A collection of Indian tales of wit, wisdom, humour, bravery, devotion and lots more...

Tag: Lord Narayana

The Legend of Holika Dahan

The festival of Holi was celebrated with much gaiety and fervour a few days ago, all over India. I am also happy to inform you that tomorrow is the fifth anniversary of this blog of mine, and to celebrate both, I bring to you the Legend of Holika Dahan which is done on the eve of Holi.

This legend is associated with Prahalad, the  youngest of the four sons of Hiranyakashipu. The story of Prahalad is present in the Srimad Bhagavatham (of which few stories are available in this blog) but  this legend associating him to the of Holika Dahan is not mentioned explicitly, though it mentions that Hiranyakashipu tried to burn him alive. However, this legend has come to stay as the reason for Holika Dahan, which symbolises victory over evil, and that is all matters.

Long long ago, the earth was ruled by an Asura king by name Hiranyakashipu. The story of who Hiranyakashipu was in his earlier life can be known by clicking this link.

Now, Hiranyakashipu had demonic qualities predominantly. His arrogant attitude and hatred towards the gods was furthered by his brother Hiranyaksha having been killed by the Lord Vishnu.  Driven by the single-minded thought of conquering the gods, he had done a lot of penance. His selfish motive of becoming the unchallenged monarch of the earth was achieved by this penance, and he had managed to get a strange boon of almost impossible death for himself.

Drunk with power and arrogance, knowing that nobody could kill him, his rule soon became a rule of terror, aggression and cruelty as he found joy in harassing all the living creatures. When he saw that all were frightened by him, his arrogance knew no bounds and he thought himself to be the God. He declared that he was indeed God and all should chant his name only.

There was no wonder that he was feared by all but there was one exception to this.

That one exception was his noble little son Prahalad. Prahalad, though very young was a spiritually advanced soul and strangely did not possess even a wee bit of demonic qualities. He was deeply attached to Lord Vishnu and firmly believed in Him. Hiranyakashipu did not attach much importance to his son’s attitude initially as he thought that he was influenced by Lord Vishnu’s devotees who may be meeting him in disguise. But as the boy was growing up, it pained Hiranyakashipu to see his son not mixing with boys of his age but preferring to meditate and pray all the time. He appointed special tutors Chanda and Amarka to educate Prahalad. He told them to isolate Prahalad and keep him at their home with them and see that he is not influenced by anyone else.

“Teach him all that is to be taught ” he said to the tutors. “And make him understand that I am GOD”, he would say, in a thundering voice. “If he has to chant, let him chant MY name”

The tutors nodded their heads, but in no time, found that Prahalad was not an ordinary child. He seemed to be knowing everything even before they taught him.

“Come on Prahalada, chant your father’s name”, they would say for which the boy, with a smile would appear to comply, but the chant would be “Om Namo Narayanaya”. The tutors could not punish the boy as he was the son of their king, but they tried to threaten him with punishment to make him comply to their instructions. They used the methods of ‘sama dana bedha’ as they tried their level best to make him chant his father’s name. But in return they would get to listen to a lecture by Prahalad, on the virtues of being devoted to Lord Narayana. In fact, the lecture would be so beautiful and convincing that they were afraid that their convictions would be wiped out by their interactions with him.

Their efforts though, went on continuously, but Prahalad always chanted the name of Lord Narayana. In fact, Prahalad created uncomfortable moments for them by chanting the name of Lord Narayana in front of his father when the father came on inspection when the classes were going on.

Initially, Hiranyakashipu found fault with the tutors for not prevailing upon his son, but soon understood that his son was a hard nut to crack.

He called for the tutors and asked them, “What do you think should be done to make this boy give up his stupid devotion to that wretched Narayana huh?”

The tutors said, “Your Majesty, we have tried the methods of Sama – telling him in a nice manner that he should only look upon you as God, Dana- enticing him with rewards to recite your name, Bedha – comparing him with the other children of his age who chant as they are taught to. However, your Majesty, we have not and cannot use the method of Danda which is punishment and only you can give him” They bowed their heads in fear of the ruthless king.

“Then punish him!” Hiranyakashipu roared.

“Come on! Let this child be trampled by elephants!”

The order was carried out, but when the elephants came near Prahalad who was in a trance-like state chanting the name of Narayana, the elephants could see only the Lord Narayana in his place and therefore, they bowed and moved away.

A furious Hiranyakashipu tried other methods such as throwing the child into the sea and hurtling him from atop a mountain cliff but the child came out unscathed always, thanks to his divine saviour.

Hiranyakashipu lost his patience. His son outwitting him with the help of his ‘God’  Narayana was unbearable. Just then he remembered his evil sister Holika. Holika had the boon of not getting burnt in the wildest of fires.

“Ha, now this boy cannot escape!” thought Hiranyakashipu. “I will ask Holika to keep him on her lap and enter fire so that he will be burnt alive and my sister can come out of the fire after that.”

He called for his sister who was ever obedient to him. She was already aware of the child’s ‘impudence’ in refusing to recite the name of her mighty brother.

“I am ready to do anything for you brother!” said Holika on hearing his order.

A huge pit was dug and piles of firewood were put in it. A hanging platform was fabricated over the pit and Holika sat on it with Prahalad on her lap. Prahalad shone like a full moon in the dark night. His lips were ever chanting the name of the all-pervading Narayana.

Hiranyakashipu, who had been driven to being so cruel to satisfy his ego, came to watch his son being burnt. The logs in the pit were lit and shortly the fire was raging. Initially it looked as if Holika was not hurt by the fire but suddenly she realised that the flames were happily licking her with great hunger. It was then, she remembered that the boon she had got was supposed to work only if she entered the fire alone.

“Haa… ha…. ha….” Holika screamed, writhing in agony as the fire was swallowing her. She was seated and could not get up as she would fall in the burning pit.  But the little child Prahalad, still remained calm and serene and strangely the flames were not touching him.

Hiranyakashipu stared in awe and disbelief.

Holika was totally burnt and suddenly there was a heavy downpour putting out the fire and Prahalad was saved yet again.

It is believed that the day on which Holika was burnt, is celebrated as Holika Dahan, banishing the negativity and bad thoughts as quickly as the fire consumed the evil Holika.  The next day Holi is celebrated with beautiful colours and sweets to usher in positive energy, good thoughts and joyful moments.

I will soon post the full story of Prahalad as it is narrated in the Bhagavatham.

The Story Of Srirangam

On the occasion of Vaikunta Ekadashi, I thought of posting the story of Srirangam. Srirangam , which is a town in Southern India has the famous temple of Sri Ranganatha or Lord Vishnu.

There is an interesting story on how the Lord Ranga came to stay at this place on the banks of the Cauvery river.
The idol of Lord Vishnu, by name Ranga Vimaanam, was being worshipped by King Ikshwaku, who was the ancestor of Sri Rama. As we all know, King Dasaratha conducted a fire sacrifice for begetting children. He had invited all kings from all over the country and one Chola king from the South by name Dharmavarman also attended the sacrifice. He was mesmerised by the Vishnu Idol possessed by King Dasaratha and wanted to take it to his kingdom in the South. However King Dasaratha was not willing to part with the idol which he had acquired as ancestral property. Dharmavarman, disappointed returned to his kingdom and started to do penance to attain the idol.

In the course of time King Dasaratha had four sons Rama, Lakshmana, Bharatha and Shatrugna and we all know the story of Rama. Now, after Rama came back from Lanka and his Coronation performed was giving away gifts to all present. Vibheeshana, the brother of Ravana, who was also attracted to the idol which was now being propitiated by Lord Rama, asked permission from the Lord to take the Ranga Vimana with him to Sri Lanka. The Lord granted his wish but told him that the idol should not be kept down at any cost as it will not be able to take it back, once kept down. Vibheeshana agreed and left for Lanka with the idol.

Dharmavarman had prayed hard all these years that he should get the Ranga Vimana to his Kingdom. His prayers were to be answered shortly.

As Vibheeshana was crossing Southern India, he remembered he had to perform his evening prayers. He looked around and saw a boy there. The boy was none other than Lord Ganesha. Vibheeshana called the boy and told him to hold the idol till such time he finished his ablutions. He specifically told him not to keep it down at any cost. The boy nodded his head and took the idol.

After a while, the boy called out to Vibheeshana thrice and when Vibheeshana was deeply engrossed in his prayers, kept the idol down and ran away. When Vibheeshana finished his prayers he was alarmed to find the idol placed on the ground and try as he might, the idol would not come from the ground. It was stuck there. Vibheeshana was very very sad and disappointed when Lord Narayana appeared to him and told him that he would stay there but he would always have his eyes resting on Lanka from there. And therefore the Lord lies in Srirangam, with his head on the Western Side and eyes seeing the south. The entrance to the temple is also from the south and the sanctum also faces the southern direction.

Dharmavarman was greatly pleased and built a nice temple around the idol and was worshipping the same. Years passed by and over time the Cholas had shifted their capital to Tanjore. As it happens always,the fury of Nature prevailed and the temple was buried under the sands and its existence became unknown. Dense forests had grown over the soil not leaving a trace of the temple buried underneath.

After many years, a young Chola prince who went hunting near the Cauvery river was resting under a tree when he heard a parrot say a sloka in chaste sanskrit about a temple being buried underneath. The prince was surprised and tried to excavate, but could not find anything. Dejected, he started to build a new temple in the spot. The next day, Lord Narayana appeared in his dream and guided him as to where the Lord exactly lay. Overjoyed, the prince excavated in the spot and found the temple with its deity.
With great happiness and devotion he restored the temple to its earlier glory. The prince henceforth came to be known as Kili Cholan as he had acted according to the parrot’s directions.

This is the story of Sri Rangam.

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