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The bond shared by a brother and a sister is a sacred promise that the two share as each other's saviors, protectors, and caretakers. The festival of Bhai dooj commemorates the bond between brothers and sisters and is celebrated two days after Diwali.
Bhaiya Dooj or Bhai Dooj, also referred to as Bhau-Beej in Maharashtra, Bhai Phota in West Bengal, and Yama Dwitiya in the southern parts of India, is a festival dedicated to the brother-sister sacred bond and is celebrated during the Kartika month on the second lunar day of Shukla Prakhsha of the Hindu calendar, or the bright fortnight, amongst the Hindus of India and other countries like Nepal, etc. This auspicious occasion falls on the last day of Diwali's week-long celebration, the festival of lights, right after Govardhan Puja. It culminates the festivities on a sweet note.
This festival of Bhai dooj is celebrated with different names in India, with every state having a ritual or folklore of its own. One of the most popular stories in the history of Bhaidooj is the tale of Yamraj or Lord Yama, the god of death, and his sister Yami. On Yamraj's arrival, Yami welcomed him with flowers, aarti, sweets, and a tilak on his forehead. Moved by this sweet gesture of his sister, Yamraj announced that "any brother who receives aarti, tika, and sweets from his sister on this day shall be granted a long and healthy life". Hence, Bhai dooj becomes a festival celebrated by brothers and sisters for the long and healthy life of the brother.
According to other legends, it is the tale of Lord Krishna and his sister Subhadra that gave birth to this joyous event. It is said that when Lord Krishna visited Subhadra after assassinating the demon Naraksura, he received a very warm and affectionate welcome by his sister with sweets, flowers, and tika on his forehead. Lord Krishna was touched by this gesture and blessed her with many boons. This event was later praised to depict the innocence of the brother-sister bond and is now celebrated in that bond's dedication.
Just Like any other promising occasion in our Hindu culture, the celebration of Bhai Dooj cannot be said to be complete without traditional rites and rituals. The rituals for this sacred festival are pretty simple, as a part of the puja, first a seat of rice flour is prepared by the sisters for their brothers and then a paste of sindoor, or tilak, and rice is applied on the hands of the brothers by their sisters.
This ritual is followed by the offering of betel nut, flowers of Kaddu, coins, and betel leaves in the palm of the brother while the sister recites sacred mantras in the meantime pouring water on the palms of the brother. In the end, she ties a kalawa on his hand and applies tilak on his forehead, and the brother presents the sister with a gift or offering.
However, since it's a given fact that India is a vast country, the ceremonies and rituals differ from place to place and region to region. For instance, in Nepal, seven colors of tilaks are used during the ceremony, while in Bengal, sandalwood paste and kajal are used for tilak.
Other traditions include, worshipping of the moon in regions of Maharashtra and Haryana by sisters who don't happen to have a brother, dry coconut tied with kalawa along its width with the ritual of tilak is offered and the time of aarti in Haryana, and lighting of a lamp facing south in a thali in some regions.
With the ongoing pandemic, it is going to be a tough task to celebrate the festival of bhai dooj with your loved ones. It is surely going to dampen the excitement of the festivities. However, you can still save the day by ordering for your brothers a special bhai dooj hamper to keep the spirit of bhai dooj alive, while the brothers can send their loving sisters gifts by ordering online. You can also share a video call to have the virtual reality experience while maintaining social distancing rules!