Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Bhai Dooj: 30th October 2008

Bhai-Dooj is a ceremony performed by Hindus on the second day after Diwali. Sisters celebrate loving adulation for their brothers by putting an auspicious tilak of vermilion or sandalwood paste on their foreheads; blessing their younger brothers as well. They perform an aarti to their brothers, honouring them for protective care and pray for their well-being. Brothers load sisters with lavish gifts and bless their younger sisters, pledging protective support. The sister usually cooks a grand lunch for her brother. Soon after, the brother offers a lovely gift from his income.

The name Dooj or Beej means the second day after new moon, the day of the festival, and Bhai means brother. Phota means round dot. Bhai-Dooj is also termed Yama Dwitheya as it's believed that on this day, Yama, the God of death and the custodian of Naraka, visits his sister Yami. She puts the auspicious mark on his forehead, praying for his well being. It is an implicit belief that anyone who receives a tilak from his sister on this day would never be flung into hell. The festival usually occurs in October or November of the Gregorian Calendar.

Yet another story behind the origin of Bhai Dooj endorses 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.


Yamadwitheya is another popular name for the festival of Bhaidooj which celebrates the eternal bond of affection between a brother and a sister. Yamadwitheya is celebrated on the last day of the five-day-long Diwali celebrations; being the second day after Diwali and the next day after new moon night. Dhanatrayodashi, Narakchaturdashi, Amavasya (Laxmi Pujan), Balipratipada and Yamadvitiya also called Bhaubeej are the five days comprising Diwali; each having its own peculiar religious significance.

The famed legend of Yamadwitheya narrates the tale of Yamaraj, the Hindu mythological god of Death leading to its name. The story reveals that it was on the auspicious ‘Dwitheya’ or ‘Dooj Day’ (second day after new moon) that Yamaraj met his twin-sister Yami or Yamuna after a long span of separation. Dharam Raj or Yama received a warm reception from his sister Yami who applied red tilak on his brother’s forehead and treated him to a sumptuous meal. Yamaraj was so pleased with his sister’s welcome that he declared that whosoever receives a teeka from his sister on the day of ‘Dooj’ will not be transported to hell.

In accordance with the legend of Yamaraj and his sister Yami, brothers in the new millennium, visit their sister on the ‘Dwithiya Day’ and have a meal with her. The custom is called ‘Bhagini Hastha Bhojanam’. It is customary to worship Lord Yama and his record keeper, Chithragupta and bathe in the river Yamuna on Yamadwitheya for religious significance.

On Yamadwitheya sisters perform aarti of their brothers, apply red teeka on their foreheads and offer them sweets. While performing these rituals sisters ardently entreat for their brothers’ long and healthy lives. Brothers bless their sisters and present them with gifts or cash as a mark of love.

Yamadwitheya is an overly popular festival amongst Hindus in India and is celebrated with enthused exaltation. Brothers and sisters strengthen their relationship by a Yamadwitheya get together, sharing childhood memories of closeness. Gifts are lovingly exchanged and festive food is savoured with joyous abandon.

Bhati Phota in Bengali

Bhai Phota is a well-known Hindu festival celebrated in the state of West Bengal on dvitya or the second day after Kali Puja. Bhai Phota strengthens the beautiful bond between a brother and his sister and is celebrated with joyous abandon. Sisters and brothers eagerly await the arrival of the festival.

Sharp at 10 in the morning Bengali houses resound with the sound of conch shells heralding the beginning of festivities. Traditionally the ritual takes place in the sister’s house, who invites her brother and his family on the occasion of Bhai Phota. When the entire family gathers in the central courtyard of the house, sisters, dressed in the best of their finery, seat their brothers on a traditional asana or small cotton mattress. With humble sincerity she applies phota or tilak on her brother’s forehead amidst chanting mantras. The tilak is a paste of chandan (sandalwood), kaajol and doi (yogurt). Following the prescribed method of applying phota; if the sister is elder to the brother, she applies it with the little finger of her left hand while the younger sister uses her right hand.

After the ceremony, the brother is loaded with sweets and gifts from his sisters. As per tradition, he touches the feet of his elder sister who in turn gives him rice grains and durba (blades of grass) as blessing. Soon after, the brother pampers his sisters with gifts or cash.

Simple in nature, the ceremony symbolises the sisters’ entreating the divine for a long and prosperous life of her brother. Underpinning her love, the sister does not eat a morsel of food or sip morning tea before she applies phota on her darling brother.

Bhai Phota Celebrations
After the Bhai Phota rituals are over it is time to revel in merriment. The entire family participates in songs and games. Relatives are invited for lavish family get-togethers over lunch or dinner. Their presence enhances the excitement as they have a gala time relishing the best of festive food.

Here is the English version of mantras chanted during Bhai Phota:

I’m your sister
Eat this sacred rice
For the pleasure of "Yam Raj" and "Yamuna".

I put a "phota" on my brother’s fore-head
To make my brother immortal
"Yamuna" gives a "phota" to "Yam"
I give a "phota" to my brother
Brother may becomes tough as iron.

Bhav Bij / Bhai Bij / Bhaubeej in Marathi

The delightful festival of Bhai Dooj is popularly known as Bhai Bij, Bhaubeej or Bhav Bij amongst the Marathis of Maharashtra and Goa and is celebrated with fervent enthusiasm. Precisely like northern India, Bhai Bij or Bhaubeej falls on the last day of five-day Diwali festivities; second day of the bright fortnight (Shukla Paksha) of the Hindu month Kartik. On Bhaubeej sisters pray for their brother’s long and happy life as they perform teeka while brothers bless their sisters, pampering them with gifts. The most enjoyable moment is the savouring of delicious sweets like Basundi Poori and Shrikhand Poori relished along with other festive specialties.

On Bhaubeej or Bhai Bij sisters' invite their brothers for a sumptuous meal. Following tradition, sisters prepare a special square shaped space on the floor, embellished with beautiful patterns using corn powder. Interestingly, before the brother steps into this square of worship, he is made to eat a bitter fruit - Karith in Marathi. This peculiar custom is rooted in a mythological legend, wherein Lord Krishna tasted this fruit before he set out to kill demon Narkasura. Here the brother stands for Lord Krishna who performed the noble feat of killing the demon.

According to a popular Bhai Bij legend in Hindu mythology, after slaying Narkasura, Lord Krishna visited his sister Subhadra who warmly welcome with sweets and flowers. She affectionately applied the sacred protective tilak on Krishna's forehead, leading to the custom of celebrating Bhaubeej or Bhai Bij.

Carrying forward the Bhaubeej ceremony, sisters perform aarti of their brother and apply a red teeka on the brother's forehead, signifying the sister's prayers for the long and happy life of her brother. In return the brother blesses his sister and loads her with presents or cash. Adding charm to the occasion, gifts are exchanged between brothers and sisters in loving appreciation and it is a time of joyous family get-togethers.

As it is customary in Maharashtra to celebrate the auspicious occasion of Bhaubeej, women who don't have a brother, worship the Moon God.

Bhai Tika / Bhai Tihar in Nepali

Bhai Tika is the fifth and final day of the popular Festival of Light called Tihar or Panchak Yama in Nepal. Being a part of Tihar celebrations it is also known as ‘Bhai Tihar’. A significant festival for brothers and sisters over Nepal, the occasion is revelled in with enthused gaiety. Sisters apply tilak on the brothers’ forehead and pray to Lord Yama, the God of death, for their long and prosperous life. Exchange of gifts along with merriment marks the joyous festival of Bhai Tika.

Festival of Bhai Tika holds great importance for the people of Nepal and they celebrate with set rituals. A popular legend underlies the origin of Bhai Tika in Nepal. Long back a sister saved her brother’s life from the clutches of Yamaraj (the God of death) by performing Bhai Tika. Ever since, sisters apply tika on their brothers’ forehead to ensure their long lives, praying for their well-being on this day.

In several societies sisters invite brothers to their house on Bhai Tika. The sister draws three mandaps or boundaries at a designated place; one each for Lord Ganesha, Janmaraj (the God of birth) and Yamaraj(God of death); propitiating the deities. Soon after, the brother is seated on a mat for the tika ceremony. Sisters apply a special paanch rangi tika consisting of five colours (red, green, blue, yellow and white) on the forehead of their brother. Following custom, the sister prays for her brother’s long life and draws a boundary (mandap) around him with oil using doob grass. This interesting tradition is symbolic of the belief that no one including Yama can cross this line of protective guard drawn by a loving sister. Brothers also bless their sisters with a happy life.

People of Nepal celebrate Bhai Tika with lot of fun and frolic. The auspicious time for holding Bhai Tika in Nepal is broadcast by the royal astrologer on the eve of the festival. On Bhai Tika, just as the King of Nepal receives tika from his sisters, a thirty-one-gun salute is given by the royal soldiers. Precisely then, entire Nepal celebrates the Bhai Tika ceremony.

Soon after the ritual, sisters treat their brothers with sumptuous meals and gifts, including a shagun of fruits and sweets. Brothers in turn, shower gifts and cash on their sisters. Relatives are invited to celebrate the national holiday. People sing and dance and with joyous abandon.

Those who do not have a brother or sister, visit Yamaleswor Temple situated in Rani Pokhari on Bhai Tika to pay homage to Lord Shiva. Rani Pokhari is a historical pond built by Pratap Malla and situated between Ratna Park and Jamal.

Bhatri Ditya
Bhatri Ditya is another name of the famed Hindu festival of Bhai Dooj strengthening the loving bond between a brother and sister. Bhatri Ditya is considered a part of Diwali celebrations as it falls on the fifth and last day of Diwali’s festivities in the Hindu month of Kartik (October - November). Ditya in the term ‘Bhatri Ditya’ signifies the festival falling on the second day after new moon while Bhatri stands for brother. Following the ancient tradition, sisters pray for their brother’s long and happy life on Bhatri Ditya. An ambience of spirited harmony prevails as the entire family reunites on the auspicious occasion.

On Bhatri Ditya brothers visit their sisters to share a meal and sisters welcome them with warm affection. Performing aarti of her brother, the sister applies a red teeka of roli (vermilion), kesar (saffron) and rice on his forehead as a mark of love, offering a sweet soon enough. The Bhatri Ditya ceremony symbolizes the sister’s ardent entreaty to the Divine for her brother’s long and prosperous life. The brother blesses his sister, loading her with lavish gifts. A silent consent to continue the adorable tradition and maintain a cordial relationship between them is made.

The festival of Bhatri Ditya is rooted in the legend of Yamraj and termed Yamadwitheya by many. The story reveals that Yama Raja, the Hindu mythological god of Death, visited his twin-sister Yami or Yamuna on the Ditya Day after long separation. Yami warmly welcomed her brother; applying tilak on his forehead, doing his aarti and served a sumptuous meal. Delighted by the reception, he endorsed that brothers who share a meal with their sisters on the auspicious ‘Dooj’ day will never go to hell. Ever since, Bhatri Ditya has been religiously revered by brothers and sisters in India. Brothers bathe in the Yamuna and visit their sister’s place for the Bhatri Ditya ceremony.

It is important to worship Lord Yama on Bhatri Ditya. The Kayasthas in Uttar Pradesh worship their clan deity, Chitraguptha, the mythical accountant of Lord Yama, who records births and deaths. Some sisters also worship berry trees on the occasion.

Bhatri Ditya is an eagerly awaited festival by brothers and sisters with enthused exaltation, an occasion for family reunion. Relatives are often invited to revel in the enjoyment and savour the best of delicacies. Lovingly exchanging gifts and sweets further strengthens the bond of brother and sister.

Bhathru Dwithiya

Bhathru Dwithiya is a popular name for Bhai Dooj, a Hindu festival that cherishes the bond of brother and sister; falling on the fifth and last day of Diwali festivities. This corresponds with the ‘Dwitheya Day’ or second day after new moon. Sisters pray for their brothers’ long life, doing aarti and applying teeka on their forehead. Great childhood memories of brothers and sisters enhance the spirited festival with enthused exchange of gifts.

It is customary for brothers to visit their sisters on Bhathru Dwithiya and share a meal with them. The custom is termed ‘Bhagini Hastha Bhojanam’ in Sanskrit or sharing a meal with the sister. The tradition is rooted in the ancient legend that once Yamaraj, the Hindu mythological God of Death visited his twin-sister Yami or Yamuna after a long span of separation on the ‘Dwithiya Day’. Yami received her brother with warm affection and offered a delicious meal. Dharamraj was very pleased with Yami’s hospitality and asserted that anybody who feasts on the auspicious Dooj day with his sister will never go to hell.

Following the custom, sisters apply tilak on their brother’s forehead, perform aarti and offer a sweet, praying for their well-being as they perform the rituals. Lord Yama Raja and his mythical record keeper, Chithraguptha, are also worshiped on the Bhathru Dwitheya day.

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