Bhai Dooj is one of the most popular and auspicious Hindu festivals and signifies the bonds of love between a brother and sister. A part of the five-day Diwali celebrations, Bhai Dooj is celebrated on the last day. The significance and celebrations of Bhai Dooj are similar to that of Raksha Bandhan. In Bhai Dooj, too, sisters pray for the long life and well being of their brothers. The only difference is that unlike in Raksha Bandhan where sisters tie a thread on their brother's wrist, in Bhai Dooj they apply tika on their brother's forehead.
The festival is celebrated in the countries of India and Pakistan. But it is also religiously observed by the Indian and Nepali diaspora in the US, Canada, UK, other European countries and Australia. In India and Nepal, the festival is known by different regional names. In the Northern part of India where it is celebrated on the last day of the five-day Diwali festival, it is known as Bhai Dooj. In Nepal, where it is the most significant festival of the country after Dashain, it is known as Bhai Tika. Bengalis refer to the festival as Bhai Phonta, while in Gujarat, Maharashtra, Goa and Karnataka it is referred to by names of Bhai Bij, Bhau Beej and Bhav Bij.
As with other Hindu festivals, there are also very exciting and inspirational legends associated with Bhai Dooj. It is said that the Lord of Death, Yamraj, every year visits his sister, Yami, on this day. His sister, in turn, puts tilak on his head and prays for Yamraj's well being. However, another notable story that people believe to be the origin of Bhai Dooj is that Lord Krishna after killing Narkasur, an evil demon, paid a visit to his sister Subhadra. Krishna's sister welcomed him by applying tilak on his head and offering him sweets and flowers. This led to the start of the revered festival of Bhai Dooj.
Sisters start making preparations for the festival days in advance. They buy sweets, gifts, fancy garments and other products. On the day of Bhai Dooj, sisters perform aarti and put tilak on the forehead of their brothers and also offer them sumptuous sweets. Brothers reciprocate by blessing their sisters and offering them gifts or cash. In some states such as Haryana and Maharashtra, women who have no brothers worship moon God. However, whatever name or form the festival may take, the significance is the same – it is a brother's duty to protect his sister who in turn worships for his good health and long life.
Bhai Dooj is an age-old festival and the way it is being celebrated has remained more or less the same. However, over the years, the way sisters convey their wishes to their brothers has seen a significant change and this is mostly due to the advent of the Internet age. Earlier, sisters whose brothers were far away would send their brothers cards or tika in envelops days in advance. It would take many days to reach and at times brothers would get the greetings or cards after the festival was over. But the online communication has changed all that. Today, the Internet is flooded with beautiful Bhai Dooj cards and messages that you can send to your brothers. Many of these cards are free and customized, which means that you can write your own message on the card and send it across to your brother. No more endless waiting! Just click on the card and it would reach your brother in a matter of seconds.