Dignity Denied: The Conditions Of Widows In Vrindavan

Posted on July 28, 2012 in Society

By Subroto Chaterjee:

Vrindavan is well known for its spiritual belief. Big temples, malleable echo of temple’s bell, chanting and beautiful sculpture of Radha-Krishna takes you to another world where you only feel peace, love and bliss. City is known for the divine love of Radha-Krishna, city of friendship (Krishna—Sudama) and place of saint and religious leaders. Superficially, one can see that beauty lays everywhere in Vrindavan, seems like everyone loves god and their life is committed for the service of god & humanity.

There are number of temples in Vrindavan and this city is considered as a holy place amongst Hindus so hundreds and thousands of people visit the city every year. And since people visit the city for religious purpose, they donate a lot of things which makes Vrindavan an ideal place for begging. If anyone tries to see the city beyond Lord Krishna, beyond religious beliefs and prayers, one can see injustice and can observe the cruel face of the so called civilized society. Everywhere you can see a human being wrapped in white 6 meter cloth (Sari), they are the widows of Vrindavan. Most of them lost their companion in early childhood, were refused by their own parents or some of them were repudiated by their own children.

There are thousands of widows living in Vrindavan and most of them come from Bengal. Some of them live in government widow ashram, some of them stay at private ashrams, some of them have rented a room and some just sleep on the road or along the river Yamuna. Most of the widows living in Vrindavan make their living from working at bhajan ashrams and begging. At the first glance, Bhajana ashram seems like a place where widows worship and remember god. But in reality it is their working area or you can say it is their only source of livelihood. These Bhajana Ashrams are run by rich religious people. They give ₹4 and a little bit of rice and lentils to each widow chanting for three hours. They work for two to three shifts. The first shift starts around 7 A.M. whereas the last shift of work ends around 6 P.M.

Not just any widow can enter in any bhajan ashram and start chanting and get some money. They have to get registered with the ashram first and then their timing is decided and only then they can work. After a daylong chanting they receive ₹8  in a day. Widows of Vrindavan stay alone in a small room without having proper ventilation. To collect drinking water they need to walk around 2 kms. to nearby hand pump or government water supply. Government provide ₹1800 yearly as pension but most of the widows only get 50% of their pension as officers working at the ashram are completely corrupt and misappropriate the money which comes for the widows.

Faith, devotion and love for Sri Krishna gives them strength to live life all alone, move forward in their life, be happy with what they have and holding no disappointment against any individual or society. They believe that God has given them punishment in the form of their widowhood and they should respect it because if they do not, they will go to hell becoming a widow again in their next life. They never think discrimination as “discrimination” and accept their lives in the same way. Their dignity is denied by God himself.