Holi: Celebrating More Than Spring
Earlier this week marked the beginning of Holi, the 16-day long, color-saturated Hindu festival that celebrates the arrival of Spring. This year, however, is the first year that the festival was also celebrated by the widows and other abandoned women living in Vrindavan, India. In previous years, these women, referred to as ‘ mayyas’ or ‘matas’ were unable to participate in the festivities and, in fact, in some parts of India, are treated as pariahs. Many among the 800 or so women who participated in this year’s Holi lost their husbands at 16 or 17 years old and have since been abandoned by their families, living in shame. “In an effort to bring widows to the mainstream and help in their social assimilation, we have organised several events to encourage them to participate in Holi celebrations at Vrindavan,” founder of Sulabh Bindeshwar Pathak said. According to The Hindu, Sulabh has long been working for the empowerment of these widows and, in August 2012, the Supreme Court directed the U.P. (Uttar Pradesh) government to ensure at least proper cremation and last rites for the widows in Vrindavan. In addition, the NGO is providing them healthcare and a monthly allowance of Rs. 2,000.