Shunned by their own families, thousands of Hindu widows make their way to the holy city of Vrindavan in northern India to find solace. But most also end up impoverished and neglected.
Located on the banks of the river Yamuna in the state of Uttar Pradesh, Vrindavan is considered sacred to India’s majority Hindu population. It’s believed to be the birthplace of Lord Krishna, one of the most revered gods in Hinduism. With more than 5,000 temples, ashrams of various religious gurus and sects, the town is one the most visited pilgrimage sites in India.
It is also home to more than 10,000 widows, most of them living lives of destitution and neglect and surviving by begging on the streets.
Plight of the Widows
A global report on widows by the charity Loomba Foundation found there are 46 million widows in India, which makes up more than 9% of the population.
Those who make it to Vrindavan come from a broad cross-section of society, but they are also one of the most neglected and marginalised groups in the country.
One study by the National Commission for Women found the majority of widows living in Vrindavan are illiterate and have no access to government pension schemes or subsidised meal schemes.
How Sulabh Brought a Ray of Hope & Light into the Lives of the Widows
When I first moved to Vrindavan (in 2012), to get first-hand experience of the condition of the widows, I was a horrified to learn about their heart-wrenching plight “It was inhumane and was a blot on our culture and civilisation.“
~ Dr. Bindeshwar Pathak
How Sulabh Changed the Lives of Widows at Vrindavan?
One of the important steps Dr. Pathak, took was to provide the financial security, by distributing the money directly to the widows.
“Money offers the widows much-needed security and by paying it to them directly rather than giving it to the officials who run the shelters, we guarantee they have control over the money and they can spend it in the manner they want,” ~ Dr. Bindeshwar Pathak
Dr Pathak’s idea was not just to help them but to bring a smile on their face so that they could live their remaining live with confidence and hope. He showered them with love and affection.