The festivities are usually kickstarted with sisters inviting their brothers home or visiting them if they live far away. The ritual begins with a sister applying a tilak, a mark made of vermillion (it is believed by Hindus that Goddess Parvati protects all those who apply vermilion to the parting of their hair) on her brother's forehead. The tilak is a physical symbol of her prayers for her brother's well-being and long life. Aarti, a traditional prayer ceremony is followed by the application of tilak, during which the sister circles a platter of lit lamps around her brother to invoke the protection of light against darkness.
Sisters then offer sweets, dry fruits, and gifts to their brothers, expressing their love and appreciation. In return, brothers shower their sisters with gift hampers and, more importantly, pledge to protect and support them throughout their lives. Families often come together for a festive meal, sharing laughter and joy.
Bhai Dooj also has regional variations in its celebration. In some parts of India, sisters prepare a special meal for their brothers, while in others, they exchange handmade gifts and Diwali gift hampers. The essence of the festival remains universal - focus on the everlasting bond of love and trust between siblings, celebrating the harmony and togetherness within families. It’s not just a day of rituals and traditions, it’s a day when siblings and the family come together to celebrate familial love and bonding.
When and where is it Celebrated?
Religious festivals generally do not follow the Gregorian calendar, instead, they have traditional calendars that have been followed for years. Hinduism follows its own calendar that is based on a lunar calendar, which makes the date of Bhai Dooj vary every year. Bhai Dooj is celebrated on the second day after the new moon in the Hindu month of Kartika, which usually falls in October or November. It falls on the fifth and last day of the Hindu festival of lights called Diwali, which is one of the most significant festivals in Hinduism.
Bhai Dooj is celebrated all over the world by Hindus after the celebrations of Diwali. The people in the states of India and Nepal celebrate this with a lot of pomp and fervor. Indians that have also moved or migrated to other parts of the world also partake in the Bhai Dooj celebration to honor and celebrate age-old traditions. In India, it is observed with great enthusiasm in states like Maharashtra, Gujarat, West Bengal, and Uttar Pradesh. Regardless of the region, culture, or language differences, the festival is embraced all over the country as it celebrates the beautiful bond between a brother and sister.
History and Significance of Bhai Dooj?
There are different versions and tales of how Bhai Dooj is celebrated, but all these tales point to the same idea – to celebrate the bond of brothers and sisters, for the sisters to pray for their brothers, and the brothers to promise to protect their sister. The festival’s origin is often traced back to a popular legend from the Mahabharata, a text that is revered as holy by Hindus. According to this legend, after a fierce battle between Lord Krishna and the demon king Narakasura, Lord Krishna's sister, Subhadra, welcomed him back with an aarti, applying tilak on his forehead and performing a pooja to celebrate his victory.
A second legendary tale is from the Ramayana, another revered Hindu scripture. According to this legend, Lord Rama's triumphant return to Ayodhya after vanquishing the demon king Ravana is a significant event, after which, his sister, Shrutakirti, displayed her happiness and affection by performing aarti and applying a tilak on Lord Rama’s forehead. This event is also honored and remembered during the rituals and festivities of Bhai Dooj.
The celebration of Bhai Dooj signifies the importance of having a brother or a sister in your life. It is a day when the responsibilities and duties towards each other are highlighted, and siblings are reminded of their duty towards each other. The sisters pray for the wellbeing and long life of their brothers and the brothers vow to protect and cherish their sisters.
The Rituals on Bhai Dooj?
Bhai Dooj is marked by several rituals and events. The most significant of all rituals during Bhai Dooj celebrations is the aarti – a customary practice where an “aarti plate” filled with flowers, lit diyas, and other religious items including offerings to the deity are moved in a circular motion in front of the person that is being blessed. The next important ritual is the application of “tilak” on the forehead – a bright red powder is placed on the partition of the hair. This tilak represents her prayers for his well-being and a long, prosperous life.
The rituals are concluded by offering pooja and prayers to the chosen deity. As a token of love and affection, the brothers then shower their sisters with gifts and presents. While these rituals form the core of Bhai Dooj celebrations, the festival's essence lies in the emotional exchange between siblings. It is a day of reaffirming the enduring connection, love, and mutual respect that siblings share, fostering harmony and togetherness within families.
Bhai Dooj Celebration Across India
Across India, Bhai Dooj is celebrated differently after they have been assimilated into the culture of the region. Although the underlying principles and traditions are the same, slight variations in each of the way it is celebrated in different parts of the country showcases the various cultural facets of India.
Maharashtra: In the regions of Maharashtra (and Goa), Bhai Dooj is referred to as Bhao Beej. To mark the occasion of Bhai Dooj, sisters perform prayers for their brothers. Subsequently, they apply a Tilak on their brother's forehead, perform aarti, and offer prayers for their brother's prosperity and good health.
West Bengal: Here, the festival is called "Bhai Phonta" and involves various customs. Sisters fast until the ceremonies are finished to celebrate this day. They apply a Tilak on their brothers' foreheads, made of sandalwood, Kajal, and ghee. Aarti is performed and prayers are offered for the seeking the brothers' happiness and prosperity.
Punjab: In Punjab, Bhai Dooj customs follow the traditional Tilak ceremony along with aarti and prayers to the deity. Sisters perform aarti and apply a Tilak made from rice and saffron on their brothers' foreheads to shield them from evil eyes and negative influences.
Nepal: Bhai Dooj is celebrated as Bhai Tihar in Nepal, tihar means tilak and the traditions and rituals revolve around the aarti and application of the tilak on the brother's forehead. Here, sisters offer special prayers to Lord Yama to seek protection, happiness, and a long life for their brothers.
The different ways of celebrations are a mere representation of the region and culture the festival is celebrated in, as the essential idea of the festival remains the same. The festival is an occasion to honor, cherish, and celebrate the strong bonds between brothers and sisters, and families to gather and create memories. By celebrating Bhai Dooj, families not only come together, but it is also a chance for celebrations with good food and high spirits.