Sulabh International founder Bindeshwar Pathak led the initiative as Sanskrit scholars and ‘karmakandi’ pandits (prists) joined the celebrations of Rakshabandhan festival with the widows. The festival falls on Thursday.
For these widows who have not seen or met their siblings or family members for years, it was a memorable occasion, symbolic as it was of the end of their social stigma and regressive restrictions. To make it evident, the upper caste sadhus and priests shared food with these social outcasts.
The widows also participated in cultural programmes especially planned for the occasion.
Around 800 widows and 200 liberated manual scavenger women from Alwar and Tonk districts of Rajasthan took part in celebration, which was organised at Gopinath temple.
For the last few days widows in their 80s have been engaged in making colourful Rakhis at Meera Sahabhagi and Chetan Vihar Ashram. They have prepared around 1,000 such sacred, colourful threads.
Sulabh founder Bindeshwar Pathak, who takes care of around 1,000 widows in Vrindavan, observed that such an initiative will bring cheers in their lives. “My idea is to change the behaviour and attitude of the people towards widows of India,” Pathak explained.
On Thursday, at least 10 widows from Vrindavan and Varanasi are slated to visit the Prime Minister’s residence in New Delhi with the rakhis on behalf of around 2,000 widows.
They hope Prime Minister Narendra Modi will take time off his busy schedule and meet them for a while. These widows also expect Modi to accept the rakhis.
A collection of 2,000 colourful rakhis and sweets will also be sent to the Prime Minister by the widows who have expressed a strong desire to meet him and seek steps for their allround welfare.
In places like Vrindavan and Varanasi, thousands of widows lead an isolated life to attain ‘moksha’ or liberation from the cycle of death and rebirth. Living in small rooms in narrow alleys, they spend most of their time praying and looking for food, in the absence of family support.