This Rakshabandhan festival will be special for hundreds of elderly widows of Varanasi as they plan to send 1,000 rakhis along with sweets to Prime Minister Narendra Modi, who made his parliamentary debut in May from this temple town.
The event is part of efforts to bring these women, who have been socially ostracised for ages and kept away from festivals and other celebrations, into social mainstream.
A group of these women, mostly in their 80s, are engaged in making colourful rakhis in Birla and Durgakund widow ashrams for the festival, which celebrates the relationship between brothers and sisters. “We have planned a target of sending around 1,000 rakhis to our ‘brother’, our prime minister," said one of them at Birla ashram.
Social worker Bindeshwar Pathak feels that such an initiative will not just bring cheer in the lives of these women, but will help bring a change in social outlook.
“Widows after death of their husbands still face humiliation and insult from their family members. They are even restricted from attending any auspicious function in their families. They are even not allowed to wear colourful saris, ornaments and have to wear only white clothes. So, my idea is how to change the thoughts, behaviour and attitude of the people of this country towards widows of India, who are their mothers and sisters,” said Pathak, who is the founder of NGO Sulabh International, which is helping improve the life of around 1,500 such women in Varanasi, Vrindavan and Kedarnath Valley.
The widows will also tie rakhis to local saints and Brahmins. “We will organise many such programmes for them in near future,” Pathak said.