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Significance: A festival dedicated to the sacred bond between Brothers & sisters
The sacred bond of brothers & sisters is celebrated through various rituals in Hindu culture. Dedicated festivals like Rakhi are observed especially to honor this lifelong relationship in various parts of the country, and Kolkata is no exception. Bhai Phota is one such festival celebrated each year in West Bengal.
The celebrations start at 10 AM in the morning itself when sounds of conch shell reverberate in the house as a gesture of starting the rituals. This is followed by the entire family gathering in the central place of the house along with the brothers & sisters dressed in their fine clothes. The brother is then made to sit on a traditional ‘Asana’ which is a small cotton mattress. The sister then applies ‘Phota’ or tilak upon his forehead in all humility and respect. ‘Phota’ is basically a paste of ‘chandan’ (sandalwood), 'kaajol' and 'doi' (yogurt) and is applied in a prescribed way according to which if the sister is elder to the brother, the phota is applied with the little finger of sister’s left hand whereas if the sister is younger to her brother then the phota is applied using her right hand. Sister feeding sweets to her brother is also part of the ritual. This is followed by brother touching her feet who give him rice grains and 'Durba' (blades of grass) as a mark of her blessings. The sister is then showered by gifts & sweets from the brother signaling the end of humble rituals.
Bhai Pota falls each year on the Dvitya or the second day after the Kali Puja. Although the rituals & ceremonies are simple in nature, they have a deep underlying meaning attached to it. The sisters prays for a long and prosperous life for her brother and does not consume even a morsel of food before completes the rituals. Perhaps the best part about the annual festival is that it strengthens the bond of love between brothers & sisters.