Bhai Dooj is the final festival that marks the end of the five-day long Diwali celebrations. Bhai Dooj date usually falls on the second day after the new moon or Amavasya. Bhai Dooj festival celebrates the brother-sister bond. On this day, sisters apply a vermillion/kumkum tilak on their brothers’ forehead and pray for their well-being. This is followed by exchange of gifts and blessings. Bhaiya Dooj 2016 falls on the Tuesday, 1st of November 2016.
Bhai Dooj is celebrated all over India and is known by different names in different cultures. In West Bengal it is called ‘Bhai Phota’ and the tilak is a mixture of sandalwood (chandan), ghee, and kohl (kajal). People eat traditional sweets like kheer and coconut laddus on this day. In Gujarat, the day is known as Bhai Beej, when the sister perform aarti and applies a tilak on her brother’s forehead and prays for his good fortune. In Maharashtra and Goa, this day is called Bhau Beej and people make basundi puri or shrikhand puri to celebrate this auspicious day.
Why We Celebrate Bhai Dooj
The Bhau Beej story goes back to the legend of Yama and Yamuna. According to the legend, Surya, the Sun God was married to a beautiful princess called Samjna (pronounced as Sangya). She gave birth to the twins Yama and Varni (Yamuna). The brother and sister grew up closely in each other’s company. But with time, Samjna could not bear Surya’s brilliance and decided to go back to earth. She left her replica, Chaya (shade) behind so that Surya would not become aware of her absence.
However, fate took a nasty turn when Chaya turned out to be an evil step-mother to Yama and Varni. Once she had given birth to her own children, she convinced Surya to expel Yama and Varni from heaven. Varni fell on to the earth and became the river Yamuna, and Yama went to the underworld (hell) and became the Lord of Death, Yama or Yamraj.
As time passed by, Yama and Yamuna began to miss each other and the lovely times they had spent together growing up. One day, Yama decided to pay visit to his sister. Yamuna was overjoyed and began preparing a feast for her brother’s welcome.
When Yama saw how ecstatic Yamuna was to meet him, he asked her, “Dear Varni, you have welcomed me so lovingly. But I did not bring you a gift. Ask, therefore, for something and it will be yours.”
“Your visit is gift enough. I have no need for anything else,” Varni said. But Yama persisted and asked her to name a gift on this day. So finally Varni agreed, saying, “I ask that all brothers should remember their sisters on this day and visit them if they can, and that, on this day, all sisters should pray for the happiness of their brothers.”
Yama affirmed, “So be it. And I grant all brothers who give their sisters a gift on this day a long and healthy life.”
This day is celebrated as Bhai Dooj all over India and Nepal.
In another Bhai Dooj story, Lord Krishna went to meet his sister Subhadra after killing Narakasur. Subhadra welcomed him in the traditional way with an aarti and applied a tilak on his forehead.
What to do on Bhai Dooj Festival
The hallmark of Bhai Dooj is the ceremonial tilak and aarti that the sister does for her brother, just as Yamuna had done for Yama. In the morning after having a bath and dressing up in her festive finery, the sister should prepare the puja thali with a diya, roli, chandan and sweets. Then have the brother seated in your puja place for receiving the tilak. Apply the tilak on his forehead as a mark of protection and hand him a coconut. Perform the aarti and for him and chant the mantras his long life and well-being. Now offer him a sweet. In case the brother is married, the sister should also apply tilak on her sister in law’s forehead. In case the brother has children, sisters can include their nieces and nephews in the ceremony. You can also prepare a meal for your brother and his family and eat together to celebrate your love.
Those who want to celebrate the original legend of Bhaiya Dooj can worship Lord Yama on this day and bathe in the Yamuna for their blessings.
When you are looking for Bhai Dooj gifts, try to find something your sister will needs and will appreciate. It could be spiritual items that attract love, harmony and good luck in the house and energise her surroundings.
The spirit of Bhai Dooj is all about strengthening family ties and relationships in a modern fast-paced life. So enjoy this day with your loved ones and let them know that you care for them.