A study conducted by www.rnw.org says that there are over 40 million widows in India and a majority of them lead a life called ‘living sati’. Sati is a reference to to the now outlawed practice of widow burning and living sati means leading a life that is as equal to death. Most of these widows get into a cocoon for the rest of their lives, not enjoying anything that this world offers them. There is restriction in the kind of clothing, the type of food and the way one should project themselves. The superstitious society disregards them and abuses them too in a lot of instances.
PhotoConcierge came across Maveeran Somasundaram, a travel, documentary and wedding photographer based in Chennai. After working in an IT Sector for six years, he decided to pursue his passion for travel and photography and has done several exhibitions across the world. Maveeran was invited by Sulabh International Social Service Organisation, on a friendly gesture to document a revolutionary incident in Vrindhavan, Uttar Pradesh India.
Vrindavan is termed as the city of widows, for it is home to 7000 widows who found solace in life. The age group of these women could be anywhere between 22 to 100, mostly abandoned by their families. On the day of Holi, the celebration of colours, Sulabh International along with several other well wishers, organised holi festival for these women and Maveeran documented the celebrations.
Breaking all the superstitious barriers, thousands of widows from Vrindavan who were joined by the other widows from Varanasi, celebrated the vibrant Holi festival at the ancient Gopinath temple. Conch shells blew, flower petals rained and they danced with bright colours of life that they had been forbidden of for a long time. There were 1,200 kilograms of coloured powders along with 1,500 kilograms of rose and marigold petals. Happiness on the women’s faces dazzled much more than the colours themselves. A number of Sanskrit students and scholars joined the celebrations too. Bindeshwar Pathak, a well-known social reformer and founder of Sulabh International who has been campaigning against the ostracisation of widows in the country, also joined in the celebrations.
“There are moments that stay with you forever. The Vrindavan Holi experience was one such unforgettable experience. At one point, I stopped documenting them and started celebrating the occasion along with them. Most of them were from North India and I was to converse in Hindi which was quite difficult. Yet, in the mood of celebration, there was only one language that prevailed – JOY. One of the woman in her early 40’s exclaimed that she was celebrating Holi after 14 years. She was in a myriad of colours. She was blissful in her heart like everyone around” said Maveeran who has done incredible documentation for this world to cherish in his photography series titled ‘White Rainbow’.
White Rainbow captures Maveeran’s excellent sense of documentation and photography. The photography series from the city of widows helps us witness a strong wave of revolution in the lives of these women.