Varanasi: In a first, hundreds of widows -- considered cursed and inauspicious and shunned by the mainstream of society for decades -- Tuesday celebrated the Hindu festival of Raksha Bandhan.
These widows gathered at the Nepali Ashram on the banks of the Ganga river to celebrate the festival in presence of seers and Sanskrit scholars. They tied "rakhis" on the wrist of social reformer Bindeshwar Pathak, founder of the Sulabh Intenational group.
"It was an exercise to create a kind of awareness against the practice of widowhood in the country. Such kind of programmes will help to end this treatment," Pathak told IANS.
He sought the support of the Hindu seers and Sanskrit pundits to oppose widowhood by organising such programmes for widows across the country.
The Sulabh Intenational group is involved in preparing a roadmap for the welfare of widows in Vrindavan, Varanasi and Uttarakhand.
Sulabh, known the world over for promoting the concept of low-cost sanitation, started taking initiative in the welfare of widows after the Supreme Court took strong exception last year to the manner in which the bodies of widows, who lived in government shelter homes at Vrindavan, were disposed.
Sulabh recently launched a pension and medical welfare scheme for 200-odd widows of Varanasi. The group pays Rs.2,000 every month to each widow living in four shelters in the holy city.
Pathak also said he would meet Congress president Sonia Gandhi and Bharatiya Janata Party leader Sushma Swaraj soon, with an appeal to introduce a draft bill in parliament that he has prepared with regard to widows.