Srishti Bhardwaj captures a widow remarriage amidst Diwali celebrations in Vrindavan

Home to almost 6,000 women in white, the holy city of Vrindavan is often called the ‘city of widows.’ This is the place where women come to grieve and spend the rest of their days once their husbands have perished and they have been ostracised by their families. It is not a happy place, its small narrow lanes crammed with people struggling to survive on alms handed out by the community and in shelters. Expected by the society to shun all forms of pleasure and the material world, the widows hang onto their lives with the stubborn drudgery of routine.

Traditionally they are not allowed to participate in any kind of festivities and celebrations. But all of that was forgotten this week as a young widow’s marriage ceremony was officially celebrated in the presence of over 500 widows at the 400-year-old Gopinath Temple, Vrindavan. Manu Ghosh, a 90-year-old widow, who came to live in Vrindavan 30 years ago says that, the marriage should serve as a message for the society that believes that life for a woman should end after the death of her husband.

23-year-old Vinita Devi, the bride, lost her husband in the Kedarnath landslide in 2013. The mother of two children who is from Rudraprayag, lived with her in-laws for two months. She later left to live with her ailing mother and realised that she had no money to take care of herself or her family. She married a taxi driver Rakesh in 2014 in a court ceremony but was shunned by society that didn’t accept her marriage. She then decided to go through a traditional ceremony in Vrindavan, “I think more women should come forward and take decisions of their lives on their own, whether it is about education, career or choosing a life partner.” She will now settle in Uttrakhand.

The wedding was organized by Sulabh International and Bindeshwar Pathak, founder of Sulabh says that, “her marriage before the community is not just an act of courage but a learning that women’s life does not end if she is left alone due to some reason. ”

For the widows who attended the ceremony, it was a moment of collective victory and celebration. 

 

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