HolikA

Jan Filipsky filipsky at site.cas.cz
Wed Feb 28 13:28:01 EST 1996


Dear Netters,
I am sorry to revert once again to the subject of HolikA, but owing to my 
being confined to bed for some time past I tried to send the following 
contribution via Eudora/Netscape/Trumpet to my server by modem already on 
Feb 16, but the message has probably never reached the Indology forum and 
therefore I take the liberty, with due apologies, of submitting it again to 
your consideration, for all it is worth.

>On Tue, 13 Feb 1996, Girish Beeharry wrote:
>>Apparently, the name of Holi is connected to HolikA, a rAk.sasI....

     According to Goesta Liebert (Iconographic Dictionary of the Indian 
Religions, Brill, Leiden 1976, p. 105), HolikA (Hi. HolkA MAtA) is the 
patroness of the holi festival; may originally have been a rakSasI or a 
female demon. During the Holi festival she is represented as a straw puppet 
which is chased by the children and finally burnt in fire. For further 
reading one is a bit disappointed to find only the time-hallowed H. von 
Glasenapp's Der Hinduismus (Muenchen 1922, p. 354: "Am Abend wird ein Feuer 
angezuendet, auf welchem eine Strohpuppe <HolikA> verbrannt wird), further 
L'Inde classique bz L. Renou and J. Filliozat, vol. 1, p. 590, and W. 
Koppers, Die Bhil in Zentralindien, Horn-Wien 1948, p. 149.
     N.N. Bhattacharyya in his Glossary of Indian Religious Terms and 
Concepts (Manohar, Delhi 1990, p. 99) calls holi also holikA (as well as 
HutAs'anI and PhAlgunikA) and suggests that the word may be derived from 
homa.
     NyAyakos'a or Dictionary of Technical Terms of Indian Philosophy by 
MahAmahopAdhyAya BhImAchArya JhalakIkar first published as early as in 
1874, but later thoroughly revised and substantially enlarged by 
MahAmahopAdhyAya VAsudev ShAstrI Abhyankar (The Bhandarkar Oriental 
Research Institute, Poona 1978, p. 1086), quoting PuruSArthacintAmaNi, has 
the following to say on the subject of HolikA (s.v.):
"sarvaduSTApaho homaH sarvarogopas'AntidaH/ kriyatesyAM dvijaiH pArtha tena 
sA holikA smRtA//309//
atra viSes'aH sArdhayAmatrayaM vAM syAddvitIye divase yadA/ 
pratipadvardhamAnA tu tadA sA holikA smRtA//312//
     An even earlier authority, Edward Moor, in his The Hindu Pantheon, 
first published in 1810 and reprinted by Asian Educational Services (New 
Delhi 1981), refers to the festival as Huli, and goes on saying (p. 157): 
"The Huli, among the Hindus, reminds one strongly of the Saturnalia with 
the Romans: people of low condition take liberties with their superiors in 
a manner not admissible on other occasions. The chief form in public is 
throwing coloured powders on the clothes of persons passing in the streets, 
and squirting about tinted waters. Dignified persons avoid, as much as they 
can, appearing abroad while these jocularities are passing, unless with the 
view of gaining popularity they condescend to partake in them: in general 
they confine themselves to their homes, and sport with their women... 
Sending simpletons on idle errands contributes also to the delights of 
Huli: this is performed exactly similar to our ceremony of making 
April-fools on the first of that month and is common to all ranks of 
Hindus; and Mahomedans, indeed join in this, as well as in other items of 
Huli fun and humour."
     An interesting possibility to speculate about is suggested in the 
Dictionary of Vedic Rituals by Chitrabhanu Sen (Concept, Delhi 1978, p. 
168, s.v. holakA): "a minor rite performed by maidens who are desirous of 
attaining good fortune; RAkA is the deity; also called HolAkA, etc. - 
KATHaka gRhyasUtra LXXIII.1."
     But we should probably be wary of the pitfall referred to in the 
following quote from Moore (p. 212): "A punster, as he ought to be called, 
rather than an etymologist; or perhaps, he was ridiculing the strained 
application of a pliant etymology; derived our holiday from huli day."
Jan

Jan Filipsky, Oriental Institute, Pod vodarenskou vezi 4,
182 08 Praha 8




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