Aruna Samaddar threw fistfuls of colored powder into the air. Blue and red and green, the cheerful colors settled on her white sari and all over other women nearby. In most of India, widows like Samaddar have no place in this joyful celebration of Holi, the Hindu festival of colors.
The country’s millions of observant Hindu widows are expected to live out their days in quiet worship, dressed only in white. They are typically barred from all religious festivities because their very presence is considered inauspicious. So for Samaddar, Monday’s celebration was a joy long denied.
So deep is the ostracization of widows that they’re often shunned by their families and forced to seek shelter in temples. The holy city of Vrindavan, in India’s Uttar Pradesh state, is known as the City of Widows because it has given so many women shelter. And in recent years, widows have found a bit of color and joy here as well.