New Delhi: Bhai Dooj or Bhai Phonta — the ritual that follows Diwali in many parts of the country is not just a holiday. It’s an auspicious occasion for brothers and sisters, carrying the same significance as that of Raksha Bandhan: the sister protects the brother from all evils by her symbolic tilak (in Bhai Dooj ), thread (in Raksha Bandhan). In return, the brother takes a pledge to protect his sister.

It’s also celebrated as Yama Dwitiya in the southern parts of India.

Now, there are many mythological tales of how the ritual came into being. This varies from region to region and also dominates the rituals there.

One story goes like this: On the second day after the new moon, Yamraj visited his sister Yami, who welcomed him with tilak and aarti followed by a great feast. In return for all the love and gesture, Yamraj gave her a unique gift that who would visit his sister and receive tilak and aarti on the Dwitiya of Sukla Paksha in the Kartik month, should not fear death. There’s a mantra on this story which the sisters utter while putting the tilak on the brothers’ forehead.

Another popular story about the history of Bhai Dooj says that after Lord Krishna visited his sister Subhadra after killing the demon Narakasura, she welcomed him with sweets, flowers and applying tilak on his forehead. This loving gesture touched Krishna so much that he blessed her with many boons.

Whatever is the story that a region believes and maintains, in the end, it’s all about sibling love, care and the pledge for protection.