Vrindavan Widows

"Only those who go to such places unannounced and without any official clout can see and realise the pathetic conditions in which the destitute women known as Vrindavan widows live there and the way in which they are exploited."

Mathura is the city of God, City of Sri Krishna, City of temples but there is a part of Mathura called Vrindavan which is the city of widows. The ancient name of the city, “Brindaban,” had been named after its ancient groves of “Brinda,” Ocimum tenuiflorum, or Tulsi, with ban meaning a grove or a forest. Two small groves still exist, Nidhivan and  Seva Kunj. It lies in the Braj region. It is about 15km away from Mathura city, the birthplace of Lord Krishna.

Vrindavan is a place where custom seems frozen in time despite its proximity to such symbols of resurgent India. ‘This’ is home for widows with broken rooms and shattered hopes, where white-shrouded widows sleep in courtyard or sometimes on road, open on all sides. ‘This’ is where life is reduced to a hope for death because only death brings salvation. But the truth is Dignity denied even in death for Vrindavan widows.

“In many conservative Indian Hindu families, widows are shunned because they’re seen as bringing bad luck. Superstitious relatives even blame them for their husband’s death. The widow can become a liability with no social standing, an unwanted mouth to feed. Often they’re cast out of the family home. “According to the Dharmashastra, the sacred Hindu legal text, covering moral, ethical and social laws, widows are expected to devote the remainder of their lives to the memory of their husbands. 

For many women in this culture, the loss of a husband can be an upheaval beyond belief. It can be a one-way ticket to isolation, poverty and despair. In Vrindavan, India, widows of all ages are waiting for the moment they, too, will follow their husbands to the fields of death. The widows in Vrindavan today can be found on the streets, in ashrams and other centers in Vrindavan. Vrindavan has over 4,000 temples today and many ashrams. The approximate number of widows living in the holy city today numbers over 20,000.

Conditions in some of the ashrams of Vrindavan go from terrible, human trafficking of younger widows occurs. Their daily work is to go to bhajan ashram and sing for about 3-4 hours per day. These bhajan ashrams are run by rich religious people. They give Rs. 5 and a little bit of rice and a little bit of lentils (Daal-Chawal) to each widow chanting for three hours. Not just any widow can enter in any bhajan ashram and start chanting and then get some money. They have to get registered with the ashram first and then their timing is decided and only then they can work. A part from this this is sad to see that most of the widows living in Vrindavan are involved in begging for surviving.

And when these poor women dies, their death become more horrible than life. The bodies of widows who die in shelter homes in Vrindavan are taken away by sweepers at night, cut into pieces, put into jute bags and disposed of as the institutions do not have any provision for a decent funeral. The supreme court noted the fact order for a "decent" last rites of the widows who pass away, the court directed the chief medical officer to make the arrangements. But condition is still the same.

The widows of Vrindavan who lead tragic, neglected lives have become a cliché. In any modern country, they would be considered productive citizens, capable of contributing to society. But in India their conditions are worse than animals. It is not only the case of Vrindavan but whole India is still living in past. In India conditions are critical for widows, abandoned on the death of their husbands with no resources of their own, appear with no chance for education, no protection from possible rape and no chance for a better life. They face situations of hunger, starvation and negligence as they try to survive with only one small plate of food a day. 

This is a small request to all my fellow Indian "A widow wants society’s acceptance more than its charity" Please think about it!


  1. really felt bad after reading this article. i felt ashamed of myself being an Indian, I didnt know this. well, even if i knew, I would not be able to do anything. I hate religion for this sake. In the name of superstitions and idiotic beliefs, people have to suffer.

  2. Ravi Kiran MaddaliApril 18, 2013 at 3:31 PM

    I appreciate the efforts of Ms. Mugdha in bringing this into light. I would like to know if anybody is working for the welfare of such widows? More information is solicited.

  3. Thank you Mugdha for this information - I think India has to solve its' social problems, which seem to be largely because of the religion and caste issues, before it can attempt to be a "great nation"! The issue of inheritency of women in the family property and there care by the children after the husband dies should be regulated legally.


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