Halebidu Hoysaleswara Temple: Prahlada Story – Burning of demoness Holika

A relief depicting the story of Prahlada carved into the outer wall of the Halebidu Hoysaleswara Temple in Karnataka, India

Burning of demoness Holika and the story of Holi

Burning of demoness Holika
The image shows a part of the frieze carved into the outer wall of the Halebidu Hoysaleswara Temple in Karnataka, India. It depicts a scene based on an episode narrated in ancient Indian texts, describing the story of a boy named Prahlada for his devotion to Vishnu.

Read more about Prahlada on the following page: Prahlada Story – Slaying of Hiranyakashipu.

The burning of Holika is one of the episodes in the Prahlada story, narrated in the Vishnu and Baghavata Puranas.

Here is a brief description of this episode:
Prahlada was the son of the asura king Hiranyakashipu whose brother Hiranyaksha was killed by Vishnu in his previous avatar, i.e., Varahavatara, the third avatar of Vishnu.

To exact revenge for his brother’s death, Hiranyakashipu performed an intense tapasu (austerity and meditation) to please Brahma, and received a vara (boon) that gave him special powers and made him almost immortal.

Because of this vara, Hiranyakashipu assumed a godly status and started tormenting Vishnu’s devotees to worship him instead of Vishnu. Everyone in his kingdom started worshiping Hiranyakashipu out of fear, except his son Prahlada, who had become an ardent devotee of Vishnu. When all efforts to coax Prahlada to worship Hiranyakashipu failed, Hiranyakashipu decided to kill his son.

He devised many methods to kill Prahlada, including throwing him over the precipice, sending elephants to trample him, and dumping him in a pit with poisonous snakes, but every time Vishnu saved him. A frustrated Hiranyakashipu sought help from his sister Holika, who also appeared to have obtained special powers in the form of a shawl that would prevent her from getting burnt by fire.

Covering herself with the fireproof shawl and seated on a wooden pyre, Holika convinced unsuspecting Prahada to sit on her lap. When he did so, the pyre was set alight by her orders. Realizing the danger, Prahlada prayed to Vishnu, who made Holikas’ shawl fly and cover Prahlada. The intense fire consumed Holika, reducing her to ashes, whereas Prahlada emerged from the pyre unscathed.

The partly-damaged relief depicts Holika seated on a burning pyre. On the left of the image, Prahlada is sitting with the Padmasana posture.

Named after Holika, the Hindu festival of Holi is a celebration of Holika’s burning, symbolizing the triumph of good over evil. It falls on the last full moon day before the start of the spring, sometime in February or March.

Prahlada Story Pages
Throwing Prahlada over the precipice
Elephants and snakes attacking Prahlada
Burning of demoness Holika
Vishnu emerging out of a pillar and slaying Hiranyakashipu

Other Related Pages
Hoysala Temples
Belur Chennakeshava Temple – Bracket Figures
Belur Chennakeshava Temple – Navaranga
Belur Chennakeshava Temple – Garbhagriha Outer Wall
Kappe Chennigaraya Shrine
Somanathapura Keshava Temple
Badami Chalukya Temples
Badami, Cave – 1, Cave – 2, Cave – 3, Cave – 4
Durga Temple at Aihole

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