Life of widows in India

SS Kumar By SS Kumar, 29th Mar 2015 | Follow this author | RSS Feed
Posted in Wikinut>Writing>Columns & Opinions

The article explains the complexities of an Indian widow living in patriarchal joint families. The need to change the perceptions have never been greater than now.

Women in India!

A post had appeared in Facebook that the Hindu religious heads discriminate widows by refusing audience and offering holy water, unless they get tonsured; dressed in a simple off-white sari, and wear only a basil-bead chain. The thread triggered a volley of supportive posts and condemnations as well. I add my personal comments only in relation to the subject.

Ancient India accorded an equal position to women in the society. One woman was allowed to have many husbands and women could choose their husbands through Swayamvara, from many eligible men. Ardhanareeshwara, depicted an equal proportion of man and woman god to symbolize the gender equality.

The Vedic period failed to protect the rights of women. According to Atharva Veda, Sati a form of self sacrifice, practiced by widows on the pyre of their husband’s corpse became an accepted ritual.

Mauryan India denigrated women, and the attitude was only to some extent softened during Buddha period. Emperor Ashoka had to appoint a special force called Mahamattasthat for the welfare of women. Discriminatory practices like tonsure of head infiltrated much later from the north to south India. Perhaps in the South, the women and the widows were treated better than in the North.

Widow remarriage act, their rights to property, and the overall acceptance have presently changed their status in the society, though the religion keeps the widow at a remorseful distance.

Manu Smriti allegedly written around 1250 BC-1000BC weakened the position of women, though an argument could be advanced that the conditions at that time were greatly different from now. Widows had to look unattractive and therefore a code of appearance and conduct were prescribed.

Those in support of Manusmriti may justify the script as being considerate to women, to me the statement Na stree svaatantryam arhati (IX.3) -a woman does not deserve independence- is blatantly discriminatory against women. Many Hindu Mutts and Acharyas blindly followed and are still following the Smriti, refusing to step out of the time machines they have imprisoned themselves in.

One must take a leaf out of the present status of Pope Francis, who is a radical reformer, lunching with gays and transgender inmates. He has a stated position on abortion and euthanasia though! Different churches in many countries have started solemnizing same sex marriages. Their religion is in introspection and is changing to times.

Our gurus and religious zealots too should come out of their time warp, to make the religion compatible to the modern society and accord a dignified position to widows in the society


Widow, Widow Remarriage, Widows

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author avatar Melissa Dawn
29th Mar 2015 (#)

Thank you for sharing this article. I had no idea about this and I learned a lot. Hope to read more from you.

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author avatar SS Kumar
29th Mar 2015 (#)

Thanks Melissa. We indeed are still steeped I many old beliefs.

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author avatar Lady Aiyanna
29th Mar 2015 (#)

Well the Kerala Hindus have the matriarchal form of life wherein the Woman is the head of the family wherein all rights are within the woman not the man and the man actually takes on her name upon marriage.

None the less, multiple partnering in women is usually seen in some of the North Indian Tribal cultures although it is looked down upon by days of modernity. This is only done as a form of safety for the woman because of the terrain out there wherein the truth is one goes out to bring food for the family while the other takes care of the woman and her family thereby not letting her do the man's job that is predominantly seen in the modernity of life being.

With regard to widowhood, well no matter what religion you quote and their Smritis and Upanishads etc. you find that women are NOT respected in India whether they are married or widowed.
You look at your own self and marriage and you will know the truth of others before getting too philosophical on me.
I made a mistake and married into a Hindu household and that is when I saw the fact that they never respected me for the religion I am despite producing a male heir with the eldest progeny of the family. The crime was my religion and something your ruling party of the BJP supports too and is currently asking for 4 children preferably male being produced by every Hindu household. Its was there in the Times of India so you can check the archives there.

None the less, Sati was one of the ways of killing women and in a land where female infanticide is predominant, well I am not surprised as the Tamils are known for the female infanticide and the ratio of men to women shows that India has a shortage of women too.
Now you also have johar which is a traditional immolation to protect chastity which is so very lacking in todays society.

Not to mention the caste system and how your world parades the Dalit women naked for the crime of the man dying prematurely, raping her for being single and a lot of other atrocities which you as an Indian would know and apart from the fact that the mother of a male child is usually the criminal who performs it.

When daughter in-laws like myself get the proof in hand all that is left is a dowry harassment case wherein both mother and son are put into prison for harassing women. Its not just when it is widowhood but more for the crime of being born female. This is why I moved away from India to stay abroad because of shame of the land that indoctrinates great teachings in yoga and ayurveda has poor practices towards women and their lives are made hell living for just one crime of being born one.

I am female, dad brought me up as a male and he showed it publicly by educating me with the highest and the best education and honestly I should have listened to him and not married the Hindu Bastard who belongs to the BJP who slept with his Hindu Sister In Laws none the less to produce more kids and that is acceptable in the Hindu law as part of traditional aspects of Hinduism.

Not to mention Sororate and Levirate wherein Sons marry their mothers and have progenies too and vice versa.

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