The sacred city of Vrindavan, in India’s Uttar Pradesh state, is known as the City of Widows since it has given such a large number of ladies safe house. What’s more, lately, widows have found a touch of shading and euphoria here too.
Sulabh International has been arranging general Holi festivities in Vrindavan since 2013. More than 1,000 widows assembled in the courtyard of one of the city’s most established temple — dedicated to Krishna, the most energetic of the Hindu divine beings. The celebration of Holi falls on Thursday this year, however in Vrindavan and numerous different parts of the nation, the playing of hues starts a week ahead.
Bindeshwar Pathak, a well-known social reformer, and organizer of Sulabh International who has pursued a relentless crusade against excluded widows in the nation, likewise joined in the festivals.
Sulabh International was solicited to direct the lives of widows in the city by India’s Supreme Court taking after news reports of the widows being compelled to ask for sustenance and into prostitution. While there are a huge number of dowagers in Vrindavan, the gathering has been named overseer for around 1,500.
One thing that I noticed was that most of the widows here were Bengalis. I spoke with a few of them and got to know that widows come here mostly from Assam, Bengal and even from the southern states. The women range in age from 22 to 100. Some were abandoned by their families decades ago.
A rumour I heard on that occasion was that a family brought their grandma here to experience the Holi Celebrations and left her here alone making it an impulse for her to stay in the ashrams. Later I heard that she is not a special case and there have been numerous such different situations where old ladies were brought to Vrindavan to visit the temples and after that, at last, were left there.
As the Hindu priests chanted religious verses many widows sprinkled shaded powders and played with water guns loaded with hued water. Showers of blossom petals filled the air.
As noisy music impacted, the more youthful ladies bumped with each different as they played with the hues. To my astonishment, the widows even danced to “Balam Pichkari.. Seedhi Saadhi chori sharabi ho gayi” in a temple that is supposed to be sacred.
Well, for many more seasoned ladies, years of social molding demonstrated hard to break. They connected just little spots of shading to each other’s brows.
The way the widows broke the religious barrier is definitely a way forward to a progressive and inclusive society of which they are an integral part. I never liked the idea of them remaining outside the social sphere. I am happy that they celebrated Holi. I could see the happiness on a few faces as they shyly smiled, took the gulal(powdered colour) out and smeared my face with it. A few others had found secluded places to dance and enjoy by their own while others were comfortable dancing in front of the camera.
-Anirban Saha ( www.anirbansaha.com )
Did you know?
Sulabh International was the first NGO to take the initiative to set up public bathrooms thus the name ‘Sulabh Shauchalaya’.