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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.

Next Story

Puja for The Spiritualism, Not for Vulgar Entertainment

The westerners practicing Hinduism have learned a pretty well from our "scriptures" and are becoming more spiritual while we just locked up those "holy books" only in the drawers of the altar. Thus we only love to shake our “butts to the boom-boom of Bollywood”.. right in front of the Gods' idols !!!

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Hinduism
he westerners practicing Hinduism have learned a pretty well from our "scriptures"

By Salil Gewali

Any auspicious days in Hinduism are expected to be observed with a complete purity of action and thought. The same holds true for other religions too. As per the Hindu scriptures, the believers are required to stay away from any kind of sense gratifications, particularly when the specific days are dedicated to Gods and Goddess such as Navratri, Laxmi Puja, Krishna Janmashtami, Shivaratri, to name a few. The pathway to devotion and spiritualism should not be “desecrated” by the blot of the brazen entertainment. The scriptures logically explain why it is antithetical, and its adverse consequences.

Hindusim
Incidentally, the Bhagavad Gita describes such situation as the rise of “tamasic vibes”.

 But, what a huge irony, rather a blasphemy that many people these days have started to choose the auspicious days of Gods to satisfy their base senses. Without a wee bit of regret, a certain class of people holds almost every auspicious day as the most “unmissable” occasion to booze with the friends, and what not, and stagger back home, lol! Such bizarre practices are fast catching now than ever.  Sadly, hardly any conscious people and spiritual organizations stand up and take the right measures to check such godless deviations.

What is quite unpleasant is that such a kind of unholy practices are often being facilitated by certain “Hindu intuitions” as well. On this past Laxmi Puja, the “propitious time” to perform the ritual had fallen between 6 PM to 7:53 PM. Yours truly decided to use that span of time for meditation. But hell broke loose. Apart from fireworks around, the Bollywood songs in high decibel burst forth from a certain Hindu institution quite frustrated the mission.

Hindusim
Sadhu Sanga Retreat, 2016

 One senior citizen laments – “Nothing could be irreligious than the fact that a favorable time for “puja” is also being used for the wrongful purposes. We rather expect the “Hindu institutions” to teach our children Bhajan, Kirtan, and other spiritual activities, not the loud and feverish parties and disturb others.”

Another college student adds “Having been much disturbed by the noise pollution, I have persuaded my parents to shift our place of residence to elsewhere, not at least near holy places with an unholy mission. I have started to see such institutions with the eyes of suspicion these says.” Is it that our institutions are unable to use their “discretion”, and as a result, they fail to differentiate between right and wrong?  One is deeply apprehensive that Bollywood songs and vulgar dances might as well be included as a part of the “puja ritual” as we have long accepted the fun of fireworks bursting as an integral part of Laxmi Puja which in fact is just an entrenched “misconception”.

Hinduism
Hinduism is expected to be observed with a complete purity of action

Needless to say, our roar for consumerism has almost drowned the whisper of inherent spiritualism. We are only just sending out the wrong messages. I’m afraid, the whole culture itself might be looked down with derision by other faiths. It might just become a subject of ridicule! It is no exaggeration, such negative notions against the “wrong practices” are all what we often read these days in several newspapers and social media. Do we want others to demean our profound spiritual heritage thus?  I believe it calls for a serious soul-searching.

Incidentally, the Bhagavad Gita describes such situation as the rise of “tamasic vibes”.  It warns in the strongest terms that mankind should absolutely be careful not to fall under the influence of any short-lived sense gratifications. Or else, our endeavor to “practice and preserve” the sanctity of a religion/spiritualism will be a futile exercise.

However, on the other hand, the westerners practicing Hinduism have learned a pretty well from our “scriptures” and are becoming more spiritual while we just locked up those “holy books” only in a drawer of the altar. Thus we only love to shake our “butts to the boom-boom of Bollywood”.. right in front of the Gods’ idols !!!

Salil Gewali is a well-known writer and author of ‘Great minds on India’.

Twitter:@SGewali.