Bhai Dooj

Bahi Dooj Date 2016

Tuesday 1 November 2016

The brother and sister relationship is a very special bond all over the world! It is celebrated and honored in many ways in India. Nowhere in the world, is the lovely bond glorified with grandeur as we do in India. A unique festival is observed to honor this relationship and the festival that admires the brother and sister bond is Bhai Dooj. Of course, apart from Raksha Bandhan, another festival of India that celebrates the unique bond between brother and sister!

Bhai Dooj is lavishly celebrated and it forms part of the five day Diwali celebration. It is a Hindu festival celebrated across India and Nepal. It concludes the grandeur five day celebration of Diwali. Sister does aarti to the brother and applies ‘tilak’ on the forehead of the brother. She then gifts the brother and brother also presents her with something special. She prays for the health and wellness of the brother. This celebration marks a very special bond between the brother and sister.

When is Bhai Dooj celebrated?

Bhai Dooj falls on the second day of the new moon in the eighth lunar month, Kartik. It falls on the next day, subsequent to the Govardhan puja.  This celebration marks the completion of five day long illuminated and high voltage Diwali celebrations.

Celebration of Bhai Dooj in Different Regions

Bhai Dooj is observed under different terms with slightly modified rituals in different places in India.

Bhai Dooj – North India

Bhai Dooj is a famous festival in North India. It is celebrated in whole North India lavishly, including Kashmir! Dooj means the second day (of Kartik month) and Bhai means brother. A day dedicated to all brothers! The unavoidable ritual of Bhai Dooj is the ‘Tilak’ of vermillion applied on the forehead of the brother by her sister!


Bhai Phota – West Bengal

In Bengal, the new moon day or the Diwali day is celebrated as Kali Puja. So, Bhai Phota falls on the second day after the Kali Puja in West Bengal. Phota in Bengali means Tilak or the vermillion mark drawn by sister on the forehead of her brother. Except the name, everything remains the same as in Bhai Dooj celebrated all over India. Sisters, while applying Tilak (Phota) on the forehead of brothers, pray to Yamraj (the God of Death) to grant a long life to their brothers just giving reference to the sister of Yamaraja.

Jamuna deye Jam ke Phota (Just as Jamuna applies Tilak to the forehead of her brother Yamraj)

Amra di Bhai ke Phota (We apply Tilak to our brothers)

Jam jemon Amar (Just like Yamaraj lives forever)

Amader bhai jeno sherokhom Amar Hoye! (Our brothers may live foreever!)

Bhau Beej – Konkan, Karnataka, Goa, Maharashtra and Gujarat

Communities living in these regions who speak Konkani, Gujarati or Marathi call this festival it Bhau Beej! Beej again means the second day, same as Dooj.

There is no specific festival called Bhai Dooj in South India as the Diwali celebrations lasts only for a couple of days. However, the similar ritual is performed in a different way.

Brother gift his sister money or jewelry or clothing on occasion of Diwali. Sisters invite brother and his family for a lavish feast on the next day of Diwali or the subsequent day. Sister cooks the favorite dishes of her brother and honors him. Although the habit of inviting the brothers for a special lunch is reduced, brothers continue to gift the sisters on Diwali. Besides, a specific tradition is followed by women during Makar Sankaranti celebrations where the sisters pray for the health and well being and good fortune for their breathers.

Bhai Tika – Nepal

Tika refers to Tilak or vermilion that is applied on the forehead of the brother by his sister. This is called as Bhai Tika in Nepal. Bhai Tika is the second most important festival next to Vijaya Dasami (Dusshera) in Nepal. The entire country cherishes and celebrates Bhai Tika in a grand manner. Though Nepal is a different country but its similarity in origin, culture and traditions with India makes it essential to mention this country when it comes to the celebration of Bhai Dooj!

In Nepal, women directly offer prayers to Yama for the longevity and well-being of brothers, just like sisters do in West Bengal in India.

Legends Associated with Bhai Dooj

Bhai Dooj is associated with some interesting legends. The celebration has two difference stories associated with the history.

Yama Dwitiya

Yama Dwitiya refers to the second day after the new moon day where Yama, the god of death, meets his sister Yami. The meeting of Yama and Yami has great importance.

According to the texts and hymns in the Rig Veda, Yama and Yami were the twin children of Sun God. Yama was the first mortal man of the earth and Yami was the first mortal woman of the earth. As Yama was the first man created on the earth, he was the first one to die and he died before Yami. Yami was filled with grief and pain as she lost her lovable brother. No day and night was created by the God, when the life on the earth commenced with birth of Yama and Yami. So, Yami, without knowing how many days and hours passed, poured her heart with continuous tears on seeing the dead Yama.

Moved by the sorrow of Yami, the Devas (Gods) created day and night and helped her. Also, they made Yama, the deity of death (it is logical as he was the first one to die in the world). Yama was blessed by Devas and the Devas admired the strong relationship between Yama and Yami. Yami was happy that her brother lives eternally as the god of death.  Before Yama took charge as the god of death, Yami blessed him with aarti and applied tilak on his forehead blessing him with all success.

The day Yama becomes the deity of death and the day when Yami blessed him with Tilak is celebrated as Bhai Dooj.

Although Yama is now seen as custodian of hell, he was in fact a king of dharma!  It is believed that Yami meets Yamaraj on the Dwitiya (second) day during the eighth lunar month of Hindu Calendar, Kartik. During this meeting, Yami does aarti to her brother and apply tilak on the forehead. Her prayer braces him against all evil forces.

Moved by the love and respect from his sister Yami, Yama blessed that every man who receives the aarti and tilak from the sister on the Dwitiya day of the eighth lunar month, would never go to hell!

Lord Krishna meets his sister

Another version of story associates with history of Bhai Dooj is Lord Krishna’s meeting with his sister, Subhadra, who married Warrior Arjuna, one of the Pancha Pandavas of Mahabharata fame.

After killing Naraka, the demon, Lord Krishna met his sister Subhadra, after a couple of days. Subhadra was very fond of her brother and she was worried about Lord Krishna’s war with Naraka. As soon as she heard that Krishna killed Naraka, she immediately wanted to meet him. However, the beloved brother was able to meet her only a couple of days later. Narak Chaturdashi is the day when the demon Naraka was killed and it is celebrated the day before Diwali.

When Subhadra met Krishna, she does aarti, put him a garland and applied vermilion to celebrate the victory. In fact she was praying for the wellness of her brother and thanked god for hearing her prayers. She then offered Krishna a grand feast which included all his favorite dishes. Lord Krishna was pleased by Subhadra’s kindness and gifted her lavishly with many things.

The meeting of Subadhra and lord Krishna after destroying Naraka falls on the second day after new moon day. Since then, it was observed as a ritual called Bhai Dooj and celebrated on the second day after Diwali. It is said that women who offer prayers and apply tilak to their brothers on Bhai Dooj, protect them from evil.

How Bhai Dooj is celebrated?

This is the festival that graces the beautiful relationship of brothers and sisters. This is a very simple festival but with an in-depth emotion and beautiful association of brother-sister relationship. In case of married women, the in-laws of the married women believe that offering lavish treat and gifts are considered a sign of status and esteem. In most cases, married women visit her mother’s home and celebrate the festival of Bhai Dooj. However, these days, brothers too visit married women at her house for this festival. This festival is also considered a reunion of a married woman with her family.

And every festival celebrated in India has such beautiful elements pinned together! Bhai Dooj is no exception!

Age is not a criterion to celebrate Bhai Dooj. Even girls and boys no older than 5 or 6 years celebrate this festival, following all rituals.

  • Girls take holy head bath and decorate the home to welcome the brother.
  • They put rangoli and prepare special sweets or desserts for the brothers.
  • A special aarti thali is decorated with flowers, sandalwood paste, turmeric and tilak.
  • In few communities, the brother is applied turmeric or sandalwood on legs before bathing.
  • After bathing, the sister gifts him new clothes and makes him sit.
  • The girl does aarti to brother and apply him tilak on forehead. Then she feed brother his favorite sweet as the first thing.
  • If the girl is younger than her brother, she seeks his blessing by touching his feet and vice versa.
  • The sister gifts many things to brother. In few communities, brothers gift sisters clothes, jewelry and money.
  • Then comes, the feast! Feasting is the major part of this festival. Women in the family or the sister alone cook all favorite foods of her brother.
  • Sisters observe fast until they apply tilak on the forehead of brothers. They break the fast only after their brothers eat the lunch or after they apply Tilak on the forehead of their brothers.

Bhai Dooj

How auspicious is the Tilak?

Applying tilak on forehead is not merely a ritual. It has a lot of significance. It represents victory! Those who apply tilak bestow the person with all goodies who receive it. It gives them all power, bravery and support to attain victory. Besides, putting tilak on forehead is believed to inhibit getting controlled by others through mesmerism.

Bhai Dooj Vs Raksha Bandhan

When it comes to brother and sister relationship and the celebration, Raksha Bandhan is the first festival we think about. Any girl can tie a rakhi (a colorful band that symbolizes brotherhood) to a boy and admire him as her brother. She does aarti and the boy gifts her sister. While Raksha Bandhan is for every girl and boy with no pre-existing relationship, Bhai Dooj is the celebration of blood relationship. However, this notion is now getting dissolved gradually and many girls apply tilak to foreheads of the boys whom they consider their brothers.

Women having no brother, honor the Sun God or Moon God as their brothers and worship them on the day of Bhai Dooj.

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