What is the Importance of Bhai Dooj?•
Posted on October 29 2021
Bhai Dooj is a festival that is celebrated by Hindus two days after Diwali/Deepavali festival. The festival is celebrated as a part of the Holi celebrations in some parts of the country. Some communities celebrate Bhai Dooj twice a year. The name Bhai Dooj is derived from two words Bhai meaning brother and Dooj referring to the second day after the new moon. Bhai Dooj is celebrated to emphasize the eternal love between a sister and her brother.
The festival is known by various names in different parts of North India. Some other names for this festival are Bhai Tika, Bhai Phonta, Bhatru Dviteeya, and Bhav Bij to mention just a few. In South India, this festival is celebrated by the name Yama Dwitiya.
Stories Behind Bhai Dooj
According to a legend, Lord Krishna paid his sister Subadhra a visit after killing the demon Narakasura. She welcomed Him with happiness and treated Him to a lot of sweets. Subhadra also applied the ceremonial tilak on the lord’s forehead. This occasion marked the commencement of the Bhai Dooj festival in the forthcoming years.
As per another legend, Lord Yama met his dear sister the Yamuna after a long time on Dwitheya day. This was the second-day post new moon. The Yamuna put a garland around his neck and tilak on her brother’s forehead. This pleased Lord Yama and He gave her a lot of gifts in return. The day came to be known as Yamadwitheya or Yamadvitiya.
Celebrations across India
Let us now look at the different ways in which Bhai Dooj is celebrated across India. It is quite interesting to know how the same festival is celebrated in three states in the country.
In Maharashtra, the festival is known by the name Bhav Bij. The sister makes her brother sit on a square drawn on the floor by her. She then proceeds to do an arti for him after applying tilak on her brother’s forehead. The sister also prays for the prosperity and well-being of her brother. As part of the ritual, the sister also eats karith, a very bitter fruit. The brother then gifts his sister a present as a token of love towards her. The traditional Maharashtrian sweet, kheerni poori or basundi poori is one of the several items included in the feast. The celebration is known by the same name in Haryana, Goa, and Gujarat.
In West Bengal, the people of this state celebrate this festival as Bhai Ponta. The sister takes a fast on this day and waits eagerly for her brother to arrive. She observes this fast until all the rituals are completed. Once her brother reaches his sister’s place, the sister applies the customary tilak on his forehead and prays for his well-being. The tilak is prepared using a combination of sandalwood, ghee, and kajal. Following the prayer and arti, the sister treats her sibling to a sumptuous feast. The brother puts a sweet into his sister’s mouth and helps her to break her fast. However, the celebration is done only between siblings when both of them are more than five years old.
In Bihar, Biharis have a unique way of celebrating the festival. They are of the belief that Lord Yama, the God of Death claims the lives of people who have not been cursed by others. To avoid her brother being one of the victims, the sister calls him over and curses him vehemently while abusing him at the same time. This is said to keep Yama away from the brother. After the curses and abuses, the sister pricks her tongue to punish herself for the abuses and curses rendered. She then prays for him, applies the tilak, and hosts a grand feast for her brother who in turn gives her a gift.
If the brother and sister stay far away from each other and the brother cannot visit his sister’s house, the sister prays to the Moon God for the happy and long life of her brother along with doing an arti to the moon.
Interestingly, the neighboring country Nepal has a similar festival called Bhatika that means the festival of brothers. The sister prays to Lord Yama for her brother’s prosperity and long life. After this, she puts a seven-color tilak on his forehead.
The celebration might appear to be similar to Raksha Bandhan but there are some striking differences. First, Raksha Bandhan can be celebrated among brother-sister, sister-sister, and brother-brother while Bhai Dooj reinforces only the brother-sister bond. The sacred thread that is tied on the wrist is given utmost importance in Raksha Bandhan whilst the tilak is considered to be the most important in Bhai Dooj.
Written by Deepthi K