India has made amazing strides in breaking social stigma. But the stigma attached to widowhood is still real for many, especially to those who reside in Vrindavan. When even amongst the educated, people think twice before calling their widowed relative to their daughter’s wedding, it is no wonder that thousands of women every year are abandoned by their families to reside in this city. Sati system is no longer a norm in our country, but the stigma attached to widowhood still is.
Considered an ill omen, forced to wear a white saree and relegated to a life devoid of any adornment or colour, the life of these widows is not an easy one. Some of them are sent to live there since an early age, many don’t have an option but to head for the ashrams here and devote themselves to be a servant of god. But many NGOs like Maitri, are working incessantly towards improving the lives of these widows.
Which is why it is heart-warming when Sulabh International brought colour to the lives of the numerous widows residing in Vrindavan. 400 years of social stigma and ‘tradition’ was broken by over a thousand widows who celebrated with a riot of colours this Holi. Within the Gopinath temple, joined by Sanskrit scholars and temple pundits, the widows smeared each other in gulaal and flower petals and danced. The basic human right to be free, happy and to celebrate was accepted and faith in humanity restored.
India still has a long way to go in terms of social acceptance, but this seems like a good start.