Widows of Vrindavan break 400-year-old tradition and celebrate Holi for the first time
Even today, widowhood in India is a curse. The social stigma attached to widowhood is so great that they are shunned by family and society. According to The Indian Express, the country’s millions of observant Hindu widows are expected to live out their days in quiet worship, dressed only in white. They are typically barred from all religious festivities because their very presence is considered inauspicious.
This year, the Vrindavan widows courageously broke a 400-year-old tradition. They were joined by the Varanasi widows. Tears and a riot of colours marked Holi for over a thousand widows who broke the age-old tradition and celebrated the festival.
They celebrated Holi within the precincts of the ancient Gopinath temple on Monday. Young Sanskrit scholars and pundits from the temple joined the celebrations, signifying the further social assimilation and acceptance of these widows, reports The Times Of India. As ‘Holi hai’ filled the air, amidst 1200 kgs of ‘gulal’ (coloured powder) and 1500 kilograms of rose and marigold petals, the widows let go of their pain for the day. They smeared colours on each other faces and danced to the tunes of traditional braj holi songs.
Rasia, 65, from Nepal said that this Holi has been “the best” for her. Having lost her husband at the young age of 17, Rasia has seen worse days when women like her were shunned by the society. “Times have changed for the good. People no longer look at us as a curse. When I see these young children having no inhibitions in sharing their joys with women like me, I feel very happy”, she said.
Anooporna Sharma, a 37-year-old widow, who is now pursuing her BA, lost her husband as a teenager. She subsequently stayed with her father and came to the ashram after his demise. “Life for a widow outside the ashram is very difficult. It’s not safe for us outside and I miss my husband and father every moment. These celebrations are welcome temporary breaks from our otherwise grief stricken lives”, said Anooporna.
Shyamlesh Tewari, a Sanskrit scholar and director of Gandhi Vidya Sansthan, Samvadshala, Varanasi, who participated in the celebrations, said, “Its time that these century old traditions are broken and widows given the right to be happy like others”.