I could see sisters and brothers celebrating Bhai Tika with much joy while I, on the other hand, could not celebrate it. I am someone who is very fond of lights, colors, flowers, and dogs. Since all these are highlights of Tihar, the festival of lights, I enjoy this festival thoroughly for four days. Every year, Tihar is a time of excitement. As a child, I and my friends played Bhailo and started practicing as soon as Dashain was over. As I grew up, my friends and sisters have drifted away; some abroad for their studies while some have their own priorities that come before a “childhood bhailo” group.
What excites me now is making colorful Rangoli on the day of Laxmi Puja which is the third day of Nepali Tihar. I grew up as a younger daughter of our family. I have an elder sister who means the world to me. But as a child, around this time of the year, I was disheartened for not having a brother of my own. How I wished my sister was a brother, or how I wished I had a brother younger to me. I could see sisters and brothers celebrating Bhai Tika with much joy while I, on the other hand, could not celebrate it. This was why I wanted a brother.
The story behind Bhai Tika is really a heart touching one. It highlights the importance of having a sibling and praying for their prosperity and longevity. I remember my grandmother telling me the story behind Bhai Tika. She had said that when Kirati King Bali was very sick, his sister Jamuna took care of him. When the God of Death Yamaraj came for King Bali’s soul, Jamuna requested Yamaraj to wait until she finishes worshipping her sick brother. She also put forward conditions that Yamaraj could only take the soul of her brother when the boundary of oil dries up when makhamali flower wilts and when the saptarangi tika on his forehead fades. Since none of it happened, Yamaraj lost to the conditions of Jamuna and eventually granted her brother, King Bali, a long life. I usually had a lot of questions in my mind after hearing this story. “Can I not protect my didi?,” I would ask naively. My grandmother usually ignored my question with a laugh.
Though I really liked the notion behind Bhai Tika, I always wondered why a Sister could not be a savior, why we pray for the prosperity of our brothers but not our sisters, why there was nothing such as “Didi/Bahini Puja”? Since past five years, me and my sister celebrate Bhai Tika with a twist. We worship each other and pray for prosperity and longevity. We believe in the essence of the festival but also believe that our bond is cherish-able. I could have stood against the world if it was for my sister and that it what Bhai Tika according to me is all about.
Photo Courtesy: Ashma Gautam