Kosi, 2017.03.12 (VT): Thousands of devotees visited Falen on Monday, where a panda (priest) walked through a huge bonfire with flames reaching twenty feet in the air. Falen is a village situated seven kilometers from Kosi. People thronged the village to get the glimpse of the daring act of the panda, who is immune to the fire.
The event is organized every year to commemorate the Vedic times pastimes when Bhakta Prahlad was put on Holika’s lap to be burnt. Amidst the chanting of mantras, Babu Lal Panda, a 48-year-old priest walked through the fire unscathed on the day of the festivity of ‘Holi’. He took a bath before performing the ritual.
The fire walk has made the Holi celebration of Falen village famous in the entire region. The bonfire is made out of cow dung cakes and prickly stems of ber (Indian plum) shrubs.
To prepare for the fire walk, Babulal observed maun – a vow of silence – for 40 days and and ate only fruits, whilst residing inside the temple of Bhakta Prahlad and Narsimha. This practice of austerity was intended to strengthen his mind and body.
According to the claims of the locals, the members of the same panda family have walked through fire in this village for 500 years, without getting anyone injured.
Babulal said that he inherited this ritual from his ancestors. His father Indrajeet had performed the feat over a dozen times, and his 30-year-old son Heera Lal executed it for two consecutive years in the past.
The village is the actual place where the mythological tale of Prahlad, son of the demon king Hiranyakashipu had played out. According to traditional tales, Prahlad defied his father and insisted on worshiping Lord Vishnu. His father instructed Holika, the boy’s aunt, to burn him in a pyre while taking Prahlad in her lap as the pyre burnt. Magically, the shawl, which protected her from burning, flew off her shoulders and wrapped itself around Prahlad, saving the boy and turning Holika into ashes.
Another tale about the custom is also narrated by the locals. Many years ago, a saint meditated near Falen village and dreamt that a deity was buried under a tree. He instructed the kaushiks (a community in the village) to dig at a particular site to bring out the buried deities. The men dug and found the a deity of Narsimha Dev and Bhakta Prahlad. The saint blessed the family that lived in the area, saying they would be immune to fire. Anyone from that family would be able to walk through fire, unharmed.