| Material for the Holika Dahan kept at Rajapur in Patna on Thursday. Picture by Ashok Sinha |
The Holika Dahan tradition has not got lost amid the fiery din in every other street corner. Some people have kept it alive.
Traditionally, women would come out to worship fire for the well being of their husbands on the eve of Holi. Apart from Marwari Yuva Manch in Patna City, hardly anyone cares what goes into the fire of Holika Dahan to be celebrated this Sunday.
Manch convener Guddu Kanodia said: “We have been performing Holika Dahan for many years in the traditional way. Around 100 Marwari women will gather at the Chowk wearing chunri to celebrate the occasion. All the women will make a circle and walk around the fire while holding their hands. They bring ball-shaped burning material made from cow dung and throw it in the fire.”
Holika Dahan, also known as Kamudu pyre, is celebrated by burning Holika, the devil. For many traditions, Holi celebrates the death of Holika in order to save Prahlad. In earlier days, people used to contribute a piece of wood or two for Holika bonfire.
The story as a whole is testament to the power of devotion over the evil represented by King Hiranyakashyapu, as Prahlad never lost his faith.
He added: “So far as I know, there is no other group or organisation, which celebrates this festival in such a peaceful surrounding. I think the new generation have no idea about the cultural values and ethos. To them, Holika Dahan means burn whatever is available on the road.”
Kanodia’s claims cannot be ruled out because at present, Holika Dahan, a symbol of victory of truth over darkness, is mostly celebrated by youths who collect roadside items and put it at one place. Many times it is seen that Holika Dahan turns violent when people try to cut trees or prune it, which belong to others.
Comparing to the youths, the Manch members do not mind purchasing wood. “Why to cut someone else’s trees or steal it? I can understand that the price of the wood has gone up manifold but it does not mean that people have right to cut the roadside trees or prune someone else’s,” said Lalit Agarwal, the Manch president.
At present, the price of wood used for Holika Dahan costs Rs 150 per kg. If one wants to use just wood, they have to purchase around 80kg to 100kg. “We buy wood from the market and people interested in taking part generously donate money so that the festival can be celebrated properly without troubling others. Unlike others, who collect the items everyday and put those in the middle of a road, we put the wood on the same day so that traffic is not affected,” said Agarwal.
After celebrating the festival, they ensure to remove the ashes from the road next morning unlike other revellers.
Rakesh Kumar of Rajapur Pul in East Boring Canal Road said: “It is true that we do not purchase anything from the market except kerosene and we perform Holika Dahan in a symbolic way. We never trouble anyone intentionally. However, if burning material is not available, we do not have any other option except cutting trees of others or bring something from the road which is not in use, like bamboos used for hoarding.”