The Holika-Prahlad Episode
The evolution of the term Holi makes an interesting study in itself. Legend has it that it derives its name from Holika, the sister of the mythical megalomaniac king Hiranyakashipu who commanded everyone to worship him. But his little son Prahlad refused to do so. Instead he became a devotee of Vishnu, the Hindu God.
Hiranyakashipu ordered his sister Holika to kill Prahlad and she, possessing the power to walk through fire unharmed, picked up the child and walked into a fire with him. Prahlad, however, chanted the names of God and was saved from the fire. Holika perished because she did not know that her powers were only effective if she entered the fire alone.
This myth has a strong association with the festival of Holi, and even today there is a practice of hurling cow dung into the fire and shouting obscenities at it, as if at Holika.