By Sampada A. Khatiwada Kathmandu, Nov. 19 :With the end of Tihar, the second biggest festival of Nepali Hindus, the festivities for this year are almost over. This year, the festivals, be it Eid, Teej, Dashain, or Tihar, were observed in a different manner due to the risks posed by the COVID-19 pandemic as the celebrations were largely limited within homes. However, the pandemic became an occasion to bend and mend our culture and traditions for the good. On Bhai Tika, the fifth and final day of Tihar, which is often marked by sisters offering Tika to their brothers wishing them happiness, long life, and prosperity, sisters who do not have a brother as a sibling were seen offering Tika to each other. "In the previous years, we used to put Tika to our cousin brothers. This year, due to the fear of COVID-19, we didn’t organise any family gathering on the occasion of Bhai Tika," said Neha Gurung, 25, of Godawari. "On the positive side, we sisters got to put Tika to each other following the entire ritual, just like we used to do for our cousin brothers." "The fundamental purpose behind the Bhai Tika ritual is to pray for the long life of our brothers who used to travel away for war or a long journey for work," she added. "We give dry fruits to our brothers to eat in their long journey, pray to Yamaraj, the god of death, to not come near them, and offer them garland of globe amaranth (Makhamali) which doesn’t wilt fast." "I believe this was good in the old times when only brothers used to be far from home," added Gurung. Stating that in today's era, both brothers and sisters equally work to run the family, Gurung said that it was time to change with the trend and enjoy the beautiful bond of siblinghood on the occasion of Bhai Tika. Likewise, Supriya Sharma and her sister Sunaina Sharma from Biratnagar also marked Bhai Tika by putting Tika to each other. "It has been four years since we celebrated Bhai Tika as our brother lives abroad. Bhai Tika used to be colourless for us as we used to miss our brother a lot," said Sunaina. "We decided to break the chain of feeling sad and alone on Bhai Tika every year and put Tika to each other," she added. "The experience was definitely different. We realised that Bhai Tika is not just a ritual. Rather, it’s a way to show how much we love and care for our siblings." Sunaina added, "The entire ritual made us emotional. The bond of siblings, be it brother or sister, is so special. We fight with each other the most, but also love each other the most." "Thus, I believe the tradition of offering Tika to siblings, be it brother or sister, should be established so that sisters without brothers wouldn’t feel left out and all of us could celebrate the sibling-bond together," she said. Sadikshya Poudel, 28, of Hetauda, who has been putting and receiving Tika from her two sisters for the last three years, said, "It feels good to see many sisters like us, who do not have brothers or whose brothers are staying abroad, celebrating Bhai Tika with each other." "During the Bhai Tika ritual, you feel empowered to see how your sisters love you and care about you. This feeling of empowerment should be shared. It is good to modify our culture along with the need of the time," said Poudel. She added that celebrating Tika among siblings, sister or brother, would keep the culture alive as well as allow those who do not have a brother to be a part of this beautiful culture.