Bhai Phota is a prominent Hindu festival celebrated in the state of West Bengal on the Dvitya or the second day after the Kali Puja. Bhai Phota is a festival that strengthens the beautiful bond of love and affection between a brother and his sister. It is celebrated with lot of gusto and euphoria all over West Bengal and sisters and brothers eagerly await the arrival of the joyful Bhai Fota.
At 10 in the morning Bengali houses reverberate with the sound of conch shells marking the beginning of the festivities. Traditionally the ceremonies take place in the house of the sister who invites her brother and his family on the occasion of Bhai Phota. When the entire family has gathered in the central place of the house, sisters, dressed in their fine clothes, make their brothers sit on a traditional 'Asana', a small cotton mattress.
With full sincerity and humility she applies 'Phota' or 'tilak' on her brother's forehead amidst the chanting of mantras. This 'Tilak' is a paste of 'chandan' (sandalwood), 'kaajol' and 'doi' (yogurt). There is also a prescribed method of applying Fota. If the sister is elder to the brother, she applies 'Phota' with the little finger of her left hand while the kid sister apply phota using their right hand.
After the Fota ceremony, brother is showered with sweets and gifts from the sisters. Following the tradition, brother touches the feet of his elder sister who gives him rice grains and 'Durba' (blades of grass) as her blessing. Then comes the turn of the brother to pamper his sisters with gifts or cash.
Though the entire ceremony is simple in nature, it has a deep underlying meaning attached to it. The Bhai Phota ceremony is symbolic of sisters prayers to the divine to provide long and a prosperous life to her brother. Such is the love of the sister that she does not consume even a morsel of food or a take a sip of the customary morning tea before she applies phota on her dear brother.
After the Bhai Phota ceremonies are over it is time to have some fun. The whole family indulges in songs, games and merriment. Relatives are invited for big family get togethers over lunch or dinner. Their presence doubles the excitement and people have a good time relishing the best of festive food with near and dear ones.
Here are the various versions of mantras which are chanted during the Bhai Phota ceremonies:
The Sanskrit Version
Bhratus tabaa grajaataaham
Bhunksa bhaktamidam shuvam Preetaye yama raajasya
I'm your sister
Eat this sacred rice
For the pleasure of "Yam Raj" and "Yamuna".
Bhaier kapale dilam phonta,
Jamer Duare porlo kanta,
Jamuna Dae Jomke phonta,
Ami di amar bhaike phonta,
Bhai jeno hoy lohar vata.
I put a "phota" on my brother's fore-head
To make my brother immortal
"Yamuna" gives a "phota" to "Yam"
I give a "phota" to my brother
Brother may becomes tough as iron.