“Cutting the umbilical cord from the past is no easy task, and you can’t do that without raising eyebrows,” said social commentator Paras Nath Choudhary.
“It’s a reflection of changing times that instead of opposition, people came forward to support the social reform movement,” he said.
At the five widows’ homes in Vrindavan, the ambience was infectious, the fervour and an air of victory was felt by all Holi revellers.
“This was no routine Holi celebration, it had a purpose, The effort to draw these women into the mainstream was widely appreciated,” said Shravan Kumar Singh of Braj Mandal Heritage Conservation Society who came from Agra to join the ‘cultural revolution’.
Social activist Padmini Iyer said, “This is a clear departure from tradition. Who would have thought till a few years ago that hundreds of widows would be able to sprinkle colourful flowers and petals on one another to play Holi?”
Sulabh International recently launched a programme to provide medical facilities, job training and a monthly allowance of Rs 2,000 to every registered widow.
This initiative, at the suggestion of the Supreme Court, has fundamentally changed the lives and mindsets of the inmates of the shelter homes, Iyer said.
The Holi celebrations shall continue for four days. More than 800 widows will be part of the new initiative.
“In an effort to help widows in their social assimilation, we have organised several events,” Sulabh International founder Bindeshwar Pathak said.
“The Vrindavan Holi is an effort to free the widows from the shackles of age-old tradition. Not only will the widows play Holi, they will also participate in cultural programmes,” said Pathak.
The widows also shared food with some of the outsiders and foreigners.