On this Diwali, about a thousand widows from across India gathered to celebrate the festival of lights inside the centuries-old Gopinath Temple in Vrindavan, holding candles and earthen lamps in their hands. Choosing to break away from age-old tradition and social taboo, they participated in a big way in the festival, full of smiles.
Widows from Varanasi joined older widows living in the holy city of Vrindavan to enter the ancient temple with an aim to break the social taboo attached to widows participating in festivities and rituals after the death of their husbands.
The city is an important pilgrimage site for Hindus. This city is home to thousands of widows from all across India, who have been abandoned by their families. The presence of thousands of widows has led to the town being called the ‘City of Widows’.
Celebrations in Diwali include lighting up houses with earthen lamps called diyas, candles and fairy lights, meeting relative and friends and eating special delicacies. The revelry also includes people bursting crackers. People pray to Hindu Goddess Lakshmi and Lord Ganesh on Diwali for prosperity and good luck.
Considered inauspicious, these widows are not allowed to participate in any of the religious celebrations and are mostly abandoned by their family. But, this year with the help of Sulabh International they turned out in a procession carrying earthen lamps and lit the fireworks to stand against the age-old taboo attached with them.
The celebration was made possible due to the initiative taken by the social reformer and mentor of Sulabh Movement, Dr. Bindeshwar Pathak. Media India Group visited the ashram and captured some cheerful moments of these widows while they were immersed in the festive activities.