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Vrindavan widows break 400 year old tradition, celebrate Holi

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Holi
Image source: aljazeera.com

Vrindavan: The 400-year-old custom of Gopinath Temple in Vrindavan seems to be fading away as hundreds of widows played Holi within the premises of the ancient shrine on Monday. The temple witnessed breaking the shackles of yet another tradition when the widows were joined by Sanskrit scholars and priests into the merrymaking, which the old women felt as a “break from their otherwise grief-stricken lives.”

The temple which was built in 1599 saw the festivity revelry marked by tears and a riot of colors when widows and young Sanskrit scholars from Varanasi and pundits from the temple together joined the celebrations, signifying the further social assimilation and acceptance of these widows.

It was for the first time that the Holi celebrations by widows in Vrindavan and Varanasi were held at the historic temple, instead of being usually held at Pagal Baba Widow Ashram.

Bindeshwar Pathak, the main organisers of the program, said, “Their participation in Holi symbolizes a break from tradition which forbids a widow from wearing coloured saree, among many other things”.

As ‘Holi hai’ echoed in the air, about 1,200 kgs of ‘gulal’ (coloured powder) and 1,500 kgs of rose and marigold petals filled the atmosphere. Abandoned by their families or having chosen a life in the ashrams voluntarily, the widows cheered and at least, for a moment forgot all their pains.

“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,” said Rasia, 65, from Nepal. Having lost her husband at the young age of 17, teary-eyed Rasia told reporters that this Holi has been “the best” for her.

Smearing colours on each other’s faces, the widows danced to the tunes of traditional braj holi songs, along with a mix crowd of young scholars and temple priests.

Talking to reporters was Sanskrit scholar Shyamlesh Tewari, who also participated in the celebrations. Tewari, the director of Gandhi Vidya Sansthan, Samvadshala said, “It is time that these century-old traditions are broken and widows given the right to be happy like others.” Another scholar, Tikaram Pandey, said, “Our shastras do not say that widows should be treated differently. They have every right to live and enjoy normal lives”.

The event also witnessed cheerful participation of locals and some foreign tourists also, who played colour with the widows, some even dancing to the beats of hit Bollywood numbers.

Anooporna Sharma, another widow, said, “These celebrations are welcome temporary breaks from our otherwise grief-stricken lives.” (Inputs from Agencies)

  • Jagpreet Kaur Sandhu

    Proud that we Indians are breaking the stereotypes! They deserved the celebration, they did. Amazing.

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10 Facts about Madhubani Paintings which will blow your mind

Recently, Madhubani painting style came into limelight after some artists decided to renovate the Madhubani Railway Station by painting a huge Madhubani painting on the walls of the railway station.

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A Madhubani Painting in black and white. Wikimedia Commons
A Madhubani Painting in black and white. Wikimedia Commons

Madhubani Paintings, also known as Mithila Paintings are the quintessence folk art form of Mithila Region of Bihar. The art form is incredibly old and the name ‘Madhubani’ which means, ‘forest of honey,’ has a lineage of more than 2500 years.These paintings are the local art of Madhubani district of Bihar, which is also the biggest exporter of Madhubani paintings in India.

Recently, Madhubani painting style came into limelight after some artists decided to renovate the Madhubani Railway Station by painting a huge Madhubani painting on the walls of the railway station. The painting spans across an area of 7000 square feet and is expected to attract tourism to the Madhubani District. Madhubani art has received international and national attention in recent times.

Paintings and art are a reflection of the culture and tradition of the place from where they originate. Madhubani paintings are an important part of the Indian Culture. Madhubani painting in black and white are some of the oldest and most beautiful art that people can witness and admire. The style, which was losing its importance earlier is once again emerging as a major art form.

A modern representation of Madhubani art form. Wikimedia Common
A modern representation of Madhubani art form. Wikimedia Common

Here are 10 facts about Madhubani paintings which will blow your mind :

  • The history of Madhubani paintings dates back to the days of Ramayana. The history of Madhubani paintings dates back to the time of Ramayana when king Janaka asked an artist to capture the wedding of his daughter Sita with prince Rama. He commissioned craftsmen to decorate the entire kingdom with Madhubani art on the auspicious occasion of his daughter’s marriage. That’s one of the earliest mentions of Madhubani paintings that can be found in ancient scriptures and text.
  • Madhubani Paintings have 5 distinct styles to delight our eyes. Madhubani art has five distinctive styles, namely, Bharni, Katchni, Tantrik, Godna, and Kohbar. In ancient times, Bharni, Kachni and Tantrik style were done by Brahman and Kayastha women, who were considered ‘upper caste.’ Their themes were mainly religious and depicted Gods and Goddesses, flora and fauna. People belonging to lower castes including aspects of their daily life and symbols into their paintings.Nowadays, however, Madhubani has become a globalised art form. There is no difference in the work of different artists of different regions or castes.
  • Madhubani paintings are done using different kinds of everyday materials. In past, Madhubani painting was done using fingers, twigs. Now, matchsticks and pen nibs are also used. Usually, bright colours are used in these paintings with an outline made from rice paste as its framework. These paintings rarely have any blank spaces. Borders are often embellished with geometric and floral patterns. These paintings use natural dyes. For example, Madhubani paintings in black and white often use charcoal and soot for the black colour.
A Madhubani Paintings can be made using different materials on different mediums. Wikimedia Commons
A Madhubani Paintings can be made using different materials on different mediums. Wikimedia Commons
  • Madhubani art is characterised by symbols and figures. Madhubani paintings are characterised by figures that are prominently outlined, like bulging fish-like eyes and pointed noses. The themes of Madhubani paintings usually include natural elements like fish, birds, animals, turtle, sun, moon, bamboo trees and flowers, like a lotus. Love, valour, devotion, fertility, and prosperity are often symbolized by geometric patterns, which is another important feature of this art form.
  • From Mud-Walls to Canvas. Earlier, Madhubani paintings were made by women on freshly plastered mud-walls of their houses during religious occasions. The skill has been passed onto from one generation to another. Today, this artwork can be found on an international platform on mediums like cloth, paper, canvas, paper-mache products, etc.
  • Discovered and brought to attention by William G. Archer. Madhubani paintings, though prominent in India, were unknown to the outside world until a colonizer, William G. Archer found them. While he was inspecting the damage after the massive earthquake of  Bihar in 1934, Archer was amazed when he discovered the beautiful illustrations on the interior walls of the huts. He decided to bring the attention of other colonizers to this art form and introduced it internationally.

    Madhubani paintings are made without sketches. Wikimedia Common
    Madhubani paintings are made without sketches. Wikimedia Common
  • Madhubani is an Instinctive Art Form. Madhubani art is created without the use of sketches, they are made instinctively by the artists. This feature not only makes Madhubani paintings unique but also incredibly exclusive.
  • Madhubani painting also prevents Deforestation. Surprised? This folk art is not just mere decorations on the wall, it is also used for worship. Artists in Bihar draw paintings depicting Hindu deities on trees and those who hold strong religious beliefs, prevent others from chopping those trees down. This plays a big role in preventing trees from being cut down.
  • The Connection with Feng shui. Madhubani paintings use symbols and geometric figures which have a strong association with the Feng Shui philosophy. The use of flowers, especially the lotus, birds,  fishes, and turtles which we find in Madhubani paintings, are closely linked to the concept of divinity and spirituality in Feng Shui. Madhubani painting is believed to bring with them, the benefits of Feng Shui as well.

    Madhubani painting rarely has any spaces. Wikimedia Common
    Madhubani paintings rarely have any empty spaces. Wikimedia Common
  • The Importance of Sun in Madhubani. Since ancient times, the sun has always been an important symbol of nature worship. The Sun also occupies such an important place in the Madhubani paintings. There are paintings wholly dedicated to the Sun, in which it can be seen painted in different moods and colours. Every Madhubani home has one painting of the Sun which they worship daily.