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Widows of Vrindavan - Widows find sole refuge in Krishna's love

Madhava - Sat, 26 Oct 2002 03:47:53 +0530
How often do we visit Braj and meet the beggars, ladies and men alike? I know many people are very reluctant to contribute a rupee even, despite their spending thousands of rupees at Loi Bazaar without a blink of an eye. Here's an interesting article I read.

Widows find sole refuge in Krishna's love

Vrindavan, Oct 25

Dressed in pure white, thousands of Hindu widows thrown out by their families have reluctantly found sanctuary in Vrindavan, the town of the Lord Krishna's young loves.

More than 30 years ago, Janaki was exiled to this northern Indian town of thousands of temples and monasteries. Now 65, Janaki had been instantly thrown into poverty when her husband died.

"My brothers-in-law told me I had to disappear with my husband," says Janaki, her head clean-shaven and her face emaciated.

"They took my house and told me to go to Vrindavan and wait for death to come. I had no other choice."

Like other widows living in this pilgrimage centre, some 150 kilometres southeast of New Delhi, Janaki has been reduced to begging to support herself.

Janaki and many others here are from West Bengal and are Brahmins.

For three decades, Janaki has held out her hand for change from the masses of foreigners who stroll the streets of Vrindavan, the home of the Hare Krishnas, a controversial Hindu movement founded in the 1960s in the United States.

The widows spend eight hours a day in ashrams reciting prayers to the glory of Krishna, the god of divine love. In exchange, they get one rupee a day and a serving of rice.

But the ashrams do not provide housing, and the widows stay instead in shabby shacks on Vrindavan's outskirts. "Very often we don't have enough money to rent the shacks we live in, so we're out in the streets," says Janaki.

She holds almost jealously a miniature of Krishna, playing his flute surrounded by shepherd girls. "He is my last hope, my only comfort," she says, her voice breaking. "He is covering me with love."

It is a common refrain for the widows of any age, as if they have directed any remaining feelings of sensuality toward Krishna.

"He is all we have left. He is our father, our lover, our god," says Suneti. She lost everything else last year at age 25 when her husband died in a car accident.

"My in-laws took my two children away from me and told me that if I didn't come here I would bring shame on the family," said Suneti, her flowing brown hair covered by a veil.

"My father took me to this place and told me we were never to see each other again."

Suneti has since renounced make-up and clothing of any colour except white. She wears the pitchfork symbol of Krishna, who "protects" her.

Her sole income comes from begging and the few rupees handed to her by priests in exchange for hours of prayer recitation.

She acknowledges that some of her fellow widows end up living through prostitution, something she says she will never do. "Local men know that we're helpless. Some of them know how to take advantage of us," she says.

Suneti has to cut the conversation short - it is time for prayers in exchange for her daily rice.

Surrounded by hundreds of other white silhouettes, she heads to the Bhagwan Bhajan, the city's largest ashram, to chant Hare Ram, Hare Krishna, the prayer she will recite every day until death delivers her from this life.

Full article :: AFP 2000