Restoring Dignity to the Widowed Women of India

Restoring Dignity to the Widowed Women of India

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The fashionable historic Hindu pageant ‘Holi’ was celebrated over the weekend however in lots of communities in India the place orthodox Hinduism is practiced, Hindu widows are nonetheless not permitted to take part within the festivities.

A practice that sees widowed ladies shunned from society when their husbands die and deserted by their households, with some superstitious relations blaming them for his or her husband’s demise, these ladies are among the many poorest of the poor in India.

“In India, when a girl loses her husband she has no technique of incomes a dwelling, and neither is she capable of get pleasure from festivals,” Vinita Verma, a spokesperson for NGO Sulabh International instructed EFE.

A report revealed by charity Loomba Foundation discovered that there are roughly 46 million widows in India, making up 9 p.c of the nation’s inhabitants.

Image: Tom Watkins.

Viewed by society and even their very own households as dangerous omens, the widowed ladies are anticipated to surrender all worldly pleasures, costume solely in white and reside out their days in worship. Impoverished, uncared for and infrequently banished by their households, lots of the ladies make their approach to the holy metropolis of Vrindavan in northern India to seek out solace.

In a 2009 research paper about Hindu widows it states: “Widowhood in India is usually described as a definitive and tragic second in a girl’s life—one during which her identification is stripped away with the demise of her husband.

“As early because the second century BCE, the Laws of Manu, an influential textual content in Hindu scripture, had created a set of structured gender relations within the Brahmin caste. Included within the textual content are the statutes {that a} widow should take away all extra adornments, observe fasts, eat restricted meals every day, forgo sizzling meals… The identical textual content additionally pronounces {that a} girl who’s widowed can not remarry.”

Thus celebrating Holi, also known as the Hindu Festival of Colours, had been forbidden for Hindu widows for greater than 400 years. But all this modified in 2012 when the Supreme Court of India, took plight of those ladies and handed particular orders for his or her identification, rehabilitation and empowerment.


Following the Supreme Court’s historic choice, in March 2013, Sulabh International, an NGO established in 1968 impressed by the Mahatma Gandhi’s peaceable and non-violent strategy to social change, organised a gathering in Vrindavan which noticed widowed ladies collaborating in Holi celebrations for the very first time.

These delicate points had been explored within the 2019 Indian function movie ‘The Last Color produced and directed by Indian-American chef Vikas Khann, tailored from his novel of the identical identify.

“Even although I’ve seen it rather a lot as a child — how [widows] weren’t allowed to be a part of any festivities and even birthdays — that harm me deeply,” explains the chef turned filmmaker to Lifestyle Asia. “So this reminiscence was caught in my thoughts, why is no person questioning it.

The Last Color is presently obtainable on Amazon Prime.
Neena Gupta as Noor within the movie The Last Color.

“And when Holi was organized for these widows in 2013, I noticed it as an emblem of change. A rebirth of traditions. It was then that I figured this story must be a novel.”

While issues are slowly altering for widowed ladies in India due to elevated consciousness of those cultural points within the media, they nonetheless face an uphill battle to beat social stigma, abuse and discrimination.

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Cover picture by Tom Watkins.

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