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.
On the day of Bhai Duj (or Bhaiya Dauj), sisters all over India show their love for their brother.
On this day, the sister would put an auspicious tilak (vermilion mark) on the forehead of her brother and perform an aarti by showing him the light of the holy flame as a mark of love and protection from evil forces.
In the return, sister is lavished with gifts, goodies and blessings from her brother.
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.
Bhai Dooj is also called ‘Yama Dwiteeya‘ as it’s believed that on this day, Yamaraj (God of Death and sufferings and the custodian of Hell), visits his sister Yami, who puts the auspicious mark on his forehead and prays for his wellbeing. So it’s held that anyone who receives a tilak from his sister on this day would never be sent to hell.
According to another legend, on this day, Lord Krishna, after slaying Narakasura demon, visits his sister Subhadra who welcomes him with lighted diyas (earthen oil lamps), flowers and sweets, and puts the holy protective mark on his forehead.
Yet another story behind the origin of Bhai Dooj says that when lord 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.
Bhai Phota in Bengal
In the Indian state of Bengal this event is called ‘Bhai Phota‘, which is performed by 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 again 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 loving siblings on this auspicious occasion.