Bhai-Dooj: A Brother-Sister Festival
Nowhere is the bond as pure as brother-sister and their love is 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 the festival of ‘Bhai-Dooj’ – when sisters ceremonize their love by further 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 which is considered as a mark of love and protection from evil forces. Sisters are also 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.
Bhai Phota in Bengal
In Bengal this event is called ‘Bhai Phota’, performed by the sister who religiously fasts until the sister applies a ‘phota or phonta’ or mark with sandal wood paste on her brother’s forehead, offers their brothers sweets and gifts and prays for his long and healthy life.
Every brother in India eagerly waits this occasion that further 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 the merriment amid the resounding of conch shells in every Bengali household.
Further, like all other Hindu festivals, Bhai-Dooj too has got a lot to do with family ties and social attachments. It brings with some good time, especially for a married girl, to get together with her own family, and share the post-Diwali glee.
Nowadays, sisters who due to some reason 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 also made it even easier for brothers and sisters, who’re far away from each other, specially remember their siblings on this propitious occasion.