Defying age-old restraints, over a 1,000 widows living in Braj area on Thursday splashed colours and threw flower petals on one another at the Radha Gopinath temple in Vrindavan, about 70 km from here.
Draped in white sarees, the elderly as well as middle-aged widows joined the festive celebrations to re-enact the scene from Krishna Leela as per the Hindu mythology.
Scores of pilgrims joined them in singing hymns and Holi songs.
Local priest Ram Gopal said: "Such fervour has never been witnessed before. They were so excited and flipped; many joined in group dances, singing merrily and loudly cheering every now and then."
Holi is a major Indian festival in the Braj region of Mathura-Vrindavan -- the land of Lord Krishna and his Gopis -- where all temples are specially decked up for the big event on March 13.
"Holi in this area begins on Basant Panchmi; but these days, it is a five-day affair from Ekadashi to Purnamasi (as per Hindu lunar calendar)," Jagan Nath Poddar, a local activist, told IANS.
Madan Jha, a spokesperson for Sulabh International that organised the colourful event for the widows, said: "A total of 1,500 kg 'gulal' (coloured powder) in different colours and 1,500 kg rose and merrigold petals were used for the Holi celebrations."
The Sulabh International looks after the widows after a Supreme Court directive.
In many parts of India, widows are not permitted to play Holi or participate in public festivals or events.
"Their participation in Holi symbolises a break from tradition that forbids a widow from wearing colourful saree, among many other things," said Sulabh International's Bindeshwar Pathak, who joined the widows during Holi celebrations.
He said he got the idea of organising Holi celebrations for widows five years ago.
Apart from ensuring rehabilitation and healthcare for these widows, Sulabh has for the past five years been paying Rs 2,000 to Rs 800 to widows living in eight 'ashrams' in Vrindavan and Varanasi.
Vrindavan is known as the 'City of Widows' for the sheer number of women who find shelter there after their families either shun and turn them out of house or dump them in the temple town. Most hail from West Bengal.
(Brij Khandelwal can be contacted at email@example.com)
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