Widows are some of the most unfortunate people in India. Traditionally, when a husband dies his widow is shunned and ostracized from society, including her own family. Widows are considered to be unlucky and a financial drain, and they are often blamed for their husband’s death. They are not allowed to remarry, and they are forced to shave their heads, wear white and not wear jewelry.
There are an estimated 40 million widows in India today. Despite the Widows’ Remarriage Act, which was passed in 1856, these customs still remain strong. “India is home to a traditional and patriarchal society, where the identity of women is determined by her husband even in the 21st century. Widowhood in such a society takes its worst shape. It is not only associated with losing a bread-winner but has wide ranging social implications.”*
Government assistance programs, such as the Indira Gandhi Widow Pension, are available, but they are restrictive and only help a small portion of women in need.
With little possibility of a bright future, many widows travel to the city of Vrindavan in northern India in the hope that they might die there.
According to Hindu teachings, if one dies in this city it stops the cycle of death and rebirth. There are an estimated 15,000 widows in this city of 55,000 people. They congregate there with the hope that dying in the city will free them from the same fate in their next life.
Diwali Day 4: Padwa, Govardhan or Bali Pratipada In North India this fourth day is celebrated by a special puja (the Mount Govardhan ritual). Mythology recounts that on this day Krishna lifted up the mountain on his little finger to protect the people of Govardhan from the anger of the rain god Indra. Some worshippers recreate Mount Govardhan by shaping cow dung into a mound outside their front door (others create figures out of cow dung), then make a flame offering before it and decorate it with flowers.
WAYS TO PRAY:
PRAY FOR Christian outreach to widows in the city of Vrindavan, that they will be able to share their hope in Christ.
PRAY FOR widows to learn about the everlasting love of Christ, and to have opportunities to continue contributing to society in meaningful ways from which they may find value.
From The Hindu World Prayer Guide