English Calendar). I like to share Lord Vishnu Mantra first, and its meaning before I share the story of Prahlad.
Lord Vishnu Mantra
शान्ताकारं भुजगशयनं पद्मनाभं सुरेशं
Shaanta-Aakaaram Bhujaga-Shayanam Padma-Naabham Sura-Iisham
विश्वाधारं गगनसदृशं मेघवर्ण शुभाङ्गम् ।
Vishva-Aadhaaram Gagana-Sadrsham Megha-Varnna Shubha-Anggam|
लक्ष्मीकान्तं कमलनयनं योगिभिर्ध्यानगम्यम्
Lakssmii-Kaantam Kamala-Nayanam Yogibhir-Dhyaana-Gamyam
वन्दे विष्णुं भवभयहरं सर्वलोकैकनाथम् ॥
Vande Vissnnum Bhava-Bhaya-Haram Sarva-Loka-Eka-Naatham ||
Meaning of the Shloka
Shaanta Kaaram— means who is patient and peaceful & looks happy always.
Bhujaga-Shayanam — means the Lord who lives and sleeps on the serpent.
Padma-Naabham Sura-Iisham — means who possessed a lotus-shaped navel among all the Lords.
Vishva-Aadhaaram — means who holds the universe in his hands and caretaker of this universe.
Gagana-Sadrsham — means who is visionary beyond all the skies.
Megha-Varnna Shubha-Anggam — means whose color resembles the dark clouds & every part of his body brings holiness.
Lakshmi-Kaantam — means husband of Goddess Laxmi.
Kamala-Nayanam — means who has lotus-like eyes.
Yogibhir-Dhyana-Gamyam — means worshipped or meditated by Yogis(Saints or Wise).
Vande Vissnnum — means I bow down to Lord Vishnu.
Bhava-Bhaya-Haram — means who takes away our fear.
Sarva-Loka-Eka-Naatham — means who is the Supreme Lords among all the Lords.
Hirankashyapu: Demon king & Enemy of God
Born to the same ancestors as Lords, Demons followed evil way & treated Lords as their enemies.
One of the Demons, called Hiranyakashyapu, was crowned King because he was the strongest. He took on all the lords once and captured the authority of heaven & ruled for some time. Lord Vishnu helped all the lords to regain paradise back from Hiranyakashyapu.
In the kingdom of Hiranyakashyapu, ruled were passed not to pray any lords & if anyone disobeys government rules — gets punished with the death sentence. The King asked citizens to pray to him instead of God.
Hiranyakashyapu bestowed with a son & named him Prahlad. King asked his wife to worship him instead of Lord Vishnu. But, the queen worshipped Lord Vishnu secretly during her pregnancy. Because of her prayers in pregnancy, Prahlad started following Lord Vishnu.
Prahlad went to study in an Ashram(Place for study in ancient times) built by demons & taught demon thoughts and teachings. But Prahlad continued praying to Lord Vishnu & refused to learn the teachings of demons.
Hiranyakashyapu came to see Prahlad in the Ashram & asked about his son's progress to demon saints. Prahlad asked other fellows to pray to Lord Vishnu & get blessings from the Lord instead of praying demons or Hiranyakashyapu, said demon saints.
Knowing Prahlad's behavior, the demon king got angry with the demon saints. He showed displeasure over the teachings and methodology used for praying to him instead of Lord Vishnu. King thought if my son disobeys me, no one else will accept me as their Lord.
King showed sympathy towards his son and asked demon saints to allow Prahlad to return home for a few days.
Demon saints agreed without hesitations as no one could disobey the demon king or face a death sentence.
The King returned with Prahlad to his palace and asked his wife to care for his son. Prahlad got home after many days, so he enjoyed staying with his mother and hearing stories of Lord Vishnu.
Because of his mother's teachings, Prahlad's devotion to Lord Vishnu became more robust with each day. He found supreme truth in Lord Vishnu's prayers.
Prahlad started praying & chanting each morning to Lord Vishnu; Demon King's hate for his son got stronger with every passing day.
Found no option to convince his son to obey and pray him as supreme Lord, he thought about killing Prahlad. Criticized for not having control over his son among demons, King decided to kill Prahlad.
Holika — A Sister of Hiranyakashyapu
Hiranyakashyapu had a sister called Holika. She possessed evil powers, and she was ruthless to whoever came crossing her way. She killed many humans and became influential over the years through praying demon goddesses. Holika offered heads of many innocent persons to demon goddesses and got devil powers through those offerings.
Holika possessed one of those devil's powers where she couldn't get burned if she jumped into the fire. Hiranyakashyapu got an idea to use Holika's devil powers to kill Prahlad.
Demon King asked his servants to call Holika and meet him in the meeting room. No one could go to that meeting except the King and his sister. Because if Prahlad's mother comes to know about the plan demon King makes, she might try to save Prahlad.
Hiranyakashyapu told his sister why he wanted to kill his son? King asked his sister to kill Prahlad without anyone coming to know. Holika assured her brother not to worry, and she would execute the plan as decided.
Holika prepared a central fireplace full of dried sticks cut out from trees. She lighted the fire and took Prahlad into her lap. Prahlad developed a habit of chanting the Vishnu mantra over time, which helped him stay calm in that crisis.
Prahlad, unamused by the fire, sat into Holika's lap unshaken. Fire flame took a giant shape, but the fire couldn't burn Prahlad even a fraction of his body.
Because of Prahlad's regular prayers, Lord Vishnu offered a helping hand & saved him. Lord Vishnu asked Fire Lord to protect Prahlad from a hostile fire that erupted because of Holika's evil powers.
Fire Lord rescued Prahlad; He dwelled into the body of Prahlad with immense power. Fire Lord took on Holika's hostile fire and fought back till Holika got burned and killed in her erupted fireplace.
Prahlad opened his eyes once the hostile fire stopped. He thanked Lord Vishnu & Fire Lord. He ran to his mother and told her what had just happened when he went to play.
Prahlad's mother also thanked Lord Vishnu & Fire Lord for saving her son. They both offered a prayer at the place where the hostile fire took place. Prahlad's mother prayed to Lord Vishnu & Fire Lord to shower their blessings on them forever & protect them from evils.
Prayer offered to Fire Lord & Lord Vishnu and celebrated as Holika Dahan since then.
Hindus prepare a fireplace made with cow dung and pray on Holika Dahan night. It's called auspicious to offer coconut to the Fire Lord on that fireplace.
May Lord Vishnu & Fire Lord save us all from evil spirits and evil fires.