Varanasi: Some 200 Dalit women from Rajasthan Monday took part in a ceremony which they never thought they would see in their lifetime — performing rituals with upper caste Hindus at the Vishwanath temple.

Amidst ecstatic shouts of ‘Har Har Gange', the women also took a dip in the Ganga and chanted hymns along the Dashashwamedh Ghat, deemed to be the most pious bank.

"We never thought we would get an opportunity to celebrate our liberty like this... For decades, we have faced hatred and discrimination. As we mingled with the upper caste, we got the feel of being liberated," Shanti Chaumaria, a garbage collector of over two decades, told IANS.

Feeling empowered

While the Vishwanath temple does not bar Dalits from offering prayers, the women considered performing rituals with Brahmins an act of empowerment.

"It's an out-of-this world experience for us. We want to stay here as long as we can. This day will remain memorable for us. We now feel we have really joined the mainstream," said Guddi, who worked as a garbage collector for 10 years.

"Sharing a platform with the upper-caste is really a privilege."

Sulabh International, a social service organisation, organised the programme and flew in the women from Rajasthan.