The eternal bond shared by a brother and sister is one of the purest forms of affection. They share a feeling of unconditional love and fondness that cannot be expressed in simple words.
Bhai Dooj is a popular Hindu festival that celebrates this bond between a brother and sister. The festival falls on the fifth day of Diwali and is celebrated all over the country with great joy and excitement.
The word “Bhai” means brother in Hindi and the word “Dooj” refers to the second day after the sighting of the new moon, which is also considered to be a special occasion.
Celebration in Different States
Bihar - The celebration of Bhai Dooj, known as “Yama Dwithiya”, in Bihar is completely different than most states. It is believed that Yama, the God of Death, takes away people who have never been cursed by others.
Thus, during “Yama Dwithiya”, it is common tradition for the sisters to hurl abuses and curse their brothers, in the hope that Yama will stay away from them. Thereafter, in order to ask for forgiveness, the sisters pierce their own tongues as a form of punishment.
It is believed that this gesture of theirs would protect their brothers from Lord Yama. After this ceremony, the brothers offer unique gifts for thier sisters.
Maharashtra - In Maharashtra, the festival of Bhai Dooj is commonly known as “Bhau Beej’. As per tradition, the sister draws a square on the floor and the brother has to sit in it.
Following that, she applies tilak on his forehead, performs aarti for him and even consumes a fruit known as “Karith”. The sister prays for her brother’s well-being and prays for his prosperity as well.
West Bengal - Just like Maharashtra, the festival of “Bhai Dooj” is also celebrated with certain rituals and prayers in West Bengal. Known as “Bhai Phonta”, it is considered to be a special occasion as it brings the siblings closer together.
The sister observes fast for the whole day and waits eagerly for her brother to arrive. She then performs aarti and applies tilak on his forehead. This special tilak is usually made from kajal and sandalwood.
After the aarti is performed, the sister offers prayers for her brother and they both exchange gifts. The ceremony ends with a grand feast that consists of traditional sweets and dishes.
Nepal - Bhai Dooj or “Bhai Tika” is quite popular in Nepal and is also one of the most important festivals after Dussehra. During the festival, sisters offer prayers to Lord Yama for the well-being of their brothers. The festival is also known as “Bhai Tihar“.
History of Bhai Dooj
Bhai Dooj has been celebrated for quite a long time in India. Thus, there are various legends and stories that talk about its origins and explain how this festival came into existence.
According to one such legend, the story of Bhai Dooj begins when the evil demon “Narakasura” kidnapped 16,000 princesses and held them captive. At this time, Lord Krishna took upon the responsibility of saving them and went to battle with ”Narakasura”.
After a long battle, Lord Krishna finally defeated him and freed all the princesses. Once they were safe, he wished to meet his sister - Subhadra. When he reached her house, Subhadra was overjoyed.
She rejoiced and welcomed him with all kinds of sweets and flowers. Subhadra also applied the traditional “tilak” on Lord Krishna’s forehead and performed aarti as well. This special gesture of Subhadra was considered to be unique and eventually led to celebration of Bhai Dooj.
Another legend refers to the time when Lord Yama, the God of Death, visited his sister Yamuna. It is believed that they met on Dwitheya, the second day after the sighting of the new moon.
Yamuna greeted her brother with garlands and performed a tilak ceremony for him. Lord Yama was very pleased and offered several gifts as well. Thus, he announced that if a brother receives tilak from his sister on this day, they both would enjoy a long life filled with happiness and prosperity.
Significance of Bhai Dooj
The festival of Bhai Dooj falls on the last day of Diwali and marks the end of an auspicious season. Although the festival is similar to Raksha Bandhan, Bhai Dooj holds a special place in Hindu tradition.
Apart from having delicious sweets and exchanging beautiful gifts, Bhai Dooj also signifies the everlasting bond shared by a brother and sister. It is also believed that the festival of Bhai Dooj strengthens this bond, protects them from all evil forces and brings new hopes and aspirations into their lives.