Friday, 6 March 2015

For India's Widows, A Riot Of Color, An Act Of Liberation

Indian Celebration of Holi and Widows.
(NPR. Susan Ireland)
I am posting a link to an article from National Public Radio (NPR) by Julie McCarthy about the Indian Festival of Holi.

McCarthy writes, "Holi is the festival of colors, culminating in the riotous tossing of powder and water balloons meant to herald the arrival of spring. Bonfires on the eve of this ancient celebration mark the triumph of good over evil and are seen as a chance to forgive. It's celebrated wherever there are people of Indian descent — Bangladesh, Nepal, Guyana, South Africa — but here the celebrations take on the hue of liberation.

Hindu tradition frowns on widows celebrating at such festivals. In some parts of the culture, the women are seen as the cause of their husband's death and relatives believe they should be cast out. The segregation of widows can be so extreme that in some places they are prevented from attending family gatherings, including weddings. Many poor widows are abandoned by their families and left to fend for themselves. According to census data, India is believed to have tens of millions of widows. Thousands live out their lives in the ashrams in the ancient temple-filled city of Vrindavan, popularly known as the City of Widows.
photo by S. Ireland for NPR

But when the widows of Vrindavan ignore the social taboo and join in the fun, Holi takes on a whole new dimension. Cavorting in the chaos of color, women young and old stand in showers of rose petals and marigolds and playfully smear each other with fuchsia, green and gold powder. With this act of joy, the women fight back against restrictions that have ostracized them.
A widow before and after Holi. photo by S. Ireland for NPR.
Photographer Susannah Ireland and I spent two days with the widows as they went through their morning rituals, nimbly preparing blossoms that perfumed the celebrations and shopping for new saris. Widows traditionally wear white, but breaking the mold, they go for a splash of color."

I absolutely loved this article and wanted to share it with you. Here's the link:

For India's Widows, A Riot Of Color, An Act Of Liberation

Widows celebrating Holi.(Susannah Ireland  photo)