While on the one hand, Indian society talks about women as not being having any place in the Indian culture (the statement of Mr. M.L. Sharma in the Nirbhaya case), we have thousands of Varanasi widows celebrating the colourful festival of Holi with their counterparts in Vrindavan .
The widows are celebrating a four-day festival for Holi and for this more than 1000 kgs. of gulaal has been arranged. It is NGO Sulabh International that has arranged for this programme and this time the Vrindavan widows who had been playing holi only with their ‘Thakurji’ or Lord Krishna, in previous years, will play with a lot many colours and flowers and many more people around.
What had become an unthinkable, unimaginable dream for these forlorn women or ‘mayyas’ as they are popularly referred to in Vrindavan, in their colourless, mundane life, has now come to be true.
This holi celebration is something new and unexpected in their lives as according to Indian social stigmas and norms, widows are expected to live a very basic, simple life and not take part in any sort of festivities as they are generally considered to be inauspicious for any happy occasion.
The ‘Pagal Baba Widow Ashram’ is the place where the holi celebration will take place for four continuous days that has already started since March 3rd and will go on till 6th of March. The widows in this ashram seem to have out-casted all gloom and dreariness from their lives at least for these four days, where the group would be seen celebrating the colourful festival even by visiting Taj Mahal in Agra. A group of 35 widows living in Varanasi have been staying in Vrindavan for this celebration together. Some of these ashram inmates had never even imagined to have an opportunity to view the Taj in their lifetime.
The holi that these widows have been celebrating from 3rd march have been accompanied with songs, dances and a gamut of rich colours.
These women who have been eschewed and live estranged from the mainstream society have found a shelter in Vrindavan but their pitiful condition is something worth noticing where they wear white sarees and are kept alienated from all joys of life, so much so that even the Supreme Court has rebuked the Centre and U.P. government for not catering to the deplorable conditions of these widows.
The ‘City of Widows’, Vrindavan will now come to be known as a place that will set new regulations, trends and practices among the widow community in the country. It seems these widows have finally broken all fetters of the stringent patriarchal society and years of social contempt to live a life of their own where there is music, dance, colours, fun and life.
Wish this freedom was allowed to all India’s daughters! It is upon us to make this Holi colourful for one and all. Happy Holi!