It's probably the most cheerful festival of all, associated with fun, frolic and a lightness of being. People shower bright colours on each other, symbolizing blessings of peace and tranquility.
This Thursday, the festival took on a particularly meaningful hue in the narrow lanes of Vrindavan in Uttar Pradesh, with thousands of widows gathering to smear colour on each other. These widows have been abandoned by their families and have travelled from various parts of the country to stay in this holy land where Lord Krishna spent his childhood, and where his blessings are believed to linger.
While, traditionally, enjoyment of any type is proscribed for widows, extending to wearing coloured clothes or playing Holi, these archaic rules have been broken in Vrindavan for some years now, with special festive celebrations planned for widows every year.
Holi festivities start almost a week early in Vrindavan, with widows congregating at the Gopi Nath Temple to pray and play. The celebration starts with what is known as "phoolon wali Holi" (Holi with flowers) and is followed by the singing of bhajans and dancing... the widows moved in a devotional fervour, dancing like the Gopis of Lord Krishna.
After the flower Holi the air was filled with the gulal, coloured powered in different colours and in moments not only the widows but all the others present were consumed by the heady spirit of the festival. More than 1500 kilograms of gulal and flower petals were arranged for the huge celebration.
The initiative was taken by the well-known social reformer and mentor of the Sulabh Movement Dr. Bindeshwar Pathak, who has been taking keen interest in the welfare of widows and all-round development