Holi Bhai Dooj and the sister act

In parts of Uttar Pradesh, Bhai Dooj festival is celebrated a day after Holi. It is known as Holi Bhai Dooj. There are several folktales attached to this festival. Here is one such story of Satana and her seven brothers.

Shivani GuptaShivani Gupta   17 March 2022 6:10 AM GMT

Holi Bhai Dooj and the sister act

Illustrations of seven brothers made using rice paste. They are offered gujiya, a Holi special sweet. All photos: Shivani Gupta

If you eat before the bhai dooj pooja, I will deduct Rs 5 from your share of money — my brother warned me. There were still two hours to go for the pooja and I could not wait. I stole into the kothari and grabbed a hot little piece of gulab jamun and popped it into my mouth. Delicious. Totally worth the five rupee deduction in my bhai dooj money.

Bhai dooj, celebrated a day after Holi in some parts of Uttar Pradesh, is like the Raksha Bandhan festival that celebrates the bond between brother and sister. There is another more famous bhai dooj festival, which is celebrated two days after Diwali. But, the folklore attached to this post-Holi bhai dooj is different. One of those stories is of Satana and her seven brothers.

I remember my mother waking up early to prepare a rice paste with which drawings were made on the floor of the veranda that had been scrupulously cleaned and purified with cow dung. The illustrations represented Satana, her seven brothers, a sun, a moon, a pair of snakes, a ladder, and a tulsi sapling. Two of those seven brothers would be marked out as my brother and my sister and I would apply a tikka to it, before we did so to our flesh and blood brothers.

The illustrations represent Satana, her seven brothers, a sun, a moon, a pair of snakes, a ladder.

Satana was a beloved sister of her seven brothers. She would spend all day on a swing, soaring to the skies and back, humming songs and eating milk and rice. My mother would narrate the story to us … doodh bhaat khaati huinhe palana ma jhulti huinhe.

One day her brothers decided that they should find their darling sister a perfect match. So, off they went, leaving her in the care of their wives. The wives were delighted as now they were free to trouble their sister-in-law who never did any household chores.

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The master plan

Task I: Water in sieve

The elder sister-in-law called Satana, handed her a sieve and asked her to fetch water from the well. When Satana reached the well, she dipped the sieve into it to get water, but it all poured out of the holes. She tried again and again and again, but in vain. Every time she would dip the sieve inside the well, water would drain out. She did it again, and again, and again. It was impossible for her to fill the sieve with water, and she knew her sisters-in-law would jeer and laugh at her.

Seeing Satana's distress, the insects and worms crawled out from the well and asked her why she was crying. Kaahe Satana bahini kahe rotiv… they asked. Satana told them that her brothers had left her with her sisters in law and they were ill treating her.

The insects and worms then filled up the holes of the sieve and when Satana dipped the sieve inside well once again, she managed to collect the water without it all draining out.

Task II: Bin kaadin musar ke dhan koot lao

Now it was the turn of the second sister-in-law. She handed Satana paddy, and asked her to clean it without using the mortar and pestle. Satana went to the jungle and began crying again.

This time, her sobs attracted the birds who asked her why she was crying. Kaahee Satana bahini kaahe rotiv? Then they all flocked to Satana and helped her clean all the grains. But the second sister-in-law was cunning. She had counted the number of grains she had given Satana and now she said there was one grain short!

Sisters worship wooden pestle by applying tika, gulal.

Task III: Find the missing grain

The third sister- in-law gave Satana the task of finding the missing grain. The birds gathered around her again and helped her find that missing grain that was hidden in the eye of the blind bird.

Task IV: Firewood without rope

Now, it was the fourth sister-in-law's turn. She told Satana to go to the jungle and bring firewood without using a rope. The snakes helped her gather the wood and one of them wrapped himself around the bundle so that it would not scatter. Satana now carried those to her home.

The sisters-in-law were furious. They wondered what task they could ask Satana to do so that would keep her away from home forever.

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Task V: Kaali kamri ujar kar lao

They gave her a black blanket and asked her to scrub it so well that it turned white. This time no creature came to help Satana.

But, one of the seven brothers heard Satana crying in the jungles. They headed towards the sound of her sobs and found her. Satana told her brothers about the misery and pain she had faced while they were away.

One of the brothers scooped out a part of his thigh and hid Satana there. Then the brothers headed home. They asked their wives where Satana was and they lied saying she must be around playing or eating as usual. The brother pulled Satana out of his thigh, and shocked them into silence.

But Satana refused to enter their home. She said she would come home only if her doli or palanquin was carried over the graves of her sisters-in-law.

And that is how the brothers and the sister lived happily ever after.

When the story ended we all chanted… jas unke din bahure tas sabke din bahure (May we live as happily as they did).

This was followed by the aarti and lighting of the lamps. The tika applied earlier on the drawings of Satana's brothers was collected and applied on the forehead of our brothers.

We fed them sweet and my older brother took out his wallet, reminded me about the five rupee deduction, but paid me the whole amount of Rs 51!

Jas unke din bahurey, tas sabke din bahure!

Happy Holi and Bhai Dooj.

#Holi #BhaiDooj #story 

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