Life is unceasing misery for hundreds of millions in India.
For few is the daily misery as terrible as for the widows in India, with many abandoned in the City of Widows – Vrindavan, where these unfortunate souls live chanting Lord Krishna’s name for a few morsels (Hindu tradition has it that Krishna, one of the country’s many gods, spent his childhood in the Vrindavan area).
While widowhood is unwelcome for anyone in the Indian milieu, it’s the Hindu widows who have it the worst. Despite all the talk of woman being god, India’s majority religion Hinduism and many of its adherents treat women and particularly widows very badly.
As we wrote a few years back in our review of Deepa Mehta’s movie Water:
Widows have a very low social status in the Hindu system and their sight considered an ill-omen. Often blamed unfairly for their husbands’ deaths and exploited in every way by both relatives and outsiders, widows are expected to devote their lives to God and lead a life of renunciation.
Sometimes family members abandon widows in holy cities like Varanasi or Allahabad. In these cities, widows are compelled to live together in small ashrams. With little food, clothing, shelter and almost certainly no love, these widows lead despair- filled lives with their days consumed by chantings of Hindu religious hymns.
As Trevor Bormann says in the below ABC Australia video:
For many women in this culture, the loss of a husband can be an upheaval beyond belief. It can be a one-way ticket to isolation, poverty and despair.
Click on the YouTube video below to get a brief glimpse into the plight of Indian widows.
Once they are in Vrindavan, these widows leave only upon their death.
As women’s activist Mohini Giri says in the above video:
All of them come here in search of death. Waiting for death. They are waiting on the roads, on street corners. Ultimately, it’s so sad that there’s no one even to pick up the bodies because a widow is inauspicious.
A CNN story in 2007 reported that 15,000 widows live on the streets in Vrindavan alone.
India is believed to have over 40 million widows, one of the lowest widow remarriage rates in the world and one of the most miserable living conditions for widows.
Mera Bharat Mahan.