Bhai Dooj: The Festivity of Affection
The festival dedicated to brothers, Bhai Dooj, is known with several names like Bhaubeej, Bhai Tika, Bhai Phonta, etc. Majorly celebrated by Hindus, Bhai Dooj falls on the second lunar day of Shukla Paksha (bright fortnight) in the month of Kartika, as per the Vikram Samvat calendar (Hindu calendar). It is observed during the Holi and the Diwali festival.
The day is celebrated in a similar fashion as the festival of Raksha Bandhan. There are different traditions followed in different regions on this day. Generally, sisters do tika with red sindoor (Roli) on their brother’s forehead, followed by exchanging gifts and sweets.
The literal meaning of Bhai Dooj is Bhai (Brother) + Dooj (the second day after the new moon). Therefore the day is dedicated to brothers on the second day of Diwali (as Diwali falls on New Moon day).
The festival of Bhai Dooj holds special importance in the lives of a brother and sister. Married sisters invite their brothers to visit them and prepare their favorite dishes as well. Some sisters even keep fast for their brothers and eat only after serving their brothers. They also pray to God for the welfare and long life of their brother, as well as protect them from all the evils and bad fortune. In return, brothers promise to protect them for life and follow the responsibilities towards their sisters.
Legends of the festival
According to the Hindu mythological epic, Mahabharata, after killing the demon ‘Narkasur,’ Lord Krishna visited his sister Subhadra who gave him a warm welcome. With great hospitality, she welcomed him with flowers, sweets, and affection. She also applied the ceremonial ‘tilak (tika)’ on the forehead of Lord Krishna; hence the festival got relevance as “Bhai Dooj” from that day.
There is another legend that includes the story of Yama (the God of Death) and his sister, Yamuna. It is said that he met his much-loved sister on Dwitiya, the second day after the new moon in the Kartik month, that is why the day is celebrated as ‘Yama Dwitiya,’ especially in the southern part of the country. It is also believed that brothers and sisters who take a dip in the holy waters of Yamuna, all their sins get washed away by Lord Yama. Their wishes also get fulfilled by the almighty.
Bhai Dooj in India
Bhai Dooj: It is observed during the Diwali festival in the Northern part of India. It is widely celebrated by Maithilis in Bihar, Awadhis in Uttar Pradesh, and other ethnic groups as Bhardutiya, which falls on the second day after Diwali (Deepawali).
Bhai Tika: It is known as Bhai Tika in Nepal, where it is one of the most important festivals observed after Dussehra. It is widely celebrated by the Khas people on the fifth day of Tihar festival (Diwali in Nepal).
Bhai Phonta: The festival is recognized as Bhai Phonta in West Bengal that takes place on the second day after Kali Puja, every year.
In the Indian states of Andhra Pradesh and Telangana, it is cherished with the names of Bhatru Dviteeya, Bhatri Ditya, or Bhaghini Hastha Bhojanamu.
The women in Haryana and Maharashtra worship the Moon God, who does not have a brother and apply mehendi on their hands, as a ritual.
Moreover, the festival is commemorated twice in the Kayastha community. The one comes on the second day after Diwali (widely observed), and the other one falls on a day or two after Holi.