NEW DELHI – Thousands of Indian widows who are normally expected to lead modest and isolated lives were on Sunday set to break free of their usually restrained existence by lighting lamps, setting off fireworks and drawing colorful designs to celebrate Diwali, the biggest of Hindu festivals.
Although the actual festival is set to be celebrated across the country on Wednesday, the widows will enjoy an earlier version of Diwali in Vrindavan, a religious town known as the city of widows where thousands of impoverished Hindu women live after having lost their husbands.
“In India, when a lady loses her husband she has no means of earning a living, and neither is she able to enjoy festivals,” Vinita Verma, the person in charge of the celebration organized by the nonprofit organization Sulabh International, told EFE.
“Sulabh International is bringing a platform for them where they can celebrate and enjoy the festival,” Verma said, adding, “even if they are widows, they have the right to have all types of celebrations.”
The festivities, which will begin after midday and last late into the night, will include sharing candies and other delicacies, lighting fireworks and earthenware lamps known as diyas, and rangolis and creating traditional patterns drawn on the floor with colored powders.
The widows will also be allowed to choose saris, a form of traditional clothing for women in India, as a gift.
The main streets, businesses and houses in the country will be decorated and lit up during the coming days to celebrate the festival, on a scale comparable to Christmas celebrations in other parts of the world.
According to Hindu mythology, the festival marks the return of Lord Rama from 14 years of exile – during which he fought and defeated demon King Ravana in the island of Lanka (currently Sri Lanka) – which was celebrated with people lighting up their homes with earthenware lamps.