Vrindavan, March 21: In a marked departure from age-old traditions, over a thousand widows played Holi at an ancient Vrindavan temple on Monday.
Amid blowing of conch shells and showering of flower petals and dry colour powders, these widows participated in the Holi celebrations at the ancient Gopinath temple, dedicated to Lord Krishna.
They were joined by widows from Varanasi. There was palpable excitement as they smeared each other with Holi colours, as this was for the first time they played Holi inside a temple in this town, holy to Hindus.
A number of Sanskrit students and scholars too joined in the Holi revelry with the widows cast away by their families and living in the temple town for several decades.
Bindeshwar Pathak, wellknown social reformer and founder of Sulabh International who has waged a steady campaign against ostracised widows in the country, also joined in the celebrations.
The Sulabh International has been taking care of 1,500 widows in Varanasi and Vrindavan in the light of the Supreme Court's observations in 2012.
"In an effort to bring them into the mainstream of society, Sulabh started organising Holi for them about three years ago at the widows' ashram. But this time it is special as Holi was organised at a famous temple to give a kind of social acceptance," Pathak told IANS.
A total of 1,200 kg 'gulal' and different coloured powders and 1,500 kg of rose and marigold petals were arranged for the special event.
In many parts of India, widows are traditionally barred from playing Holi or participating in any other festival or auspicious functions.