Understanding The Hindu Widowed Women Living In Varanasi

Posted by Aman Bansal
September 23, 2017

The Supreme Court of India has declared triple talaq as unconstitutional in a judgement which is being considered as a milestone for women empowerment.  This decision will help many Muslim women to abstain from a life, which is at the mere will of her husband’s speech.

But, what about those women who are forced to live a pathetic life as widows due to death of their husbands?

If you are into the news, you would be fully ‘unaware‘ where I am going with this, because no news channel cares about them.

My article focuses on the empowerment of Hindu women who lead a terrible life after the death of their husbands.

If you visit Mathura, Vrindavan or Radhakund, you will surely notice, women in white, singing bhajans, relentlessly in temples and ashrams, sometimes continuously for seven to eight hours.

At first, one is quite impressed by their dedication towards the Lord, but if one digs a little deeper, one is startled to find out that for some of these ladies, it is their only source of money with which they can buy some food or pay their rent. The money we are talking about is not any handsome amount but a meagre amount of ₹18-20.

So, who are these women? What is their number? From where do they come? Why do they land in Vrindavan?

Let’s answer these questions one by one.

Who are these women?

These are mostly women who were married off to men double their age when they were very young. The men died owing to old age or any other reasons, leaving these women in complete despair and at the mercy of their children and the society who left no stone unturned to humiliate and agonise them. They were made to beg for food and were beaten up at will, forcing them to leave for Vrindavan.

But, Why Only Vrindavan?

This is where it gets interesting. No one knows the exact reason why these women started pouring in large numbers and chose this city out of the 4,000 cities of India.

This can be due to its close association with Lord Krishna. According to Srimad Bhagavatam, Krishna is believed to have 16,108 wives out of which eight were his principle wives, and 16,100 were his junior wives.

There is a fascinating story behind Krishna marrying these 16,100 women.

According to a legend, Krishna defeated a demon called Narakasura and released 16,100 women from his captivity. The woman’s husbands and families refused to accept them back as they had become polluted in the company of a demon.

The women then pleaded to Lord Krishna to accept them because nobody else was going to marry them. They threatened to commit suicide if he doesn’t accept them. Being trapped in dharma, Krishna accepted all women as his wives so that they live an honourable life and nobody dared to mock them.

Thus, all rejected and dejected women come to Vrindavan to seek Lord Krishna’s refuge so that they are born with a better fate in their next lives.

They also find the company of other women with same destiny here and hence can relate to them easily.

How Many Women Live Like This?

Well, no one knows their exact number. Some say there are about half a lakh women in the areas of Vrindavan, Radhakund alone, while others mark their number to be about 20,000. Whatever be their number, they are significantly visible in the localities of Vrindavan.

Where Do They Come From?

They come here, mostly, in large numbers, from the adjoining states of West Bengal and Bihar.

So, Do They Get What They Come Seeking? The Solace, Peace And An Escape From Society?

Unfortunately not. As religious service is incapable of compensating and supporting a livelihood, they just live for the sake of living here.

They can be easily spotted begging in different localities of the town. The hatred and dislike of the locals are quite evident against them, and the only people who come in support of them are tourists and pilgrims who help them for seeking some ‘spiritual’ merit’.

The ashrams in which some of these women find refuge are ill-equipped, over-crowded, and are a reservoir of deadly diseases like tuberculosis. There have also been reports of these ashrams promoting prostitution and trafficking of women.

Whats more saddening is the fact that these widows do not receive ‘humane‘ treatment even after death. Reportedly, the bodies of the deceased widows are disposed of by chopping them into pieces and packing in gunny bags.

But Where Is The Government? What Measures Have Been Taken To Improve The Lives Of These Women?

After much research on internet and newspapers, what I found was astonishing. No government since independence, had bothered to care for these women, until 2012. The Supreme Court of India, in response to a petition by an NGO, sought a report from the government on this matter. The Supreme Court also imposed a ₹1 lakh fine on the government for not coming up with a roadmap. The Ministry and the National Commission for Women have submitted a detailed Agreed Action Plan this year in the court.

Maneka Gandhi in 2016 laid foundation to India’s largest widow home in Vrindavan, to be built on over three-and-a-half acres of land and at a sum of ₹60 crores, aimed to house 1,000 beds.

 

The main question that should come to the mind here is why the governments of Bengal and Bihar have been incapable of halting this movement of people to UP? Are they incapable or are they unwilling?

Some private organisations like Maitri India and Sulabh have come forward and are helping these women to live a life of prestige. Many documentaries and presentations have been made on this subject by national as well as international filmmakers highlighting the plight of these women.

Narendra Modi has promised widows access to all the basic amenities needed for a comfortable life on the eve of Raksha Bandhan this year. Can the PM prevent his sisters from becoming a subject of documentaries?

Can he provide, ‘that widowed Indian woman’, a life full of dignity, to finally take a step ahead in realising his dream of a new and advanced India?

Let’s wait and watch!

 

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