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15 July, 2013
10:30 AM
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Diwali In Vrindavan

Diwali In Vrindavan

Diwali is a festival when families come together to celebrate. However, for the widows living in Vrindavan, Diwali is a day of living through past memories of the good old days when they used to celebrate this festival with their families, full of glee.

People travel far and wide to be with their families on this occasion and for many families, this is the only time when the entire family is together under one roof.

However, for the widows living in Vrindavan (Mathura), Diwali is a day of living through past memories of the good old days when they used to celebrate this festival with their families, full of glee. The Diwali shopping, sweets, crackers, lights have all become a thing of the past for the widows who are living away from their families in the widow shelters of Vrindavan now.

A large number of these widows lit oil lamps at the 'Keshi Ghat' of the Yamuna in Vrindavan last night, praying for an end to the darkness in their lives. Vimla Devi (name changed) said that after her husband passed away, she was mistreated by her son and daughter-in-law, who forced her to leave the house. With nowhere to go, she came to the widow shelter in Vrindavan and has been living here for the past seven years. Every Diwali, she is reminded of the celebrations she participated in when her husband was alive.

Although social organizations do try to provide these widows some happiness by organizing Diwali celebrations at widow shelters, the lack of a family to celebrate Diwali with, is what hurts them the most. Sulabh International is one of the few organizations that has been holding these celebrations for the widows for the past several years and now other organizations have also joined in, distributing sweets at the widow shelters, holding celebrations, lighting lamps and distributing sparklers etc. in an effort to bring a smile on the faces of these widows.

Although widows come to these shelters from all states of the country, the maximum number of women come from West Bengal, Odisha, and Assam, where social norms cause ostracisation of widows and they have nowhere to go, except come to these shelters. Every year, hundreds of widows arrive in Mathura, Vrindavan, and Gokul from all parts of the country to live in more than a dozen widow shelters that are functioning here.

The women living in these shelters have a daily routine of praying through the morning hours and then do their daily chores. Most shelters are running on grants from various social organizations and private individuals, with no assistance from the state or central governments. Most widows never get any contact from their families and neither do their families make any donations to the shelter where their relative is living. Vishal Sharma, vice-chairman of Hindustani Biradari, said that his organization will write to central and state governments, appealing the Prime Minister and the CMs of various states to take care of their citizens who have been forced to live in such conditions.

He added, " Even the Mathura administration should play an active role in the care of these widows who have nowhere to go after being cast away by their own families. The Chief Medical Officer should make it a point to visit these shelters and oversee regular medical checkups of the widows, while the social welfare department should ensure that the conditions in which these women are living are habitable."