The festival of Bhau-beej or Bhai Dooj or Bhai Phota is celebrated by Hindus on the last day of the five-day-long Diwali festival. This is the second day of the bright fortnight or Shukla Paksha of the Hindu month of Kartika. On this day, sisters pray for their brothers to have long and happy lives by performing the Tikaceremony, and brothers make gifts to their sisters.
The festival is known as:
- Bhai Phota in Bengal and it takes place every year on the first or the second day of the Kali Puja festival.
- Bhai Bij, Bhau-beej or Bhav Bij amongst the Marathi and Konkani-speaking communities in the states of Maharashtra, Goa and Karnataka;
- Bhai Tika in Nepal, where it is the second most important festival after Vijaya Dashami.
- In Manipur this festival is celebrated under the name Ningol Chakuba. Brother-Sister bonding is present here also.
- Another name for the day is Yamadwitheya or Yamadvitiya, after a legendary meeting between Yama the god of Death and his sister Yamuna (the famous river) on Dwitheya (the second day after new moon).
- Other names include Bhai Dooj, Bhathru Dwithiya, Bhai Tika and Bhatri Ditya.
According to another popular legend in Hindu mythology, after slaying the evil demon Narkasur, Lord Krishna visited his sister Subhadra who gave him a warm welcome with sweets and flowers. She also affectionately applied tilak on Krishna's forehead. Some believe this to be the origin of the festival
Legend says Yamraj, the God of Death visited his sister Yami on this particular day. She put the auspicious tilak on his forehead, garlanded him and fed him with special dishes. Together, they ate the sweets, talked and enjoyed themselves to their heart's content. While parting Yamraj gave her a special gift as a token of his love and in return Yami also gave him a lovely gift which she had made with her own hands. That day Yamraj announced that anyone who receives tilak from his sister will never be thrown. That is why this day of Bhai Duj is also known by the name of Yama Dwitiya
On the day of the festival, sisters invite their brothers for a sumptuous meal often including their favorite dishes. The whole ceremony signifies the duty of a brother to protect his sister, as well as a sister's blessings for her brother.
Carrying forward the ceremony in traditional style, sisters perform aarti for their brother and apply a red tika on the brother's forehead. This tika ceremony on the occasion of Bhai Bij signifies the sister's sincerest prayers for the long and happy life of her brother. In return brothers bless their sisters and treat them with gifts or cash.
As it is customary in Maharashtra to celebrate the auspicious occasion of Bhau-beej, women who do not have a brother worship the moon god instead. They apply mehendi on girls as their tradition.
The sister, whose brother lives far away from her and cannot come to her house, sends her sincerest prayers for the long and happy life of her brother through the moon god. She performs aarti for the moon. This is the reason why affectionately Hindu children call the moon Chandamama (Chanda means moon and mama means mother's brother).
Bhai Phota in Hyderabad is celebrated with much splendor. The ceremony is marked with many rituals along with a grand feast arranged for the brothers.
The festival of Bhai Bij is popular in Gujarat, Maharashtra and Goa and is celebrated with great fervour and gaiety. Brothers and sisters look forward to the occasion with immense enthusiasm. To add charm to the occasion, Bhai Bij gifts are exchanged between brothers and sisters as a token of love and appreciation.
Bhav Bij is a time for family reunions as all brothers and sisters in the family get together. Close relatives and friends are also invited to celebrate the Bhav Bij in many families.
Special dishes for the festival include the Maharashtra sweet called basundi poori or kheerni poori.