|Photo © Adnan Abidi-Courtesy Reuters|
It is here, in the sacred and holy city of Vrindavan, that a segment of impoverished Indian widows find refuge after the death of their husbands. Being destitute, these women are often cast out of their family homes by her children and in-laws, unable or unwilling to feed an extra mouth.
The widows earn a meager keep by chanting devotional chants on behalf of pious families, and congregate in various ashrams in the city. Hindu widows, mostly from West Bengal, are viewed as being inauspicious by a segment of India's society, and are disallowed from wearing saris other than white.
I don't normally piggyback my own work on that of a photographer I feature on this blog, but I thought I'd supplement Adnan's work with my own White Shadows; an early multimedia production, which feature stills made when I visited Vrindavan. The project was promoted by the Women's United Nations Report.
I also wrote this:
"I am not a polemicist, nor an activist nor am I sufficiently knowledgeable of Indian social issues and culture, but I sense that religious tradition (in this case, Hinduism) is used to justify the dreadful treatment of widows, and that it is really poverty that lies behind the decision to force them out from their families."