VRINDAVAN || Throwing age-old traditions to the wind, a large number of widows celebrated Dipawali on the bank of river Yamuna at the historic KC Ghat in the holy city of Vrindavan on Friday. Old widows living in various shelter homes gathered here in celebrated Diwali in style to dispel the darkness eclipsing their lives for ages.
This is the seventh year in a row when mothers activity participated in the celebration of lights. Earlier, as per Hindu tradition, these widows were not allowed to take part in such rituals.
With an aim to bringing a ray of happiness and counter the tradition of widowhood, noted social reformer Bindeshwar Pathak of Sulabh Movement came up with this unique idea to organise the festival of lights, especially for the widows.
His organisation looks after hundreds of widows living in various ashrams in Vrindavan and Varanasi since 2012. Sulabh has been playing a leading role in adding mirth to the lives of the widows by organising other functions for them from time to time.
On a routine basis, Sulabh provides them with medical facilities and vocational training besides meeting their day-to-day needs so that they do not feel left out during the twilight years of their lives. It may be mentioned here that in the light of the Supreme Court ‘s directives, Sulabh takes care of widows living in various ashrams.
94-year-old Manu Ghosh says, motivated by the series of revolutionary initiatives being spearheaded by well-known the mentor of Sulabh Movement, widows are now happy and enjoying the stay in Vrindavan.
For the Vrindavan widows, who have continued to defy the age-old Indian traditions by celebrating not only Dipawali but Holi and Raksha Bandhan, besides taking part in Durga Puja merriments in West Bengal, this will be a record of sorts when the light the earthen lamps to ward off decades of darkness that caved in their lives after they lost their husbands.
Besides lighting the colourful earthen lamps, the widows sang bhajans there.
Earlier, these widows were treated as “inauspicious”, but no longer after a leading NGO played the Good Samaritan and started taking a keen interest in their uplift and all-round welfare – social, cultural and health.
Around a thousand widows, mostly from West Bengal, live in Vrindavan for decades and they were not allowed to take part in rituals, till NGO Sulabh International extended a helping hand to them.
Breaking several established traditions, Sulabh International helped widows to take part in a series of rituals to join the mainstream of society during the last seven years.
Sulabh NGO, known the world over for promoting the concept of low-cost sanitation, started taking the keen initiative in the welfare of widows after the Supreme Court took strong exception last year to the manner in which the bodies of widows, who lived in government shelter homes at Vrindavan, were disposed of.
In places like Varanasi and Vrindavan, hundreds 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 absence of family support.