Bhai Tika – celebrating sibling bonds

19, Aug 2020 |

During this festival, sisters worship and pray for a long and prosperous life for their brothers

Nepal Traveller


Bhai tika is celebrated on the last day of Tihar. This festival celebrates the bond between brothers and their sisters. During this festival, the sisters worship and pray to Lord Yama (the Lord of Death), wishing for a long and prosperous life of their brothers. Sisters apply Tika on their brothers’ forehead thanking them for the protection they give. Tikas are colourful, with seven colors or the ‘Saptarangi Tika’ in Nepali. Along with the Tika, sisters offer garlands or makhmali mala (Gomphrena globosa) sweets and special food to them.

saptarangi tika tihar dipawali nepal

On the occasion, a special Sagun (a packet of spices) is also given to brothers. This tradition is said to have started as a caring sister’s healthy snack pack for her brother to make his way back home, as the brothers in the past had to walk a long way to their sister’s home (after marriage) for the festival. This festival is usually celebrated at the sister’s marital home or her husband’s home after marriage.

diyo oil lamps nepal tihar

At the start sisters worship the Diyo, Kalash, and Ganesh in a nanglo and then make a border around their brothers (who are seated on the floor) first with oil and then, water to keep away bad omens. Then they worship the Bimiro(citron) outside the door and after that, they break a whole walnut beside the bimiro with a lohora (part of stone grinder) and shut the door.

It is believed 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, 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 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 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 sister determination and granted him long life.

makhmali flower used in bhai tika tihar

The modern-day sisters remember the legend and perform the rituals with much enthusiasm and love. They believe that the rituals will protect their brother from death and he will enjoy a long life, health and prosperity.

Complied by Rina Kumari Mandal a content writer at Nepaltraveller. 


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