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AGRA: On International Women's Day, a group of 125 widows, mostly from Vrindavan & some from Varanasi, took another step towards their empowerment as they visited the Taj Mahal as guests of the Archaeological Survey of India. Although most of them had spent virtually their whole lives living within a 100-km distance of the world-famous monument, this was their first visit to the marble wonder, an experience which they described as "absolutely amazing." 

The general mood on the crisp Sunday morning was a sense of excitement mixed with a feeling of awe. For many widows, it was long cherished dream coming true. Clad in white sarees, they excitedly got themselves clicked against the white marble mausoleum. Talking to TOI, Chitra Lekha, who was part of a group of 40 widows from Varanasi who had come to celebrate Holi at Vrindavan, said that it was her dream to see the Taj Mahal. "However, I never got the opportunity as widowhood placed a lot of restrictions on our movement," she said. 

In many ways, the day was synonymous with a sense of liberation, and of introspection. "The Taj Mahal is a symbol of an emperor's love for his wife. When you look at it, you can understand how deep an emotion love is, and how it can propel people to create spectacular things," said a 72-year-old widow philosophically. 

Most widows who had came for the visit were above 60, but they displayed child-like excitement as they touched the marble structure, and asked countless questions. Officials of the Archaeological Survey of India (ASI), which had organized the trip, answered their questions patiently as they guided them around the Taj complex. Countless other tourists visiting the monument watched bemusedly as the huge group, some giggling and some even blushing, spent a few hours touring the monument. 

ASI superintending archaeologist (Agra circle) NK Pathak, said, "We could not explain their joy in words. I am humbled to have welcomed these women who have been neglected by society. It was a memorable day for us as well." 

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