Bhai Duj is a holiday that’s observed on the last day of Diwali and occurs during the Hindu month of Kartika. It is a celebration that is much like Raksha Bandhan, except instead of brothers honoring their sisters this day is for sisters to honor their brothers. This is a holiday that’s also known by different names, all depending on where it’s observed.
In northern parts of India, it’s observed during the Diwali Festival and is known as Bhai Dooj. It’s also known as Bhai Tika in Nepal and it’s the most important festival in that region–second only to Dashain. Another name for this day is Bhai Phonta in Bengal and it occurs every year on the second day after Kali Puja. Other names for this holiday include Bhau Beej, Yamadwitheya, Bhatru Fviteeya, and Bhaghini Hastha Bhojanamu.
The History of Bhai Duj
There is a myriad of legends and myths that are associated with the creation of this holiday, but the most prevalent one is the one that involves Lord Krishna. In this version of Bhai Duj’s origin myth, Lord Krishna defeats the demon Narakasura. After he defeats him, Krishna then goes to the home where his sister lived. When he arrived at her home, his sister placed a tilak on his forehead as a sign of sisterly protection.
Bhai Duj Observances & Celebrations
One of the main traditions performed on this day is the preparation of a large meal by women for their brothers to enjoy. Dishes that are often served during this meal include Bhalle Kaju Barfi, Pakoras, Gajar ka halwaDahi, MalpuaKhoya Barfi, and Fruit Kheer. However, these dishes are only a small selection of what might be offered because there are no specific dishes that have to be served on this day. Traditionally, the dishes are the dishes and sweets that a woman knows her brother will enjoy.
It’s also common for sisters to perform aarti for their brother. Aarti is an expression of love and respect that is used not only for delivering prayers to deities but also is used performing blessings on people or objects. During this ceremony, the sister will then place a tilak on her brother’s forehead—to mimic Krishna’s sister placing a tilak on his head. After the meal, brothers and sisters usually shower each other with gifts. On this day, parades and other festivities occur all across India and Nepal. In Haryana, Maharastra it’s common for women who do not have a brother to worship the moon Chandra instead. Brotherless women will also perform aarti for the moon. And women will also apply Mehendi—a form of temporary body art to their hands and body.
In West Bengal, the festival of Bhai Phonta is celebrated with a lot of enthusiasm and splendor. The ceremony has a number of elaborate rituals and features a large feast organized for brothers. For brothers and sisters to attend this feast, however, they have to be over the age of 5-years old. In Goa, Haryana, and Gujarat, Bhai Bil is observed with brothers and sisters exchanging gifts, and in Nepal, Bhaitiki is observed.