February 21, 2015 12:49:13 am
More than a hundred widows living as recluse in several ashrams of Varanasi broke the centuries-old ban on them to ‘celebrate Holi’ as part of an event organised by the NGO Sulabh International at the Assi Ghat in Varanasi on Friday. The organisation had organised a similar event in Vrindavan two years ago.
The women were from Birla Widow Home, Nepali Ashram (which is run by the Nepal government), Durga Kund Ashram and two other ashrams from Sarnath.
Dr Bindeshwar Pathak, NGO Sulabh’s head, said on the occasion that his organisation has been taking care of widows in Vrindavan, Uttarakhand and Varanasi. “It will continue to do. Besides, we think that we have added our own bit in restoring the glory of Assi Ghat by being involved in its cleaning and now organising such an event that aims at breaking oppressive traditions,” he said.
“They arrived in a boat at the ghat where they were welcomed with rose petals. We were apprehensive as to how they would take to playing Holi using colours. But when we made the suggestion, they unanimously accepted and enjoyed the time throwing ‘gulal’ at each other,” said Madan Jha, spokesperson for Sulabh International.
Jha added that the widows in Varanasi, as different from those of Vrindavan (who were largely from Bengal), come from different regions of the country.
“Most of them have been living in these homes for the past several decades. Quite of a few of them are in late 90s. Having strictly followed their tradition and being largely neglected, it was quite a sight to see them actively taking to this kind of celebration,” he said.
Having started the Holi tradition in Vrindavan, the Sulabh International has ensured that the festival continues to be celebrated each year.
“This year, we are organising it from March 3 and will continue till March 6. Holi will also be celebrated in all the widows’ ashrams in Varanasi this year,” said Jha.
The spokesperson went on to add that Dr Pathak was even considering the idea of getting a draft bill prepared against widowhood and get it passed from Parliament so as bring an end to this orthodox tradition.
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