Tihar evolving into sibling bond celebration

By Arpana Adhikari

Kathmandu, Oct. 19: Nepalis across the country are preparing to celebrate Tihar, the festival of lights. Houses are being cleaned and decorated with colourful lights and garlands. Earthen lamps are being lit on either side of the doorsteps to welcome Laxmi, the Goddess of Wealth and Prosperity.

Tihar, another big festival of the Hindus, embraces and engulfs everyone in its jollity. The one thing that makes the festival more special is that this glittering festival is part of a five-day-long celebration that begins with the worship of the crow and ends on Bhai Tika.

Bhai Tika is the last day of the festival, on which sisters put tika on the forehead of their brothers so as to secure a long and happy life for them. Bhai Tika is made up of two words, Bhai (younger brother) and Tika (auspicious red mark on the forehead).

The occasion commemorates a legendary event in which a sister won a boon from Yama, the deity of death, that her brother would not die until the mustard oil (placed on the head) dried up and the garland of Dubo (grass) and Makhamali flower faded.

The seven-colour tika placed on the forehead of a brother by a sister is a symbol of attachment, and strengthens the bond between the two.

The Bhai Tika tradition has immense importance in Nepali society. Those who do not have a sister receive tika from someone regarded as a sister.

Those who do not have a brother or sister used to visit the Yamleswar Mahadev Temple located at the centre of the Rani Pokhari pond in the heart of Kathmandu, which used to be open once a year on the day of Bhai Tika. But the temple has remained closed since 2015, after it was destroyed by the April 25 earthquake.

When Bhai Tika comes, every household with a brother and sister is abuzz with activities. But for many who do not have a brother or sister, Bhai Tika comes as a twinge in their life.

However, there are many in this league who, on Bhai Tika, discover their own definition of happiness outside their own houses. They have started celebrating the day as a bonding between the siblings, either between sisters or between brothers.

Shreeyam Parajuli, 10, and Aarya Parajuli, 4, of New Baneshwor have been celebrating Bhai Tika as a day to celebrate sisterhood. Since the last three years, they have been performing all the rituals associated with Bhai Tika, asking god for the long and healthy life for each other.

Talking to The Rising Nepal, Shreeyam said, “Before my sister was born, I always wished for a brother, so that I could celebrate Bhai Tika like others. But mamu gave birth to Arya. She came as great happiness and a spark in my life.”

Holding her sister in her arms she said the last day of Tihar is Bahini Tika (younger Sister Tika) for them because they are special siblings.  “I have prepared a beautiful greeting card for my sister,” she said with a giggle.

Anita Parajuli, mother of Shreeyam and Aarya, said one has to learn to be happy with what we have. There is no reason to feel bad about something that doesn’t exist. “On this auspicious day, I want them to celebrate sisterhood instead of staying the whole day with sad faces.”

Rita Basnet, 16, and her sister Ashmita, 13, of Bishalnagar felt they were missing something when it came to having a brother.

“One day I came home crying when I saw my friends in the neighbourhood celebrating Bhai Tika with their brothers,” she said. “I asked my parents to get me a brother so that I could also perform the Bhai Tika.”

“I still remember what my mother told me, that having a sister was more beautiful than anything else in life. You should celebrate Bhai Tika with your sister because both of you are special.”

If one doesn’t have a brother, that doesn’t mean one shouldn’t celebrate the day, she said. “I want to rejoice in the day by asking for the long and healthy life of my little sister.”

Since the last seven years, they have been performing the Bhai Tika ritual together. They said they don’t miss not having a brother.


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