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Ashram for Indian Widows

Photographer: Anindito Mukherjee


Widows in India are considered highly inauspicious according to Hindu tradition and are often ostracized by society. They may not remarry and must renounce all earthly pleasures. This means wearing only simple white saris and fasting several times a month. As many widows in India are abandoned by their families and cast out by society many make their way to the holy towns of Vrindavan or Banara. Here they live a cast-away life, waiting for salvation, living in shelters or ashrams, begging for a livelihood by singing holy hymns or bhajans.


At the behest of the Supreme Court, Sulabh International is trying to improve the condition of widows who are living in government shelter homes at Vrindavan. According to reports more than 800 widows have registered at two government shelter homes; each of them will be given Rs.2,000 per month (28 Euros), for basic needs.


The new welfare program includes education, healthcare and vocational skills training. In special classes the widows are being taught to read and write languages such as English, Hindi and Bengali. Instead of being forced to beg, the women are now able to take part in group sewing sessions and workshops to make incense sticks.


The idea is to change the social attitude towards these widows who have been living a dejected life and add a measure of respect and happiness to their, at present, difficult existence.