It’s Holi Day!
The beautiful festival of colours. The festival where irrespective of your caste, creed, religion and many times even social standing one would just forget all barriers and immerse self in the trance of Holi.Not the trance that bhaang induces, though that is part of the holi festivities too; but the trance that the smell of the delicacies induces our senses with, the trance that the sight of different colours on one canvas brings, the trance of matching the mismatching dance steps on the dhol music and most importantly the trance that unabridged joy and laughter brings over. That is the spirit of holi but…
Imagine not being part of all this! Not by choice but forced by unrelenting social traditions. Yes, while almost every strata of the society enjoys and frolics around in the spirit of Holi there is a section of hindu society that are debarred from even being around the festivities – The Widows. The reason? Having had to see her husband’s death while she herself lives on is believed to be the biggest misfortune a women can beget. This woman is considered a bad omen. She has to stay away from anything and everything auspicious.
Decades back she wasn’t even allowed to live. The woman had to mount the pyre of her husband and be burnt alive only because her husband has died. Her life didn’t matter. Her identity was gone, because her husband was her identity and so she had to go too. Sati, they called her. Sati – the social evil. Finally, after a lot of efforts by social activists like Raja Ram Mohan Roy, the practice of Sati was banned. The widow was allowed to live.
Breathe – Yes. Eat – Not everything that she wants to. Clothe – Not every dress or colour that she wants to. Enjoy – Not without being made to feel guilty. Love – Big No. Marriage – No Way. Live – NO!
Yesterday, on Holi day, the internet was breaking with news about widows celebrating Holi in Gopinath Temple in Vrindavan, Uttar Pradesh breaking a tradition which was being observed for 400 years. The article went on to say that many priests and society heads had attended the celebrations marking this event as a turn around event in the changes that are coming about in the traditional hindu mindset and the society. The event was organised by a NGO and everyone is loving this change. The widows are happy to smile and dance one day of the sorry lives they have been leading. They are happy with the changes that are coming. The society is happy to welcome the change. Young India is happy to forgo something that is regressive, globally embarrassing and most importantly inhuman.
Everyone is happy. But has the change reached the homes?
It is one thing to symbolically break a tradition at an organised event and to actually remove it from every home in the society. Though things have changed a lot socially for widows in the cities of our country but beyond the metro city’s geographical limits, things somewhat remain the same. Most places have difficult and torturous diktats for widows still in practice – they must only wear white, no jewellery allowed on them, must observe fasts, eat limited meals each day and observe tonsure. Beyond all this stay away from all auspicious places and occasions. Marriages, Pooja’s, festivals, child birth and many more occasions, it is no entry for them – Because they bring bad luck!
Widows are treated as social outcasts in a typical hindu home. She symbolises a walking talking surety of bad luck. If she is independent, there are chances that she may be looked upon a bit more compassionately, with an empathy towards the misfortune she faced, the pain she went through and the loneliness she goes through each day.
But will these compassionate, empathic fellow beings still dare to call her to attend the tonsure ceremony of their kids? or a marriage in the family? The changes are happy changes and they are most welcome but the real change is yet miles away. On my part, if I ever get married and if my grandma is still around I will want her to attend my wedding even though she’ll be in white without sindoor on her forehead.