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Another patriarchal festival today in India. Bhai Phonta or Bhai Dooj.

There are hundreds of patriarchal festivals in India. People are celebrating Bhai Phonta or Bhai Dooj or Bhai Tika or Bhai Beej today. On this day, sisters put a sandalwood paste or a vermilion mark on the forehead of their brothers and pray for their brothers to have long and happy lives, safety and success. There is no Bon Phonta or Bahen Dooj for sisters.

I changed the system when I lived in Kolkata, West Bengal, in 2004-2007. I made my fans and friends to celebrate Bon Phonta. We girls and women were given Phontas, and gifts by men,. Men wished for our well being, happy long life, our safety and success.

Here are some of those pictures:

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Bon Phonta was completely a secular celebration. No man prayed to any God. They wished us long life and good health.

I was thrown out of Kolkata in 2007. But Bon Phonta has still been celebrated every year in the city by a small group of people. Bon Phonta is a protest against patriarchal Bhai Phonta. If Bhai Phonta is not celebrated, Bon Phonta will not be celebrated. Men and women will wish each other good health and long life without any Phonta. But if Bhai Phonta is celebrated, Bon Phonta must be celebrated on the same day by the same people.

People should stop following patriarchal tradition. They should question it. And make the age-old tradition go. They should make cultures evolve. It gets filthy if it does not flow. Women have been treated as inferior beings in patriarchal societies, nobody has been concerned so far about women’s long life and good health, not even in the 21st century. My effort to celebrate Bon Phonta will not change the society today. But some people will learn how to question and how to say NO, and how to show the middle finger to misogyny.

Comments

  1. Jinat Islam says

    Nobody is interested here to defy the discrimination or the eqal right of humanbeing.They thought feminism like gayism something illegal or undesirable.Actually they laughed at woman when thay demanded any similar right or priviledge that enjoyed by man Recenty male are sanction to enter “.ladies sapecial”train .somehow they got the entry in ladies special that was their prior demand fulfilled by railway department .The most unhealthy & illogical point is that when supreme court says, torture is continued with woman in India nobody deny it but when a woman points finger then she was personally attacked by male society in a disgusted manner.As if she was commmitd a offence.i dnt know how many people aware of the celebration of bon phonta but they are surely not ready to acccept the relevance of it.Actually i feel woman are not very much aware of their sufferings in India.They are accustomed to believe that whatever happend w them it was their fate becz it was unavoidable.They nevr tk any initiative to chnge the existing situation how unscientific or unnecessry it be.So the male are tking upperhand & controlling instrument to estalish their idea,views,desire.woman r tking back seat as a observer .

  2. humanist says

    failed to understand how ” , sisters put a sandalwood paste or a vermilion mark on the forehead of their brothers and pray for their brothers to have long and happy lives, safety and success. ”
    makes woman inferior..
    I suggest people like u to stop thinking with u arse, as the u will always fail to understand the loving relation os brothers and sisters..

    • oualawouzou says

      (disclaimer: I’m not from India, so I apologize if I mischaracterize the celebration.)

      Gender is the sole factor that determines who gets celebrated and who doesn’t. Therefore, discrimination.

      Furthermore, this discrimination reinforces a gender divide that is already widespread in indian culture, so it’s not even a case where discrimination is used to correct or “balance” a wrong.

      There are many subtle ways to make someone “inferior”. Deny someone from using the same door or the same water fountain as someone else. Criticize someone’s right to wear certain clothes. Teach someone her role is to celebrate someone else’s achievements, never her own.

      Making someone “inferior” does not mean chaining them in the basement and feeding them gruel and water. It’s much more perverse than that.

      • humanist says

        “Gender is the sole factor that determines who gets celebrated and who doesn’t. Therefore, discrimination.”
        no, here both brothers and sisters celebrate this ritual..

        “Furthermore, this discrimination reinforces a gender divide that is already widespread in indian culture, ”
        this festival has nothing to do with gender discrimination,as taslima claimed..
        and neither does bon phonta, introduced by taslima , do any gender disdrimination,

        “There are many subtle ways to make someone “inferior”. Deny someone from using the same door or the same water fountain as someone else. Criticize someone’s right to wear certain clothes. Teach someone her role is to celebrate someone else’s achievements, never her own.

        Making someone “inferior” does not mean chaining them in the basement and feeding them gruel and water. It’s much more perverse than that.”

        agreed , but i failed to find how bhai phonta makes woman inferior, unliess one thinks with their arse, as taslima did..?
        no i dont think bon phonta make woman superior to man

        • oualawouzou says

          If you truly, honestly can’t see discrimination in a ritual/celebration where females are made to pray for males’ success in life without reciprocity, then I really don’t know what to tell you. Though if you will, I’d be curious to know what *would* constitute discrimination in your eyes.

          • humanist says

            I truly, honestly can’t see discrimination in a ritual/celebration where sisters are made to pray for brothers ’ success in life ,
            and I truly, honestly can’t see discrimination in a ritual/celebration where brothers are made to pray for sisters ’ success in life ,
            why should i have a reciprocity eash and everytime unless i have a gender ego, which the blog owner has?

          • smrnda says

            The issue is that there IS a day for sisters to pray for brothers, but there was not one for brothers to pray for sisters. If you note that there exist more rituals for men or boys than women, you have an indication of a bias within the culture.

            These might not seem like huge things, but all combined, they have an impact. It’s a good move to consciously change cultures to contain a greater balance of days for boys and men and days for girls and women.

        • Malo says

          Of course, you’re lying. Pretending to not see the pro-male, anti-woman bias in such a celebration doesn’t advance your anti-feminist cause in any way. You can stop. You’re not fooling anyone.

          • humanist says

            and person like u who thinks with arse, is not even fit to give a certificate of lying or fooling..

  3. sharmila sengupta says

    onek dhonnobad taslima tomay, khusir diner chhobi gulo abar dekhte peye khub bhalo laglo, koto smriti amader mone ekhono jege achhe tomar kolkatar bari ke ghire, bhalo theko.

  4. UJJAL says

    Taslima is one of my idols.
    Taslima is not my god (?) like believers have blind faith in god (?)

    ‘Bhai Phonta’ / ‘Bhai Dooj’ are complete patriarchal act to celebrate male supremacy. It is a festival where the female apply sandlewood paste ( supposed to be sometning holy ) to the male ( now this celebration has gone beyond own sister and brother and have started among mass ‘phonta’ where the male and female have met for the first time in their lives and would probably be their last meeting ever ) and wish loudly that this paste would protect the life of the male. Despite this ‘phonta’ male dies from accidents and diseases. The ritual does not die. Both parties very well know that this sandlewood would NOT protect the life genuinely but still they engage themselves every year to establish male supremacy hidden under fresh clothes, special food, gift exchange and in many cases pseudo love for each other.

    I disagree with Taslima on introducing ‘bon phonta’ to fight ‘bhai phonta’.
    While I understand the positive intention behind this action, I feel the action will remain a new attempt to erase male supremacy and establish female supremacy. I believe we are not looking for any gender supremacy . Female pays dowry in Indian sub continent. The male pays dowry in Thailand. Both are established and both are wrong. For female ‘sati’ so far, it will not be correct to start male ‘sati’ or there is no term for male actually. For female hijab we are probably not wanting to cover all the male with hijabs, and so on.

    I repeat :
    Taslima is one of my idols.
    She will remain so.
    Open mindedness made us atheists and to defy the false notion called god (?)
    I am sure Taslima will understand my intention. ( I am not an author like her to express myself better through literature. )

    • says

      Bon phonta is not for female supremacy. It is just to protest against the system of Bhai Phota. I wrote ‘ if Bhai phonta is not celebrated, Bon Phota will not be celebrated. If celebrated, both Bhai and. Bon phonta shiuld be celebrated on the same day by the same people.’
      I have been struggling for equality as well as equity.

  5. UJJAL says

    Sure, I did capture your intention in your blog.
    I am fully with you in slapping back with the same coin.
    But my practical fear is that ( as it so often happens ) the intention takes a back seat and rituals become primary. And believers are just waiting for new new rituals to celebrate.

    However, always educate myself more in your writings. :)

    • says

      Believers have nothing to do with Bon phonta. I already mentioned that ‘Bon phonta was completely a secular celebration. No man prayed to any God. They wished us long life and good health.’

  6. Still Life says

    Bhai phonta/Bon phonta all are disgusting. I don’t have own sister though, but had to go through all this crap with girls from outside (of my family). How come in the name of ‘Traditional Value’ and through celebration one accept girls as a bunch of sisters and the other-way too ? Weird enough! I stopped participating in this event, ignoring invitations in my teen itself.

  7. says

    Hi,

    I’m very happy to have found your blog through your twitter page. When I was growing up in Nepal, I realized that there were not a lot of people (including women) that understood how there are so many subtle forms of patriarchal practices we are fed each day of our lives. Most women have even internalized those biases to the extent that they don’t even see them as problems. If/when people talk about discriminations, it often only involves the most visible/blatant practices. When I read your biography translation in Nepali when I was growing up, I finally felt like there were other grown up women too, who thought like I did, and you’ve been someone I look up to ever since that time.

    In Nepal, we also celebrate Bhai Tika. My only sibling is my sister, who I’m really close to. We always had problem with this cultural practice, because it showed the value our society placed in having a male sibling. I was even suggested by elders to ask my parents to “give me brothers”. My parents didn’t want me and my sister to grow up to feel less of ourselves. So, we never went out of our way to put bhai tika on our male cousins. But of course most other relatives get/got offended by this. Until this date, I think our cousins expect us to give them a call or wish them happy bhai tika, which we don’t do because of our ideologies.

    Anyway, just wanted to let you know that I’m happy to find about you creating similar practice for sisters that doesn’t involve praying. :)

  8. leni says

    To me it sounds a little like a Western birthday celebration, but only for boys. Which is shitty, there’s no way around that.

  9. says

    Great so beautiful and so sweet relation festival in between both brother and sister. the festival of Bhai Dooj is celebrated two days after Diwali, and is, like Raksha Bandhan, a day dedicated to the love between a brother and sister. Bhai Dooj is also known as “Bhav-Bij” in Marathi and “Bhai-Tika” in Nepal. Bhai Dooj is observed primarily in northern India, and on this day sisters pray for the wellbeing and prosperity of their brothers.
    http://www.journeymart.com/holidays-ideas/festivals/bhai-dooj.aspx

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