Bhaai Dooj: Narrative Vs Reality

Bhai Dooj or Bhratri Dwitiya brings yet another joyful day of celebrations during this exuberant festive month. Celebrated all across India and Nepal with varying names and rituals, Bhai Dooj is an avowal of family values and affection between brothers and sisters.

By Sreejit Datta, Director of Civilisational Studies Practice & Resident Mentor at Rashtram.

Bhai-er kopale dilam phonta,

Jomer duare porlo kanta,

Jomuna dey Jom-ke phonta,

Ami di amar bhai-ke phonta,

Bhai jeno hoy lohar bhanta

(On my brother’s forehead I draw the tilak,

Now death’s door is closely shut;

Yamuna draws the tilak on brother Yama

Just as I draw the mark on my brother’s forehead;

May my brother be as strong as iron!)

Old Bengali rhyme recited in a singsong manner as sisters draw the tilak on their brother’s forehead while observing the Bhratri Dwitiya or Bhai Dooj rituals 

Two days after Diwali, the dawn of Bhai Dooj or Bhratri Dwitiya brings yet another joyful day of celebrations during this exuberant festive month. Celebrated all across India and Nepal with varying names and with slight variations in the rituals, Bhai Dooj is an avowal of family values and affection between brothers and sisters.

As legend has it, Yama, the god of death, who once longed to see her married sister Yami on this day, went to visit her in the house of her husband. The emotional reunion of the siblings was toasted with a grand feast prepared by Yami, and Yami prayed dearly for her brother’s health and prosperity. As a sign of her prayers, she drew a tilak with a paste of sandalwood, vermillion, and curd on her brother’s forehead to ensure his well-being thusly. When asked to wish for a gift from her brother, Yami wished for all sisters to observe the vrata of Bhai Dooj and thus continue to reconfirm the affection and sacred sense of duty in the relationship between brothers and sisters forever. 

On a different account as to the origin of Bhai Dooj, we remember the tenderness between Bhagavan Sri Krishna and His sister Subhadra as depicted in the Mahabharata and several of the Puranas. When Sri Krishna, the vanquisher of evil, returned after defeating the Narakasura, Subhadra had welcomed her brother with an elaborate aarati and had prayed to the heavens for His long life and well-being. 

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