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. The festival of Bhai Dooj is celebrated two days after Diwali, and is, like Raksha Bandhan, a day dedicated to the love between a brother and sister… Like all other Hindu festivals, Bhai Dooj too has got a lot to do with family ties and social attachments. Bhai Dooj is observed primarily in northern India, and on this day sisters pray for the wellbeing and prosperity of their brothers. The rituals performed during the ceremony include sisters putting tika/tilak (vermilion spot) on the forehead of their brother, offering sweets and performing rituals to protect their brother and ward evils, such as taking their ‘aarti’. In return the brother offers gifts to their sisters as an expression of love.
In Uttar Pradesh, the brother is gifted with an ‘aab’- a length of flax, knotted into a circular shape and dotted with sugar batashas.
In Bihar, an interesting variation of Bhai Dooj starts with the sister cursing her brother, before asking for his forgiveness- for the epithets, as well as for past mistakes.
In Bengal this event is called ‘Bhai Phota’, which is performed by the sister who religiously fasts, for instance, sisters often fast through the morning before putting a ’tilak’ on the brother’s forehead and the gifting of rice and new grass is part of the ritual.
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.
But no matter how Bhai Dooj is celebrated, it’s the spirit of love and togetherness which makes this an important festival.
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 another 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.
Now, 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.