Nowhere is the bond of brotherly-sisterly love glorified with such grandeur as in India. Hindus celebrate this special relationship twice every year, with the festivals of Raksha Bandhan and Bhai Dooj.
What, When & How
After the high voltage celebrations of Diwali , the festival of lights and fire-crackers, sisters all over India get ready for ‘Bhai Dooj’ – when sisters ceremonize their love by putting an auspicious tilak or a vermilion mark on the forehead of their brothers and perform an aarti of him by showing him the light of the holy flame as a mark of love and protection from evil forces. Sisters are lavished with gifts, goodies and blessings from their brothers. Bhai Dooj comes every year on the fifth and last day of Diwali, which falls on a new moon night. The name ‘Dooj’ means the second day after the new moon, the day of the festival, and ‘Bhai’ means brother.
Myths & Legends
Bhai Dooj is also called ‘Yama Dwiteeya’ as it’s believed that on this day, Yamaraj, the Lord of Death and the Custodian of Hell, visits his sister Yami, who puts the auspicious mark on his forehead and prays for his well being. So it’s held that anyone who receives a tilak from his sister on this day would never be hurled into hell. According to one legend, on this day, Lord Krishna, after slaying the Narakasura demon, goes to his sister Subhadra who welcomes him the lamp, flowers and sweets, and puts the holy protective spot on her brother’s forehead. Yet another story behind the origin of Bhai Dooj says that when Mahavir, the founder of Jainism, attained nirvana, his brother King Nandivardhan was distressed because he missed him and was comforted by his sister Sudarshana. Since then, women have been revered during Bhai Dooj.
In Bengal this event is called ‘Bhai Phota’, which is performed by the sister who religiously fasts until she applies a ‘phota’ or mark with sandal wood paste on her brother’s forehead, offers him sweets and gifts and prays for his long and healthy life. Every brother eagerly awaits this occasion that reinforces the bond between brothers and sisters and their affectionate relationship. It’s an opportunity for a good feast at the sister’s place, coupled with an enthusiastic exchange of gifts, and merriment amid the resounding of conch shells in every Bengali household.
Like all other Hindu festivals , Bhai Dooj too has got a lot to do with family ties and social attachments. It serves as a good time, especially for a married girl, to get together with her own family, and share the post- Diwali glee. Nowadays, sisters who are unable to meet their brothers send their tika – the spot of protection – in an envelope by post. Virtual tilaks and Bhai Dooj e-cards have made it even easier for brothers and sisters, who’re far away from each other, specially remember their siblings on this propitious occasion.
Bhai Dooj In Uttar Pradesh
In Uttar Pradesh, at first, sisters give a piece of cloth, knotted into a circular shape, full of batashas (sugar balls) to their brothers. This piece of cloth is called as ‘aabf’. For each brother, there are two aabf. After all the rituals, sisters apply a tika of roli and rice on the forehead of the brothers and then perform aarti, praying for the long and happy life of their brothers. At last, they offer sweets to them and then the story of Bhai Dooj is narrated.
In Bengal this festival is called Bhai Phota. On this day, sisters observe fast till the time all the traditional customs have been performed. After this, they apply tika made of sandalwood paste, ghee and kohl (kajal) on their brothers’ forehead. Then the aarti is performed and sisters give sweets to their brothers to eat. Kheer and coconut laddus are the traditional sweets which are prepared on this day. At the time of applying tika, the sister chants the mantra which is as follows: “Bhratus tabaa grajaataaham Bhunksa bhaktamidam shuvam Preetaye yama raajasya Yamunaah Visheshatah.” This mantras means “I, your sister making you eat this holy rice for the pleasure of Yama and Yamuna”. In this way she prays God to bless her brother with the best in life.
In the Bihar, the festival of Bhai Dooj is celebrated in the most unique way. The sisters curse their brothers in order to keep the evil spirits and dangers away from them. At first, they say very bad things to their brothers and then prick their own tongue with a wild prickly fruit as a punishment. By doing this, they ask their brothers to forgive them for the ill behaviour and mistakes which they have done till the date. Besides this, there is a unique custom in which brothers eat grains of bajri with water, from the hands of their sisters.
In Punjab, the day after Diwali is celebrated as tika and on this day, sisters make a paste with saffron and rice and apply tika on their brothers’ forehead to keep away all the difficulties and dangers from them. After this, they exchange gifts and sweets among each other.
Bhai Dooj in Gujarat is known as Bhai Beej and on this auspicious occasion, sisters get up early in the morning and then the traditional tilak ceremony is held. After this, they perform aarti of their brothers and pray for their good fortune and life. Then they offer sweets to their brothers and in return the brothers bless them and exchange gifts.
Maharashtra & Goa
Marathi communities in Maharashtra and Goa called this festival as Bhav Bij. On this day, sisters draw a square on the floor in within the boundaries of which the brothers have to sit. After they are seated, it is a custom for to have a bitter fruit named Karith. After this, the rituals and applying the Tilak, traditional sweets such as Shrikhand Puri and Basundi Puri are served.