Bhai Tika : Tihar

The last day of Tihar is Bhai Tika which is also called Bhatridutiya in Sanskrit. “Bhai” means brother in Nepali. The festival culminates in Bhai Tika, a day that rests on the premises of love, rituals, beautiful hues, reverence and puja done especially for one’s brother. This occasion honors brother-sister relationships, celebrating the holy emotional bond that they share. It is marked by offering special prayers for one’s brother’s prosperity and long life.

Legend holds that when the Kirati King Bali Hang fell mortally ill, his sister Jamuna looked after him and guarded him. When Yamaraj, the God of Death, came for Bali Hang’s soul, Jamuna pleaded with him to wait until she finished worshipping her brother; that is, until Panchami (Bhai Tika). She then conducted a long and elaborate ceremony for her brother, and performed the same for Yamaraj. She also put forth some conditions: that Yamaraj should not take Bali Hang until the tika, which she had smeared on his forehead, fades away; until the water sprinkled on her brother dries; and until the makhmali flowers wilt. Over the years Yamaraj sent his messengers to inspect the flowers, and when the next Bhai Tika puja arrived Yamaraj admitted that he had lost Bali Hang’s soul to his pious sister and granted him a long life.

The modern day Jamunas remember the legend and perform the rituals with much enthusiasm, love and gaiety. They believe that the required rituals will protect their brothers from untimely death and that they will enjoy a long life, health and prosperity.

In this day, sisters apply sacred Tika on their brother’s forehead and pray to Lord Yama for her brother’s long life and prosperity.

Some of the ethnic groups in Nepal use the Pancha Rangi Tika (Five coloured Tika) for  Bhai Tika. First a base, rice flour is applied vertically on the forehead then yellow, green, red, blue and white colour Tika are put on top of this line in a row.

But in the Newar culture, we just use rice, vermilion and yogurt, mix them and use that as a Tika.

Those who do not have a brother or sister visit Yamarajeswor Temple at Rani Pokhari, in downtown Kathmandu. There they pay homage to Lord Shiva and receive bhai tika. Interestingly, the temple remains locked up all year round except on this particular day.

For this occasion, I had invited my brothers and their families to my place and we did the Bhai Tika on my balcony.

Before the Bhai Tika, just like in Maha Puja, the floor was purified by sprinkling water on it, and then we made Mandaps in front of a row of seats on the floor where my brothers were sitting. I used a copy of the same Mandap which was designed by AS but this time I printed them on A3 paper.

In Nepal, the Mandaps are made by hand on the floor using oil, rice flour, vermilion, puffed rice and sometimes beans. The number of the Mandaps needed is three plus the number of people doing the Puja. So I had two big Mandaps, for my brothers, in a row and three smaller Mandaps at the top of the row for the Family Deity (Kuladevata), Yamaraj and Janmaraj, and one crow drawn at the end of the row symbolising Lord Yama.

Beside the three Mandaps at one end, I also had a Sukunda with a candle on it.

Then I put all the sweets and Rotis that I had made or bought as well as some fruits around the Mandap along with the sweets, Masala and Sagun.

Then I had trays with fruits like mangoes, oranges, apples, cup-cakes, lamingtons and cakes. I bake it and wrote Happy Bhai Tika on it.

I made Masala at home this year with dry coconuts, dry dates, raisins, almonds, pistachio nuts, apricots, dry figs, cashews, cloves, cardamoms, beetle nuts, hard shelled walnuts, palm sugar cubes and lots of Chocolates. I used clear cello wrap and colourful bows to make it look beautiful.

For Sagun, I boiled the eggs, took the shell out and fried them in a pan. I made Bara, fried some chicken, fish and cut fresh garlic.

I made Mala out of tinsel and bought Jajanka in a Nepali grocery store.

Jajanka is made of many rounds of a white cotton thread forming a circle of about two feet in diameter and tied with a small piece of colourful cloth in order to have no ends. Jajanka symbolizes the integration of the beginning with the end. It is about creation, maintenance and fullness of life. Normally the Mala is supposed to be of Makhmali ful/Supadi ful (Globe Amaranth) as it never dries and always looks fresh.

My Bhai tika process

  • First I gave Nasala, a few drops of water, in the palm of the right hand of my brothers to sprinkle some into the mouth and rest over the body for purification.

  • I worshipped the Family Deity and Yama’s Mandap with water, rice, flowers, and vermilion powder.

  • I gave water, rice, flowers, and vermilion powder to my brothers, first to worship the Mandap of the House God and then the crow, then to worship their own Mandaps. The Mandap is used as a medium to present the various offerings to the self.
  • Then I put Tika made of vermillion, rice and yogurt on my brothers’ forehead and gave them flowers to put on their head as a blessing form God. This was followed by Mala and Jajanka around their neck.

  • Normally in Nepal, they use Itaa (special long strands made using white cloth soaked in mustard oil) but here we used tea light candles instead. I gave both my brothers the candles. They took the candle from my hand, lit them and put them on their Mandap. This light is believed to brighten the inner self and keep evil at bay.
  • Then I took some water in an Ankhura (a small pitcher for Puja) filled with oil and water and Dubo in my hand and circled around my brothers three times.
  • Then I gave them some rice and flower in their hand. I then gave trays of Rotis, fruits, Masala, sweets and clothes to them and they had to hold them and keep them from touching the ground. Then I took some rice and flower in my hand and showered each of them and worshipped the god within them. Only after that could they put the trays down.

  • Then my brothers put Tika on my forehead, touched my feet for my blessings and gave me the gifts they had brought for me.

  • I gave them the Sagun. For Sagun, you put a plate of egg, Bara, meat and fish in the right hand and yogurt or alcohol in the left hand.

  • Once everyone finished eating the Sagun, we used Kucho (broom) to sweep the mandaps starting from the top end of the row of Mandaps to the bottom of the row, touching each Mandap to erase them and concluded our Bhai Tika.

P.S:  Photos update.

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12 responses to “Bhai Tika : Tihar

  1. If you don’t mind, I had a question. Why do you cover your and your family’s eyes. Is that a religious thing?

  2. why do we use five different colors?

  3. now I got my first tikka to bhai tikka. it was sooooo nice. my bahini gove me. it was so ..wau. we had fun and she paint all of my face later :))), I have 2 malla once in yellow and the pink. I loved it. sorry for not so much comment, but till now we havent internet connect and allways i used a cyper and so i hope things will go better soon…..:))))

  4. Your blog is like a magazine, always fascinating. Love it.

  5. PS. Looking forward to the pictures!

  6. Sounds like you had a great time bonding with the family… We have it pretty much the same in India, just that we call it Bhaiyya duj! 🙂
    I’ve missed it for two years in a row now, though. I stay in a dorm.

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