Breaking free from repressive tradition, 1,000 women will use gulal to mark the festival this year
Vrindavan: For the first time, about a 1,000 widows of Vrindavan in Uttar Pradesh will play Holi with colours this year at an ashram, Meera Sahabhagini Sadan.
Flower power: Last year, the widows played Holi only with flower petals . Pic/AFP
These widows will play Holi with colours and gulal unlike last year, when they threw flower petals at one another.
The event is being held at the initiative of Sulabh International, which has launched several projects to end the stigma surrounding these women and draw these widows, mostly abandoned or cast away by their families, into the mainstream of society.
Bindeshwar Pathak, founder of Sulabh International, is also organising a traditional dance programme Raas-Leela and other events on March 14.
Sulabh came to the rescue of these widows following Supreme Court’s observation in August 2012, as they were living in a pitiable condition and begging on the streets of Vrindavan or at Goverdhan or in Mathura city.
Banished by families after their husbands’ deaths for supposedly bringing bad luck, desperately poor widows have, for centuries, travelled to the northern city of Vrindavan, where the Hindu god Krishna is said to have grown up, to pray and wait to die.
The NGO started taking care of them in five government-run shelters. Besides giving them a monthly stipend, Sulabh is arranging for their food and healthcare and giving them vocational training and basic education to help them live a dignified life.
The widows feel such celebrations would prove to be an unprecedented step towards ending social prejudice against them.
However, the breaking of traditions by widows in Vrindavan has drawn criticism from a section of religious leaders who believe that it is an ‘infringement of our ancient culture’.