Panda walks bare footed through bonfire at Bhakt Prahlad’s village
Braj is mostly known for its vibrant culture and celebrations of festivals. People of Braj celebrate several festivals associated with Radha and Krishna with great zeal and energy. The holi of Braj is famous all around India. The Braj holi celebration starts from the Falgun Amavasya all around the villages in Braj . This festival comes to its peak at the time of Rangbharani Ekadashi. There are several songs that are of special importance at this time of Holi and creates an environment of devotion and singing all around Braj. Artists singing and doing dramas are dressed in traditional costumes and use classic local language (Braj Bhasha) for the songs and dramas. This festival is of color, therefore Braj is covered with colors specially its roads, people’s face and houses reflect the happiness of this colorful festival. All the temples of Radha and Krishna are decorated with lighting and colorful materials. They have special celebrations where several Radha and Krishna dramas are undergone by artists reflecting the activities of Krishna. There is also a trend of acting the drama of Holika and Prahlad . After demon king Hiranya-kashipu’s several attempts to kill his son Prahalad for worshiping Lord Vishnu failed, his sister Holika decided to take matters into her hands and burn Prahalad alive. However, her plan backfired as Prahalad walked out of the pyre unaffected and Holika was immolated. In a fit of anger, Hiranyakashipu smashed a pillar with his mace, Lord Vishnu emerged out of the pillar in the Narasimha avatar (half-man, half-lion) and killed Hiranyakashipu. People light a bonfire (holika dahan) on this day to commemorate the victory of good over evil. This occasion of victory of good over evil is celebrated in very spectacular way in the Village Falain in Kosi Kalan of Braj.The Pandas (priests) of villages Falain and Jatwari walks through bonfire of Holi to commemorate the Vedic times when Bhakta Prahlad was put on Holikas lap to be burnt. Holika was immune to being burnt. But due to the faith of Prahlad on the existence of the God, Holika burnt to death and Bhakta Prahlad remained unhurt.
The bonfire festival of Holi happens on the full moon night (Purnima), when a huge bonfire is lit and the local priests walks through it to enact the story about Holika.
The pandas who are supposed to walk on this bonfire stops taking grains and goes on fast from ekadashi, five days before the day of walking on bonfire . They make themselves psychologically prepared through pujas and meditations to undertake the walk through the fire. They take bath in the Prahlad Kund and performs puja before walking through the sweltering fire . Saint Balak Das from the Gopal ji mandir narrates the story on how the tradition of fire walking began. A saint was meditating near the village Falain. He had a dream that a deity was buried under a tree. He instructed the Kaushiks (cast of family)of the village to excavate the specific site so that the deities could be taken out. The Kaushik family members obeyed the instruction and excavated the site. They found the deities of Narsingha Dev and Bhakta Prahlad from there. Then the saint blessed the family of being immune from fire for this particular event. The saint said if anyone from the family walked through the fire after worshiping the deities they would remain unhurt. According to him, Bhakta Prahlad enters the bodies of the priests to protect them from fire. A temple was built for the deities and a pond was built for Bhakta Prahlad.
The five villages around Falain and Jatwari celebrate holi together. The villagers comes to the temple dancing and singing the folk music. After completing the rituals in the temple they give the final shape to the thirty feet broad holika bonfire, the height of which is between 10 -15 feet.They make this with cow dung and prickly stems of Ber (Indian Plum) shrubs,no wood is used in Bonfire.
At pre determined auspicious moment priests walks into the huge fire ,take 15 steps through fire which symbolize, according to the local people,the victory of good over evil and the crowd chants Mantras to boost their morale.The warmth of the fireplace doesn’t have any unwell impact on the physique of the pandas even after exiting the fireplace
Every year people of different places within the country and abroad come here to witness this unique event after all Braj is place where every festival has different color.