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Mythology

In Hindu mythology, Hiranyakashipu was the king of demons, and he had been granted a boon by Brahma, which made it almost impossible for him to be killed. The boon was due to his long penance, after which he had demanded that he not be killed 'during day or night; inside the home or outside; not on earth or on sky, neither by a man nor an animal'. Consequently, he grew arrogant, and attacked the Heavens and Earth. He demanded that people stop worshipping gods and start praying to him. But his own son, Prahlad, was a devotee of Lord Vishnu. In spite of several threats from Hiranyakashipu, Prahlad continued offering prayers to Lord Vishnu. Getting angry with his son, Hiranyakashipu tried various ways of killing him, but failed. Ultimately he ordered young Prahlad to sit on a pyre on the lap of his sister Holika, who could not die by fire by virtue of a shawl which if worn would not let the person wearing be affected by fire. Prahlad readily accepted the challenge, and prayed to Vishnu to keep him safe. When the fire started, everyone watched in amazement as the shawl flew from Holika, who, then was burnt to death, while Prahlad survived without a scar to show for it, after the shawl moved on to cover him. The burning of Holika is celebrated as Holi. In Vrindavan and Mathura the festival is still celebrated for 16 days (until Rangpanchmi in commemoration of the divine love of Radha for Krishna). Lord Krishna is believed to have popularized the festival by playing pranks on the gopis here. The celebrations officially usher in spring, the celebrated season of love.

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