Vrindavan: Amid blowing of conch shells and sprinkling of colour, a thousand "Vrindavan Widows" played Holi first time inside any temple in Vrindavan in a marked departure from age old tradition.
It is for the first time Holi celebration organised at ancient Gopinath Temple of Lord Krishna in which around a thousand widows from Vrindavan and Varanasi splashed colour at each other.
The widows were highly excited as first time they played Holi inside any temple, marking their further social assimilation.
This time a number of Sanskrit students and Pundits took part in the Holi celebration with ostracised widows living in the temple town for several decades, said Dr. Bindeshwar Pathak, well known social reformer and founder of Sulabh International who waged campaign against widowhood in the country.
In the light of Supreme Court's observation, Sulabh started taking care of around 1500 widows in Vrindavan and Varanasi since 2012. In an effort to bring them into the main stream of the society, Sulabh stated organising Holi for them about three years ago at Widow's ashram.
But, in an attempt to make it open to the society, this time Holi for them Holi was organised at a famous temple to give a kind of social acceptance.
For the first time widows gathered in such a large number to celebrate Holi in presence of Hindu Pundits and Sanskrit scholars.
"It is an effort to break the age old tradition prevalent in Hindu society where widows were not allowed to play with colours," says Dr. Pathak.
Last year it was a riot of colours when around thousand widows living as recluse in ashrams in Vrindavan and Varanasi appeared to be mad with joy as they began celebrating a special four-day Holi in Vrindavan, deviating from their prosaic day today activities .
At least 1200 kg 'gulal' (coloured powder) in different colours and 1500 kilograms of rose and merrygold petals were arranged for the rare event.
The widows who wear only white sarees wish to splash colours on each other to celebrate the festival, breaking away from years of social stigma attached to women who have lost their husbands.
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 Dr. 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.
"Holi will bring some colour to the lives of the Vrindavan and Varanasi widows," Dr. Pathak observed.
Imparting a touch of pathos to the celebrations would be an attempt to add a dash of colour to the otherwise insipid lives of the Vrindavan widows who live the life of a recluse, having been deserted by their families.
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.
Sulabh has instilled a sense of well being among the widows ever since it took up their cause on humanitarian grounds and made various arrangements for their health care, food and other necessities.
Adopting hundreds of widows of Varanasi, Sulabh International has launched it's campaign against "Widowhood" in the country.
On the encouragement by Hon’ble Supreme Court through the National Legal Services Authority (NALSA) Sulabh took up the programme for improving the living conditions of the widows of Vrindavan. The programme has now been going on for more than nine months and “as of today we are giving Rs. 2000/- per month per widow for their food etc.”
Further, adequate arrangements have been made to give them educationin three languages - Hindi, Bengali and English - for which teachers have been appointed. They are also being provided vocational education for making garlands, preparing incense sticks, doing sewing and embroidery.