Breaking age-old social stigma, widows play holi in Vrindavan

Mathura: Thousands of widows living as recluse in ashrams of Vrindavan today celebrated a special four-day Holi festival in Virndavan, deviating from their prosaic day-to-day activities.

At least 1,000 kg 'gulal' (coloured powder) in different colours is being arranged for the Holi programme being organised by NGO Sulabh International. The Holi revelries began with songs, dances and these widows who wear only white sarees will smear a gamut of colours on each other to celebrate the festival, breaking away from years of social stigma prevalent in the society.

In many parts of India, widows are not permitted to play Holi or participate in any other festival and auspicious function. "Their participation in Holi symbolises a break from tradition which forbids a widow from wearing coloured saree, among many other things," said Bindeshwar Pathak, mentor of Sulabh Movement. This special celebration is set to add a new colour to the Holi festivities in 'Braj', popular among both Indian and foreign tourists.

Vrindavan is known as the 'City of Widows' for the sheer number of women who find shelter there after being shunned by their families. Most of them hail from West Bengal.

The Supreme Court has time and again lambasted the Centre and Uttar Pradesh government for the pathetic condition of widows living in Vrindavan.

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