This year, for the first time, the widows of Vrindavan played Holi, the hindu colours’ festival that marks the beginning of spring. For the first time after their hisbands’ death.
Tradition, especially in the state of Bengal, condemns women to a life of solitude and humiliation after the death of their husbands. In many rural areas of the subcontinent, becoming a widow means to loose the husband as well as rights and dignity. Mistreated or forced to leave the house, many widows seek shelter in the holy city of Vrindavan, where thousands of widows live in the ashrams run by the government.
Since last August the NGO Sulabh International is running five ashrams in Vrindavan; last spring has organized for the widows a Holi celebration at the Meera Sahabgini ashram, with flower and colours. Tradition and prejudice normally bans widows from Holi and other festivals. But this year more than 800 widows in the traditional white sari played Holi for the first time after many years. A pathbreaking move against tradition.