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For over 200 years Vrindavan near Mathura has played host to a large number of widows from Bengal and other states, abandoned by their own families following the death of their husbands.

These young and old women pass their days singing bhajans in temples or chanting Radhey, Radhey all day, in the hope that Lord Krishna would be merciful to them and see they are not left entirely to the tender mercies of nature. Rain or shine, festivals or celebrations of whatever nature, pass leaving them unaffected. Nobody bothers about their plight and nobody wants them to smile.

But the Holi Festival this year was different. The colour extravaganza unleashed all over the country reached even the forbidden territory of Vrindavan widows, thanks to the remarkable initiative of the Sulabh Founder, Dr. Bindeshwar Pathak. Dr. Pathak took time off his busy schedule in the Capital to visit these forsaken women only to play Holi of rose petals and gulal with them and thus bring a cheer to the faces of young, middle-aged and old women cast away by their relations.

vrindavan-holi-2Dr. Pathak, who has taken the responsibility of providing over 1700 widows with monthly dole of Rs. 2,000 each and ensure that none of them remained without food and other necessities, wanted these widows also to partake pleasure on the occasion of the Holi celebration in March. The celebration in Vrindavan widow ashram began four days in advance. Dr. Pathak joined the widows as they chanted famous ditties of Gopis playing with Lord Krishna in Madhuban and other famous sites in Vrindavan.

Since this was the first occasion when somebody had thought of involving even widows in joyous Holi celebration, Dr. Pathak’s initiative was widely hailed by people from all over the country, as was obvious from reports in newspapers published in the Capital and outside. Some of these reports are reproduced with this feature. Dr. Pathak left instructions with his official, Mr. Rajbir Singh, in charge of the Sulabh operations in Vrindavan to provide gulal and flowers to widows continuously for four days, so that they while singing hymns for Lord Krishna could also play Holi among themselves, like the rest of the people in the temple town.

On March 27, when Holi was celebrated with great zeal and fervour all over the country, Sulabh arranged a special function for the widows. A group of them were dressed in shining golden attire and with their heads covered with tiaras and holding in their hands various musical instruments they danced together as usually women on this festival do in West Bengal, the state from which most of the widows hail. The entire enclosure had a thick carpet of flower petals showered by widows from balconies and from ground where most of them stood.

 

vrindavan-holi-3Mr. Rajbir Singh had especially invited Mr. O.P. Yadav, District Probation Officer, and his wife and children to the show which was caught on cameras by internationally known photographers including Zavier Zimbardo (from France), Mr. Daurio, Mr. Andrew, both from Italy and Mr. Kavin, a South Asian professional. The widows participating in the typical Bangla dance and others present there were covered with red and yellow gulal, as photographs took their pictures, for publication in their magazines and journals.