Bhai Dooj 2023: How the festival celebrates the bond between brother and sister

Siblings often get together for a small puja and a large feast to mark the occasion

Bhai Dooj is celebrated during the Diwali festival. Getty Images
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Diwali may be over, but celebrations continue in India and other parts of the world. Tuesday marks the Hindu New Year, while Bhai Dooj falls on two days this year, Tuesday and Wednesday.

The occasion celebrates the bond between brothers and sisters, similar to the Hindu festival of Raksha Bandhan. In Hindi, "bhai" means "brother", while "dooj" means "second". As such, the festival is observed on the second lunar day of Kartika, or the eighth month of the Hindu calendar.

This year, Bhai Dooj starts at 1.21pm (India time) on Tuesday and ends at 1.47pm on Wednesday.

What is the significance of Bhai Dooj?

Mythology says the festival was first celebrated by Yamraj, the God of Death, and his sister Yamuna.

Yamuna once invited her brother home but Yamraj could not meet her. He tried several times and, after frantic efforts, he finally met her. Yamuna welcomed her brother warmly and served him delicious food.

She also applied tilak, or a red mark, on his forehead, a religious symbol that is used to welcome guests.

Yamraj was overwhelmed by his sister’s love and hospitality and granted her a blessing, upon which Yamuna asked him to choose one day every year when he would visit her.

Since then, it is believed that Yamraj visits Yamuna on Bhai Dooj.

How is the festival celebrated?

The festival is widely celebrated in northern, central and eastern India.

Brothers often visit their sisters' homes for the tilak ceremony. The paste for the tilak is placed on a round puja platter, which also includes sweets, coconut and rice to signify prosperity, and an earthen lamp.

The sister applies tilak on the brother’s forehead and feeds him a sweet while wishing for his safety and prosperity. The brother in return offers gifts to the sister as a token of his love and protection, after which families typically settle down for a celebratory feast.

Happy Bhai Dooj is a common way of wishing siblings on this occasion.

Updated: November 14, 2023, 7:03 AM