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Vrindavan widows break 400 year old tradition, celebrate Holi

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)

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