Millions of Hindus are on Wednesday celebrating Bhai Dooj, a festival that marks the strong bond between brothers and sisters.
It is celebrated two days after Diwali and is therefore called “Bhai” meaning “brother” and “Dooj” meaning “second”.
But this year, the festival is being marked three days after Diwali because of the partial solar eclipse on Tuesday that affected the lunar cycle.
Every festival in Hinduism is celebrated according to the “planetary hours”, which decide the auspicious and inauspicious times of the day.
The auspicious hours for Bhai Dooj will begin on Wednesday and last until Thursday morning.
What is the significance of Bhai Dooj?
It is believed that the festival was first celebrated by Yamraj, the God of Death, and his sister Yamuna.
Mythology says that 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 a tilak — the mark on forehead, a religious symbol that is also used to welcome guests.
Yamraj was overwhelmed with his sister’s love and hospitality and asked her for a blessing. Yamuna, who loved her brother, asked him to a fix 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.
On the day, brothers often visit their sisters' homes. They are warmly welcomed by their sisters, who carry a round plate mainly consisting of the paste for tika, sweets, coconut, rice to signify prosperity, and an earthen lamp.
Then the sister applies the tika or the mark on the brother’s forehead and offer him a sweet, while wishing for his safety and prosperity.
The brother in return gives gifts, warmth and love to his sister.