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The city of widows: Vrindavan

The city of Uttar Pradesh is known for its loving side between two gods, but the city has the darker side too, the less-loving side. The city where widows are thrown out of their homes, where widows are abandoned by politicians. Many questions are being raised from the above-stated points, but the most important question is who all are answerable to these questions? Is it family, society, or the whole country? And what happens when their husbands die? The Sati Pratha was banned years ago, therefore, widows do not have to sacrifice their life after their husbands die, but now the system or the Pratha that the society is following is no less shameful.

The culture, the taboo, and the myth, that has been followed by our society is not only shameful but also humiliating and discriminatory on some grounds, which clearly shows the survival of widows in our society after their husbands. Widows are forced to wear white which according to some ‘so-called people’ states that she needs to be in a constant state of mourning once her husband dies. She cannot wear colourful clothes, she cannot put the make-up on, and the restrictions that have been put on widows. Is there some kind of crime that any women have committed?

Widows must shave her head, child widows who have the whole future in front of their lives must live a life where she is deprived of basic human rights. Younger widows may be as young as ten years old, maybe sold off by ashram managers as concubines (sex slaves) to local landowners or straight into brothels. Not all the widows who reach Vrindavan get an assured shelter. There is a significant shortage of ashrams, and most are found begging on the streets or singing bhajan at temples to survive. Others manage to get odd jobs at domestic households and earn a shabby little room. Many of them suffered and died out of malnutrition while others with zero medical treatment access. (BBC report)

The movie called “The Last Colour” clearly depicts the true side of the story where the society abandons them, they have their other places (ashrams) to live without any proper facilities. They are untouchables, they are being deprived of their basic human rights. No widow can be part of festivals and other places of worship like the married ones.

Vrindavan is home to around 20,000 widows that are run by the government, NGOs, and other private enterprises. The report from 2019, states that the new shelter homes for widows with a capacity of 1,000 people have been constructed in Vrindavan by the union of women and child development ministry. Apart from these efforts put by the government, this city has the darker side again where widows are being abused by their families and their family see them as a burden on them, and where widows live their lives as refugees.

Unsafe conditions at ashrams:

National commission for women published an online report (2009-10) based on interviews with 216 women living in shelter homes run by government or NGO and in rented accommodation. The study has highlighted the lack of adequate physical infrastructure, mainly running water in bathrooms and toiles, and the unhygienic conditions of the toilets in their homes. Rooms are overcrowded which further leads to unhealthy and unhygienic conditions to live in. There is a lack of proper infrastructure and other basic facilities.

Making each widow safe is not only the responsibility of the government but our responsibility too. The city where Lord Krishna spent his childhood (according to Hindu mythology), now in that same city widows are surviving by singing songs of Lord Krishna in temples for few rupees a day and by begging for money in white sarees, a signifier that colour had drained from their lives. The city where widows have no place to go, the trip to Vrindavan has been dreaded with thousands and lakhs of tourists every day.

The widow condition became so dire that India’s supreme court took notice of their plight in 2012, ruling that government must provide them food, medical care, and a sanitary place to live. (Report by The New York Times 2019)

Ray of hope:

The ritual of widows celebrating the festival of colors among themselves began only in 2013 before which they were allowed to play Holi only with Thakur Ji (Lord Krishna), and this was organized by Sulabh International. A few years ago, it was a sin for widows to play the festival of colors (Holi), and they are now able to celebrate this colorful festival. They sing they dance, they put the Gulal (pink color) on each other’s faces. Their sarees are printed in color.

An unheard story of the holy city now again needs to be heard by us, the society. A society, where we live, where each widow has the basic human right, where the goddess is being worshipped. The same place has many dark sides that now need to change.

This is an alarming sign for all of us to understand that these myths are not important as the life of every widow in our society. A woman gives her whole life to her family and her family abandons her when her husband dies. This is where we all can start, a new step to bring a change in our family first and then in our society.

Stop abandoning widows, it is a message to a family because this is where everything starts. Love, respect, and being valued is all widows deserve from her family.

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Tags: #savewidows #alllivesmatter #voiceforwidows


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