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Hindu widow Uma, 65, poses for a portrait after celebrating Holi, the Hindu festival of colors, at the Meera Sahabhagini Widow Ashram in Vrindavan, India. (Photo: AP/Bernat Armangue)

 

Indian tradition says a widow will spend her life in seclusion, mourning her husband and avoiding public gatherings. If she comes to a wedding, she is thought to bring bad luck to the family. If she comes to a birth ceremony, she brings bad luck to the baby.

After her husband dies, she will wear only white, Hinduism’s color of mourning. As much as she can, she will live a life without color.

So when Holi arrives, the festival of spring and India’s riotous annual celebration of color, when friends and strangers shower one another with colored water and bright powders, she is supposed to disappear into the background.

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Hindu widow Oruna poses for a portrait after celebrating Holi, the Hindu festival of colors, at the Meera Sahabhagini Widow Ashram in Vrindavan, India. (Photo: AP/Bernat Armangue)

 

Then there is Holi at the Meera Sahabhagini Widows Ashram, a shelter for widows abandoned by their families, in this city of temples where widows have long been dropped off and forgotten.

In that ashram, hundreds of widows gathered Tuesday to experience what they are not supposed to: Joy. Organized by an Indian aid agency, Sulabh International, the gathering was a way to let the women celebrate their lives, and to show that losing a husband doesn’t mean losing one’s life.

 

Hindu widow Leela Sarkar, 80, poses for a portrait after celebrating Holi, the Hindu festival of colors, at the Meera Sahabhagini Widow Ashram in Vrindavan, India. (Photo: AP/Bernat Armangue)

Colour was everywhere. On the women’s faces, in their hair, coating their clothes.

For once, white was hard to find.


Hindu widow Vindai Sori, 90, poses for a portrait after celebrating Holi, the Hindu festival of colors, at the Meera Sahabhagini Widow Ashram in Vrindavan, India. (Photo: AP/Bernat Armangue)

Hindu widow Kalani Dashi, 70, poses for a portrait after celebrating Holi, the Hindu festival of colors, at the Meera Sahabhagini Widow Ashram in Vrindavan, India. (Photo: AP/Bernat Armangue)

Hindu widow Bhubhu Ladashi, 72, poses for a portrait after celebrating Holi, the Hindu festival of colors, at the Meera Sahabhagini Widow Ashram in Vrindavan, India. (Photo: AP/Bernat Armangue)

Hindu widow Sima Chohan, 40, poses for a portrait after celebrating Holi at the Meera Sahabhagini Widow Ashram in Vrindavan, India. (Photo: AP/Bernat Armangue)

Hindu widow Tara Devi, 70, poses for a portrait after celebrating Holi, the Hindu festival of colors, at the Meera Sahabhagini Widow Ashram in Vrindavan, India.(Photo: AP/Bernat Armangue)