News / Asia

Indian Widows Break Tradition

Widows throw flowers into the air during a holi celebration at the Meera Sahavagini ashram in Vrindavan in the northern Indian state of Uttar Pradesh, March 24, 2013.
Widows throw flowers into the air during a holi celebration at the Meera Sahavagini ashram in Vrindavan in the northern Indian state of Uttar Pradesh, March 24, 2013.
TEXT SIZE - +
Anjana Pasricha
— In India, hundreds of widows participated in a Hindu festival for the first time in decades in a town where many women take shelter after the death of their husbands. It is seen as an important symbol of ending centuries of oppression of widows.   

For decades, thousands of widows, who are abandoned by their families, have headed to the pilgrim town of Vrindavan, about 150 kilometers east of New Delhi.  

Shunned women

As per tradition that is still followed by some, Hindu widows are considered inauspicious or unlucky.  As a result, in many homes, they are treated like outcasts and are ostracized by their family and community and not allowed to participate in any celebration. Many are turned out of their homes.

Thousands of these shunned women leave their towns and villages to live in shelters in Vrindavan, which has come to be known as the city of widows. Life is not easy for these destitute widows. Dressed in white - the color of mourning in India, they are often seen begging.

Breaking tradition

But this year, hundreds of widows in Vrindavan broke centuries of tradition, when led by social activists, they stepped out of their shelters to participate in the festival of Holi. Holi is a riotous celebration when people come out into the streets and throw colored powder and water at each other.

  • Widows celebrate by throwing flowers and colored powder into the air during a Holi celebration March 24, 2013. Holi, also known as the Festival of Colors, heralds the beginning of spring and is celebrated all over India.
  • A widow dressed as the Hindu goddess Radha looks out from behind a curtain during a Holi celebration at the Meera Sahavagini ashram in Vrindavan, in the northern Indian state of Uttar Pradesh, March 24, 2013.
  • Widows throw flowers into the air during a Holi celebration, March 24, 2013.
  • A widow dances in a dormitory during Holi celebrations at the Meera Sahavagini ashram in Vrindavan, Uttar Pradesh, March 24, 2013.
  • A boy covered in colored powder poses with a group of widows during a Holi celebration, March 24, 2013.
  • Widows raise their hands as they throw flowers into the air during a Holi celebration, March 24, 2013.

Earlier, they could only play ‘Holi’ with god Krishna, the main deity in the holy town. A social reformer from Uttar Pradesh, Shravan Kumar Singh, who played Holi with the widows on Sunday, says they felt old barriers had come crashing down.  

Singh says many of the women had tears in their eyes when they came out to take part in the revelry. He says many people in the town also appreciated the efforts to reintegrate them in society.

Celebrations - rehabilitation

The Holi celebrations were organized by Sulabh International, which last year launched a rehabilitation program for widows in five government-run shelters. This involves giving them education, vocational skills, health care facilities and an allowance of $40 a month to ensure that they have enough food.

Bindeshwar Pathak, founder of Sulabh, also joined the celebrations. He says bringing the widows back into the social mainstream has given them a new lease of life.  “When I came last, in August 2012, everybody used to say 'no, we want to die now. We don’t want to live more.' Yesterday when we celebrated Holi, they all said, no, no, no, we want to live, they are forgetting the past,” he stated.

Sulabh International began work in Vrindavan last year after the supreme court took note of the poor conditions under which the widows live and stressed the need to ameliorate their plight. The Vrindavan widows have become symbols of centuries of oppression of women who lose their husbands.

You May Like

Analysts Warn of Regional Proxy Conflict in Afghanistan

Analysts warn if Kabul’s neighbors do not start to cooperate, competing desires for influence could deteriorate into a bloody proxy war in the country More

Saudi Intelligence Chief Replaced

Bandar bin Sultan came under criticism for supporting al Qaida, prompting King Abdallah to wrest Syria operations away from him in February, handing them to Interior Minister Prince Mohammed bin Nayef More

Poetry Magazine editor Don Share talks what makes a good poem with VOA's David Byrd

What makes a good poem? And is poetry as viable an art form as it once was? To find out, VOA's David Byrd spoke to Don Share, the editor of Poetry Magazine. More

This forum has been closed.
Comments
     
There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Google Buys Drone Companyi
|| 0:00:00
...
 
🔇
X
George Putic
April 15, 2014
In its latest purchase of high-tech companies, Google has acquired a manufacturer of solar-powered drones that can stay in the air almost indefinitely, relaying broadband Internet connection to remote areas. It is seen as yet another step in the U.S. based Web giant’s bid to bring Internet to the whole world. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Google Buys Drone Company

In its latest purchase of high-tech companies, Google has acquired a manufacturer of solar-powered drones that can stay in the air almost indefinitely, relaying broadband Internet connection to remote areas. It is seen as yet another step in the U.S. based Web giant’s bid to bring Internet to the whole world. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Ray Bonneville Sings the Blues and More on New CD

Singer/songwriter Ray Bonneville has released a new CD called “Easy Gone” with music that reflects his musical and personal journey from French-speaking Canada to his current home in Austin,Texas. The eclectic artist’s fan base extends from Texas to various parts of North America and Europe. VOA’s Greg Flakus reports from Austin.
Video

Video Millions Labor in Pakistan's Informal Economy

The World Bank says that in Pakistan, roughly 70 percent work in the so-called informal sector, a part of the economy that is unregulated and untaxed. VOA's Sharon Behn reports from Islamabad on how the informal sector impact's the Pakistani economy.
Video

Video Passover Celebrates Liberation from Bondage

Jewish people around the world are celebrating Passover, a commemoration of their liberation from slavery in Egypt more than 3,300 years ago. According to scripture, God helped the Jews, led by Moses, escape bondage in Egypt and cross the Red Sea into the desert. Zlatica Hoke reports that the story of the Jewish Exodus resonates with other people trying to escape slave-like conditions.
Video

Video Police Pursue Hate Crime Charges Against Kansas Shooting Suspect

Prosecutors are sifting through the evidence in the wake of Sunday’s shootings in a suburb of Kansas City, Missouri that left three people dead. A suspect in the shootings taken into custody is a white supremacist. As VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports, he was well-known to law enforcement agencies and human rights groups alike.
Video

Video In Eastern Ukraine, Pro-unity Activists Emerge from Shadows

Amid the pro-Russian uprisings in eastern Ukraine, there is a large body of activists who support Ukrainian unity and reject Russian intervention. Their activities have remained largely underground, but they are preparing to take on their pro-Moscow opponents, as Henry Ridgwell reports from the eastern city of Donetsk.
Video

Video Basket Maker’s Skills Have World Reach

A prestigious craft show in the U.S. capital offers one-of-a-kind creations by more than 120 artists working in a variety of media. As VOA’s Julie Taboh reports from Washington, one artist lucky enough to be selected says sharing her skills with women overseas is just as significant.
Video

Video UN Report Urges Speedier Action to Avoid Climate Disaster

A new United Nations report says the world must switch from fossil fuels to cleaner energy sources to control the effects of climate change. The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change released the report (Sunday) following a meeting of scientists and government representatives in Berlin. The comprehensive review follows two recent IPCC reports that detail the certainty of climate change, its impacts and in this most recent report what to do about it. VOA’s Rosanne Skirble has the details.
AppleAndroid