"Bhaier kapale dilam phonta,
Jamer Duare porlo kanta,
Jamuna Dae Jomke phonta,
Ami di amar bhaike phonta,
Bhai jeno hoy mota shota."
An east Indian rhyme, translated this would mean
"As I put the tilak on my brother's forehead
I wish him all the success and good health in life"
Living in a land that is distant not only in terms of miles but also in terms of traditions, from that of my forefathers, I try in my own way to preserve whatever little I can of the festivals and rituals I had grown up with. Today through this page, I share such a ritual with you all.
A bond that is much celebrated all over India is that of a brother and a sister. The fierce bond that survives childhood competition, rivalry, tattling and gently flows through the precocious teens of separate rooms and wardrobes, of secrets kept from each other, to finally mature into an oasis of security. We all have gone through these stages, we have fought and cried, we have hugged and laughed, we have cursed and sworn, we have mimicked and pulled each other's legs. We have also, each year, two days after Diwali, celebrated with love and joy, 'Bhai Phota'
In Bengal this event is called 'Bhai Phota'. Two days after Kali puja or Diwali, on dvitiya (second day), 'Bhai Phota' is celebrated. On this day, sisters keep a fast and invite their brothers to be felicitated. This event is ceremoniously performed by the loving sister who religiously fasts the whole morning until she applies a 'Phota' (tilak) of 'chandan' (sandal wood) paste, 'kaajol'(kohl) and 'doi' (yogurt) on her brother's forehead, wishing him a long life and offering him sweets and gifts. The sisters make their brothers sit on an Asana (a small cotton mattress) and draws the 'Phota' on the forehead of the brother. If the sister is elder then she blesses her brother with rice grains and 'Durba' (blades of grass) when the brother touches her feet. The brother also eagerly waits for his sister to apply the 'Phota' and in turn lavishes her with love and gifts. After this the brothers are served sweets and then the whole family engages into singing songs, playing games and anything that is enjoyed by all. On this day relatives are invited to the house for lunch or dinner and thus a huge gathering of young children, teenagers and adults make the ambience more festive and cheerful. The sisters, dressed in their best, make the arrangement for the 'Phota'.Well this is how it happens traditionally, but in reality, as kids the brothers and sisters are coerced into this tradition by the parents. With grumpy faces they oblige to sit on the asana and take the phota, the sister at times, emphasises that if her brother doesn't mend his ways, this is the last year she will be taking part in this festival, after the obligatory smiles to the camera, the fights that were left midway are taken up and life continues. The years follow and the parents across all the towns of India instill the values of love and bonding among their kids through this tradition, and slowly yet surely the little minds change. the sister grows up and her prayers turn genuine, the brother most of the times, leaves the home to study at a distant shore, and on this particular day the feeling of nostalgia, of bygone bhai photas, of the gifts shared and the warmth of togetherness is missed whole heartedly. Maybe it is this that strengthens the bonds, maybe it is the Phota(tilak). who is to say? All we know is, that the tradition of the phota instils faith in us that our brothers will remain hail and hearty wherever they are.Pictures are of my two kids taken in two different years, at different houses... today also we will celebrate this ritual of a love that stands the test of all times.