Since ages we have known that the festival of HOLI is celebrated to commemorate the survival of Bhakt Prahlad when his aunt Holika sat in fire with him in her lap. Holika was given boon by Lord Brahma, the creating God of the Supreme Trinity, that she will not be burned by fire. But at the same time the legend says that when she sat with Prahlad in fire she was burnt. How did this happen? How the boon of Lord Brahma fail? Boons which are known to be so powerful in Hindu legends, and that too of the Supreme creator Brahma, is it possible that his boon will go in vain?
Legend of Bhakt Prahlad
Once there was an evil demon king Hiranyakashyap. Like most asuras he also had an intense desire of immortality so he did tapasya(austerity or penance) and pleased lord Brahma. He asked for immortality but this cannot be given to anyone so he asked for boon with five special aspects that he could be killed by – neither a human nor an animal – neither indoors nor outdoors – neither at day not at night – neither by any astra(projectile weapon) or any shastra(handheld weapon) – neither on land nor in water or air.
He declared himself God and punished anyone who tried to worship any God but somehow his son Prahlad was a staunch devotee of Lord Vishnu. He refused to consider his father as God and continued to worship Lord Vishnu which made Hiranyakashyap very furious. Even after several attempts of persuasion Prahlad refused to follow his order so his father decided to kill him. His sister Holika was granted boon by Lord Brahma that fire could not burn her. So on the instructions of his brother she sat in fire carrying Prahlad in her lap. But to everyone’s surprise Prahlad survived and Holika got burnt. Hiranyakashyap was later on killed by Narsimha Avatar of Lord Vishnu.
Why the boon of Brahma did not work
In all the legends of hinduism we see that curses and boons always work. Then why the boon of Holika did not work. Amongst the various versions of this legend these reasons are provided for this.
First version says that Holika actually had a shawl (or cloak) that protected her from fire. When she entered the fire with Prahlad this enraged Lord Vishnu and her shawl was blown away and thus she got burnt.
Another version says that the actual boon of Holika was that fire could not harm her if she enters the fire alone. But when she sat with Prahlad she was not alone and hence she was destroyed by fire.
In another version it is said that Lord Brahma granted her boon of not getting burnt by fire only until she is not having bad intentions. When she tried to kill Prahlad her intentions were malign and so she was burnt.
There are no legends in Hinduism in which a curse or a boon has not worked no matter how good or evil the one having the curse or boon was. I hope these versions provide plausible answer to this question that how can a boon of Brahma not work.