For Hindus, the story behind each festival play a very important role in the formation of their culture and have a very deep significance and values. Most of the Indian festivals are attached to specific characters and personalities that helps the masses to understand and know the true significance of the festival. Just like all important Indian Festivals, Bhai dooj also has a story to follow that have carved a niche with its unique presence and strength.
Through generations, the story of Bhai Dooj has been passed from generation to generation either by word of mouth or through carefully stored scriptures. The narration of the story marks the end of the Bhai dooj puja. Once the various rituals of Bhai dooj such as the sister applying the teeka on the forehead of the brother, giving him the eatables and in return receiving the gifts are over, the women and children sit around, to hear the story behind Bhai Dooj from the elders of the family.
The story goes that once there was a family living in a village that had only a sister and a brother. The sister was very elder to her brother, thus when she got married, the brother was at a very tender age. The boy did not remembered any thing about his sister's marriage. After the marriage, the sister never returned to her mother's home. As the brother grew up, the image of her sister started fading with each passing years. He terribly missed his sister, especially on the Bhai Dooj day, as he used to see his friends with teeka on their forehead and plates full of sweets.
On one particular Bhai dooj, when the boy had turned up into a handsome young boy, he inquired his mother about the reason as to why his sister never visited her original home after her marriage. The mother replied that she does not come because there is a big forest between this village and the one in which she lives and there is a big river flowing in between. One has to cross the river by boat and then there are wild animals which fill people with so much terror, that many people do not travel through the forest.
Inspite of knowing the immense difficulty he will have to face, the young brother decided to visit his sister on the next Bhai dooj day. The mother reminded him again of the dangers, but he did not listen, and so it was decided that he would go and visit her. When the time came she told him to tell his sister that she should now come over and choose a suitable bride for him.
The boy set off and on his way he faced the rising level of river, which made it impossible for him to cross the road. There was also the danger of snakes. The boy requested the river not to drown him and told the snakes that they can bite him on his return journey, after he meets his only sister. The snake agreed, and the boy proceeded. Now, he came to a mountain, which started through big stones on him, and he again pleaded with it to let him go. The mountain also agreed. When the boy was near his sister's village, a big tiger appeared and decided to eat him up. He also pleaded to the tiger and promised him that the tiger can feed on him on his return journey.
The poor boy knew now that is days were numbered, still, he eagerly went along to meet his only sister. He entered the house, and saw that she was doing the Bhai Dooj puja. The sister on seeing him after such a long time, welcomed her brother with a smile and embraced him. She at once brought lovely fruits and sweet meats to eat. She set about preparing kheer, puri, kachori, and lots of other tasty items. When her husband came after work, both of them provided a very enjoyable and memorable time to the young lad, so that he was full of joy.
Days passed, and it was time for the brother to take leave of his sister and brother-in-law. Before returning back, the brother narrated the whole incident to his sister and told her that his days were numbered and that he is soon going to die. The sister was shocked, but she decided to accompany him for the return journey. She secretly packed some meat for the tiger, some milk for the snake, flowers of silver and gold for the mountain and some roli and rice for the river.
Soon they were on their way and, of course, the tiger came first to eat up the brother. The sister gave him the meat and he went his way. Then came the mountain, which wanted to fall on her brother. She quickly performed puja with the gold and silver flowers and the mountain was very pleased with the offerings and stopped falling. Then it was the turn of the snake, and it was given the milk, and went away satisfied. They now reached the river and as was expected, it started to rise, but the sister subdued it by doing puja with roli and rice, and the river went down.
Both, brother and sister were very happy to escape the dangers of the forest and were anxious to reach home. The sister was now tired and thirsty. Soon she saw some gypsies working far away. She wanted to ask them for water, so the brother sat down under a tree-happy to be alive-and she went to the gypsies and got some water. Their the gypsies predicted that the danger was not over and her brother will die very soon. She asked them to tell her some way by which this calamity could be averted. One old woman came to her rescue and suggested that until her brother gets married, she should go on cursing him, right from now on and continuous to curse him all through the wedding and also insists on getting all rituals done to her first, only then this boy can be saved.
As soon as she reached near her brother, she started to curse him and to abuse him. The poor fellow was taken by surprise, but she continued calling him bad names. This thing continued even when they reached home. The mother, along with the villagers were very surprised at the nasty behavior of the sister, but no said anything as she was married and had came to her mother's place after a long time.
Soon, the brother's marriage was fixed to a beautiful girl. Still the sister went on cursing on any pretext. Everyone wanted the wedding to be over as soon as possible and the sister to be sent back to her village. On the wedding day, she insisted that all rituals be performed on her before her brother. The sister insisted that they tie the sehra on her forehead first. She found a small snake in the sehra instead of a string. She pulled out the snake. Next, the sister insisted that the barat (marriage procession) should go from the back door and not from the front door and no decorations be made. When the barat was to start, somehow the sister had fallen asleep. Ignoring her words, the barat started from beautiful front porch. But, no longer had everyone gather, the whole porch fell down, and narrowly missed the groom.
Now the time for the pheras (going round the fire) arrived and the sister had again gone to sleep. As soon as the first round of the pheras was done, the boy fell down in a dead faint, because of the evil spirits who had come to take him away. The sister woke up on hearing the noise and came cursing in to the courtyard. Hearing the abuses and seeing her blazing eyes, the evil spirits fled. It was now time for the boy and the girl to give kheer to each other. They let the sister have the first morsel from which she took out a hedgehog's spiked needle and quickly put it in her tiny bag as well.
The wedding was finally over and every one including the mother and brother were keen to see the sister leave. Before leaving for her husbands place, the sister narrated the prediction of the gypsies and gave the reason for her bad behavior. Everyone had tears in their eyes and they hugged her feet, and all present said with one voice: 'Let everyone have a sister like this, who is willing to be talked ill of, and will go about looking wild and angry even during a wedding, although it was to be the only wedding in the family - all this just to save her brother and family from disaster.
Thus, the custom is prevalent that a brother does not go to his sisters house for the teeka; instead the sisters bring or send the teeka to the brother, as danger may lurk on the way.