A splurge of colours marked Holi for Vrindavan and the widows of Varanasi, as over a thousand of them broke the 400-year-old tradition and celebrated the festival within the precincts of the ancient Gopinath temple on Monday.
Another tradition was broken as young Sanskrit scholars from a local Gurukul and Varanasi and pundits from the temple joined the celebrations, signifying the further social assimilation and acceptance of these widows.
Amidst chanting of Vedic hymns and blowing of conch shells, the widows freely used vermilion powder in the festivities and played Holi with petals of rose and marigold.
The oldest participant was 105-year-old Kanak Lata who was brought to the temple in a wheelchair.
"I am thankful to organisers who provided me an opportunity to witness Holi in front of the principal deity of Gopinath temple," she said.
"It is an effort to break the tradition of Hindu society where widows are not allowed to play Holi. Our effort is to replace it with a new arena in their life," social reformer and founder of Sulabh International Bindeshwar Pathak said.
Bindeshwar Pathak, well-known 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 said.
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.