Tag Archives: Bhai Tikka

The 2010 Sel Roti Tihar Challenge

Living in our intercultural household means that the fall is filled with lots of holidays… and lots of food. October brings Dashain and Halloween, November and its Tihar and Thanksiving time and December culminates in Christmas and New Years. What’s a girl trying to get in shape for a wedding to do? Take on a Challenge I guess.

Tihar technically starts today (November 3rd) with “Kag Puja” or the worship of crows. People leave sweets for the crows on the roofs of their houses because the cawing of crows symbolizes sadness and grief in Hindu mythology, and offering puja supposedly averts grief and death from your home. I don’t think we have crows, just lots of Canadian Geese at the moment, so I’m not sure if we will be able to do this, but tomorrow is Kukur Puja–worshiping dogs– and with a pup in our house, that’s pretty easy! I’ll happily give our little Sampson a flower garland, tikka, and treat like last year!

After Thursday’s Kukur puja, Friday is Gai (cow) Puja and Lakshmi Puja, Saturday is Maha (Self) Puja, and Sunday is Bhai Tikka (worship of brothers).

I digress, back to the challenge… during Tihar a traditional food to eat is a homemade circular fried bread made out of rice flour called “Sel Roti.” People eat it at other times of year as well, but it is widely eaten during the festival.

S's brother making Sel for Dashain

His pretty Sel Roti, already to eat... one of the "challenges" of making Sel is making the circle of dough in the cooking oil. I should have helped my uncle make doughnuts as a kid to prep for this!

I’ve been saying for months that I wanted to try and make Sel this year, and every time I mention this plan I’m usually told, “Sel is too hard, I don’t think you can do it.” (well… telling me that only makes me want to do it more, of course!)

I’ll counter with, “But I have a recipe I can follow, from my Nepali cookbook…” to which someone would respond, “Oh, but even with a recipe, Sel Roti is too hard, I don’t think you can do it.”

Gosh darn it, don’t tell me what I can and can’t do! At least let me try…

So this Friday I am taking on the 2010 Sel Roti Tihar Challenge. I’ll take photos and document the process… and if I fail, at least I tried, but I’m hoping for some of that homemade circular bread for Bhai Tikka… and the “street cred” that goes along with having achieved a dish considered “too difficult.”

If you have made Sel Roti before, feel free to share your stories or give cooking tips! I can use all the help I can get!

To see how it turned out visit Sel Roti Prep and Sel Roti Success!

Bhai Tikka in Pictures

“Bhai Tikka” marks the final day of Tihar. I believe you could literally translate the holiday as bhai (brother) tikka (blessing); it is a day where sisters celebrate their brothers to ensure their long life and to thank them for the love and protection they give. As part of the festivities lots of good food is prepared for the brothers, and their sisters give them packages of sweets and nuts. There is a special puja, with a seven colored tikka and flower garlands. In return the sisters receive gifts or money from their brothers, and the whole ceremony acts as a strengthening and renewal of the brother-sister relationship.

A Tibetan dipection of Yama

A Tibetan depiction of Yama (Yamaraj)

I had a less detailed “origin story” for Bhai Tikka here before, but a friend sent me a good link, with a nice explanation: “Legend holds that when the Kirati King Bali Hang fell mortally ill, his sister Jamuna looked after him and guarded him. When Yamaraj, the God of Death, came for Bali Hang’s soul, Jamuna pleaded to wait until she finished worshipping her brother; that is, until Panchami (Bhai Tika). She then conducted a long and elaborate ceremony for her brother, and performed the same for Yamaraj. She also put forth some conditions: that Yamaraj should not take Bali Hang until the tika, which she had smeared on his forehead, fades away; until the water sprinkled on her brother dries; and until the makhmali flowers wilt. Over the years Yamaraj sent his messengers to inspect the flowers, and when the next Bhai Tika puja arrived Yamaraj admitted that he had lost Bali Hang’s soul to his pious sister and granted him long life.”

The article goes on to explain the individual elements of the ritual: “To begin

The elephant-headed god Ganesh-- one of the most famous images in Hindu iconography

The elephant-headed god Ganesh-- one of the most famous figures in Hindu iconography

the ceremony, the sister draws three mandaps or boundaries at a designated place. The mandaps are made for Lord Ganesh, Janmaraj (the God of Birth), and Yamaraj. The sister then performs the puja of the deities after which the brother is requested to sit on the mat for the tika ceremony. Special offerings are placed in front of him. While intoning a protective spell, the sister pours a circle of oil and holy water from a copper pitcher around his body as a boundary over which death and evil spirits cannot pass. Then, kneeling before him, she worships him with the offerings of flowers, nuts, fruits, and rice amidst flaming wicks and incense. She then breaks walnuts before applying the actual tika. The most important act is applying the special bhai tika—called saat rangi tika (seven colored tika), consisting of the colors of the rainbow. This is applied on top of a white base on the brother’s forehead. Creating the tika begins… [when the sister] applies the tika base (made from rice paste). The seven colors are dabbed on top of the base with her fingers… [or with a little stick.] Then, a flower garland is put around brother’s neck as the sister prays for his long life, happiness and continued prosperity.”

This year AS organized a small gathering for people who wanted to participate in Bhai Tikka. Usually one would tikka their “own” (biological) brothers as well as male cousins (cousin-brothers). AS’s “own” brother and cousin-brother live nearby, but for many their “own” sisters and brothers are far away. Being the tight-knit community that we are, long lasting friendships can grow into a brotherly/sisterly relationship anyway, and so we expanded the definition of “sister” and “brother” for this event.

We didn’t have garlands, but we made do with what we did have. Below are some pictures of the event:

The "puja platter"...with the seven different colors for the tikka

The "puja thaal"...with seven different colors for the tikka

AS rubs oil on P's head

AS rubs oil on P's head with a banana leaf

AS sprinkles water three times in a clockwise motion around P's head

AS sprinkles water three times in a clockwise motion around P's head

"Old Neighbor" puts tikka on P as other "sisters" get ready to put tikka

"Old Neighbor" puts tikka on P as other "sisters" get ready to put tikka

"Sisters" do an aarti for P's long life...

"Sisters" do an aarti for P's long life...

Two "brothers" with colorful tikkas

Two "brothers" with colorful tikkas

"Sisters" and "brothers"

"Sisters" and "brothers" post-tikka