Bhai Tika: Day five of Tihar in Nepal

by Dave from The Longest Way Home ~ November 20th, 2015. Updated on October 28th, 2016. Published in: Travel blog » Nepal.
Sambat rangoli display to mark Newari New Year

Food for the Bhai Tika ritual

Bhai Tika in Nepal

Day Five of the week long Tihar festival in Nepal is when brothers and sisters bless each other. It’s the day after the fourth day of Tihar which is filled with blessings and the lighting of candles or lights.

Today’s celebrations surround the family. Bhai in Nepalese means (younger brother). The elder sister will bless her younger brother, present him with a food offering in thanks for his protection during the year.

In turn the brother will then bless his sister and present her with a gift.

It’s not important that there’s a “younger” or “older” brother or sister. Just that they are brother and sister. More on what happens if you have no brother or sister below.

Bhai Tika has several different rituals and these change depending on ethnic group.

I was lucky enough to be invited to both a Brahmin, Chhetri and Newar Bhai Tika. I’ll cover them as a Hindu and Newar Bhai tika here.

Sisters bless brothers and brothers bless sisters during Bhai Tika in Nepal

Sisters bless brothers and brothers bless sisters during Bhai Tika in Nepal

Again, keep in mind that people in Nepal come from many castes and backgrounds. Bhai Tika changes slightly with each one. So if you are invited to join in, there may be subtle differences. However this post will give you an idea on what to expect.

The Morning Bhai Tika

The Bhai tika that takes place in the morning is usually the hindu version. The blessing takes place at 11.55 am.

Brothers usually go to their sisters house for the blessing an hour beforehand. Greetings are made and casual talk commences. The sister would have prepared a small blessing area.

In this area are several plates of food offering ranging from fresh fruit, dried fruit, nuts and sweets.

A banana leaf has a small rectangle of about one to two inches cut out from its center. This will be used during the blessing or puja.

Flower petals and dried rice used during Bhai Tikia

Flower petals and dried rice used during Bhai Tikia

Bhai Tika blessing ritual (Puja)

The Bhai Tika Puja starts with the brother/s sitting on the floor.  The sister will then pour water on the floor around the brother/s in a circle. This is to purify the area and to keep it safe from evil.

The sister will then pour oil (mustard) from a brass pitcher onto the brothers head (to signify good mental prowess) then place the oil in their ears (to signify the same).

Flower petals are then sprinkled on the brothers head along with some dried rice (to signify beauty and good food). A dried purple garland called a Makhamali is placed around their neck (this will stay fresh all year).

Banana leaf used to help create the colorful tika

Banana leaf can be used to help create the colorful tika

The banana leaf is then placed on the brother’s forehead and seven dye colors are dotted individually along the cut out area. This results in a colorful rainbow like strip of tika on the forehead.

Bhai Tika with seven colors

The Bhai Tika usually contains seven colors

The sister now presents her brother/s with the large platter of food she prepared earlier (to signify good eating)

Finally the brother is fed a spoon of fresh curd (to signify good health).

Blessing of the sister

The brother/s must now bless their sister. There is far less ritual here as the brother places a tika on their sister’s forehead.

Following this the brother gives their sister a gift. Either money, or a present.

A brother gives his sister a tika on Bhai Tikka

A brother gives his sister a tika on Bhai Tikka

What happens if you have no brothers or sisters during Bhai Tika?

If you have no brother or sister than another family member may substitute their role in the puja.

If you have no family then there are priests who will perform the ritual for you. The most famous of these occurs in Rani Pokhari in Kathmandu city which is opened up only on this one day for the entire year.

Newari Bhai Tika (Kija Puja)

The Bhai Tika Puja for Newari people is a little different in that it takes place in the afternoon and not in the morning.

Along with the food offerings a sister will also create Ashtamangala mandalas on the ground while chanting tantric verses. There will be one mandala for each brother and then one for the deity of the household eg. Ganesh.

Ashtamangala mandalas

A sister creates Ashtamangala mandalas on the floor for the Newari Bhai Tika

Water is again used to purify the area and is given to a brother to wash their hands.

Oil is placed on their heads.

A similar rainbow tika with seven colors is places on the brothers forehead.

The purple garland called a Makhamali is placed around the brothers neck.

A string with colorful cloth is placed around the brothers neck for luck and smart attire.

Flower petals, dried rice and maize are poured from a container over the brothers head while the sister blesses her brother.

A Newari sister blesses her brother during Bhai Tika in Nepal

A sister blesses one of her brothers during Newari Bhai Tika (Kija Puja)

Incense is then lit and wafted around the brother.

A small piece of cloth soaked in oil is then given to the brother, lit and then removed to slowly burn away.

A small plate of food is given with an egg, curd, mutton and beaten rice. The brother then eats this.

Colored material used during Bhai Tika

Colored cloth is made into a necklace that is placed around a brother’s neck during Newari Bhai Tika

Finally the sister presents her brother with a plate of fresh fruit, dried fruit, nuts, seeds and sweets.

Blessing of the sister in Newari Bhai Tika

Very similar to the mornings ritual a brother/s must now bless their sister. There is far less ritual here as the brother places a tika on their sister’s forehead.

Following this the brother gives their sister a gift. Either money, or a present.

Where to experience Bhai Tika as a tourist

Bhai Tika is a family event. If you are living with a Nepalese family there’s a strong possibility you will be invited to join in.

A sister places a tika on her brother' during Bhai Tika

A sister places a tika on her brother’ during Bhai Tika

As Nepal opens up to tourists it’s now becoming common in many hotels or local guesthouses for the owner to give their guests a tika on that day. It’s up to the tourist whether they wish to wear one or not.

Last festival of the season in Nepal?

There’s a misconception that after the five days of Tihar both the festival season and Tihar is over. This is slightly incorrect.

Newari Tihar continues on for another two days. These days are mainly spent at home with the family with singing and dancing at night. You will find several shops and stores closed during these days.

Many thanks to Amir, Jagganath, Reemon and Kumar for inviting me to their homes and helping during Bhai Tika. Greetings and thanks also to my new sisters Shrestha and Rohna!

Once Tihar is over there is still one last festival in Nepal! It’s also one of the most beautiful that few people get to experience.

Here’s a full list of festivals in Nepal.

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