Varanasi widows to celebrate Holi 2015 in Vrindavan..Sulabh International, an NGO that has been organizing Holi celebrations for widows in Vrindavan for last three years is behind this inspiring initiative..
The Times of India reported
This Holi, Vrindavan will have special guests from Varanasi. It seems that sprinkle of colours has filled vigour in the lives of abandoned old-age widows who recently enjoyed Holi with ‘gulal’ and flower petals at Assi Ghat in Varanasi. Now, 40 of them will join the four-day Holi celebration of widows in Vrindavan starting from March 3.
The 82-year-old Sarwati Devi living in Durgakund Old Age home was extremely excited to join Holi celebration in Vrindavan. “Humlog khoob holi khelenge aur maze karenge”, a beaming remark came from the octogenarian woman. Like her other inmates Dewanti Kunwar, Somwati, and Durga Singh were equally happy.
“About 40 widows from Varanasi will go to Vrindavan to celebrate Holi with other 1000 widows living there,” said Madan Jha, the spokesperson of Sulabh International, an NGO that has been organizing Holi celebrations for widows in Vrindavan for last three years. Ahead of Holi festival a similar event was held as a trial in Varanasi on February 20 in which more than 100 widows actively participated.
“While celebrating Holi in Varanasi some of them expressed their desire to take part in Vrindavan Holi celebration. Honouring their sentiments we are making arrangements to take them to Vrindavan,” said Jha adding that at least 1,000 kilograms of ‘gulal’ of different colours are being arranged to be splashed on each other to oppose ‘widowhood’ practice still prevalent in orthodox Indian society. Usually, such women are not allowed to play with colours and participate in any auspicious function after death of husband in Indian traditional society. The festival will bring some colour to the lives of these widows, who wear only white sarees, living on the margins of society, forgotten and abandoned by all.
“Their participation in Holi symbolises a break from tradition which forbids a widow from wearing coloured saree, among many other things,” said founder of Sulabh movement Dr Bindeshwar Pathak adding that this time, a number of widows from Varanasi will also join them in Vrindavan in Holi celebration. It is an effort to bring widows to mainstream and help their social assimilation, said Dr Pathak explaining the reason behind organizing the special Holi for widows living in various ashrams in Vrindavan for salvation.
Vrindavan is known as the ‘City of Widows’ for the sheer number of women who find shelter here after being shunned by their families. Most of these widows hail from West Bengal. “Such colourful celebration will bring about some change in the mindset. But it will not be easy. We are trying such initiatives in humble way,” observed Dr. Pathak.
“We have invited all the widows to take part in Virndavan Holi festival,” said BN Chaturvedi, the national advisor of Sulabh, adding that besides the inmates of Durgakund old age home the widows of Nepali Ashram and Birla Ashram will also go to Vrindavan. According to him, they will leave for Vrindavan by Mathura-Patna express on March 1. A doctor and other staff will also accompany them in the journey.
The Supreme Court time and again lambasted the Centre and Uttar Pradesh government for the pathetic condition of widows living in Vrindavan. In the light of the apex court’s observation about two years ago, Sulabh pledged to extend all support to bring back the dignity for thousands of widows. Since 2012, Sulabh is taking care of all widows living in five government-run shelters by giving Rs. 2,000 per month to each of them. Sulabh is also giving them vocational training and basic education to lead a dignified life instead of begging on the streets.
Courtesy – Times of India.