So what if there were no firecrackers to burst? This Diwali, Vrindavan widows burst into laughter the Sulabh way and showed the way to celebrate an eco-friendly Diwali
There was a sweet smell of flowers in the air. The earthen lamps and string lights were dazzling. One could hear mesmerising bhajans from a distance. There was laughter. There was joy. Each face had a bright, wide smile. It was an evening no less than a fairytale. And why wouldn’t it be? After all, it was indeed a special day. It was the ‘Green Diwali’ celebration of the widow mothers of Vrindavan.
For the sixth year in a row, the thousands of widow mothers of Vrindavan were celebrating the festival of lights. And for the first time it was so that instead of bursting crackers, they instead burst into laughters of joy – an innovative Diwali concept incepted by Dr Bindeshwar Pathak, founder of Sulabh Sanitation and Social Reform Movement, who is the crusader who made it possible six years ago to break the ages-long tradition of widows being exempted from participating any pious festivity.
Burst Into Laughter
Speaking on the occasion, Dr Bindeshwar Pathak said, “We are all aware that the Supreme Court has partially banned crackers to curb pollution. So I thought we don’t need crackers to celebrate Diwali, when we can instead light-up people’s faces with smiles and fill the air with laughters. So here we celebrated the festival in an eco-friendly manner. In place of firecrackers, we held a musical evening full of joyous laughter, bhajans and bright light of earthen lamps.” The eco-friendly Diwali showed the way for the entire nation that Diwali even without crackers can be much illuminated if people keep bright, wide smiles on their faces. The way the widow mothers sang, danced, lighted the lamps and celebrated the festival of lights with full zeal, it was a moment to cherish.
Filling Lights In
The Gloomy Lives
Diwali symbolises filling the inner light that protects us from darkness, from evil. And that is exactly what the evening at the historic Gopinath temple was all about. Every troubled soul in this world is looked after by God and his angels. For these widow mothers, Dr Bindeshwar Pathak is that angel. He filled lights in the once gloomy and saddened lives of these women. He met with them, lent his ears to their plights, extended his hand of support and pulled them out of the darkness. He saved them from the evil customs of the society.
“Some customs in our society are evil. The customs or taboos attached to widows are among those. If a man’s wife dies, he is free to carry on with his life with full enjoyment, but if a woman becomes a widow she is pushed into a life of monotony and restrictions. She is not allowed to laugh, sing or dance. She is instead to just sit around chanting God’s name and awaiting her own death,” said Dr Pathak.
“We told these widows that ‘yes, you too have rights’ and that they too should laugh, dance, sing. Here we are today. They are celebrating Diwali. They were earlier not allowed to celebrate Diwali, light earthen lamps or play Holi. Now they are doing all these,” he added.
“Lal Baba blessed us with true happiness. There were pain and grief earlier. God sent Baba to us to restore light in our dark lives. We are poor people. We are living normally today. There cannot be more happiness we can ask for. This is true peace to us. All hail Lal Baba, all hail Gopinath -- the God who sent him to us,” said Kanak Lata, the eldest widow mother present on the occasion, who is over 100 years in age yet enthusiastically celebrated Diwali with thousands others.
God Sent His
Angel In Dr Pathak
Also, present on the occasion was Om Prakash Yadav, former DPO of Vrindavan, who was delighted to see these widow mothers have a gala time. He told that how in 2011 when he took charge as the DPO here, at that time the condition of these widow mothers was unspeakable. They lived in shelter homes and had to work to fill their stomach.
The former Vrindavan DPO recalled, “One day I needed an ambulance but for two days none were facilitated. I prayed to Lord Krishna and questioned that when I am not even able to arrange an ambulance, then why have I been even sent here? But as they say, God has his ways. Lord Krishna addresses people’s problems through some or the other source. He sends some or the other guardian angel to get the work done.”
“So in the midst of all these troubles, the Supreme Court of India gave the ordered that Sulabh International Social Service Organisation be asked whether it can provide these mothers with food. Dr Bindeshwar Pathak immediately accepted the proposal. So it’s like that Lord Krishna sent Dr Pathak to address the plights of these mothers,” he added.
Yadav told that Dr Pathak then came to Vrindavan, met with these widow mothers, queried of their troubles and studied their requirements. On the first day itself, Dr Pathak gifted five ambulances to these mothers. After this many initiative lined up. Food was provided, sewing machines we brought, etc.
“We were here longing for even one ambulance, and now all of a sudden we had five of them. The problem vanished away in a snap of a finger. The entire scenario has changed and it is infront of our eyes. A few moments back I saw this widow mother, whose age is over 100 years, clap and laugh with joy. Another mother who is of 90 years was dancing right next to me. Who could have imagined that years of sorrow can be erased this quick? It was only due to Dr Pathak’s efforts that it was all possible. I am sure Sulabh will take them to even greater heights,” said Yadav.
The Withered Leaves
Are Green Again
Before 2012, these widows had to beg for food. They used to get only Rs 4 to 8 on performing bhajans. There were no medical facilities for them. The worst of all was that after death their bodies were cut into pieces, put into sacks and thrown into Yamuna river because there was no money for their last rituals.
This sad state of the widows was published in a newspaper after which the Supreme Court took the matter into cognizance. The apex court asked the National Legal Services Authority (NALSA) to ask Sulabh International Social Service Organisation, a non-profit voluntary philanthropy social organisation, whether they can take up the responsibility of feeding these mothers.
“I then received a letter from them. I said that it is a great opportunity. In 2012 I came to Vrindavan, met with these mothers. They used to cry expressing their sorrow. Even I cried many a times hearing their plight. They all used to say that they want to die. After this, I not only ensured to feed them but also provided with ambulance facilities, education opportunities, fridge, TV, etc. I took them places, urged them to celebrate festivals to do away with the monotony that had filled their lives,” said Dr Pathak.
In 2012 Sulabh helped the widow mothers start living their lives again. They were showered with the love which one gets in their parents’ home. From that day since, these widow mothers never looked back.
“These leaves had withered and we have reinstilled greenery into them. It’s just like making a crying person laugh. The mothers and sister who were widowed are together celebrating Diwali. It is a joyful occasion for all. There are no words to express the joy I feel seeing them this happy,” said Dr Pathak with a smile of content.
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