Widow’s situation; the Shameful side of Hindu culture
In the Name of the Creator of Mothers
Women situation in Hindu society is so disastrous, in time, some of Indian families get aware of a child-girl pregnancy they try to abort it (1), because they know that based on Hindu cultural rules, they will face with a lot of social and financial problems such as high-cost dowry (2) and so on in future. Hence Indian families mostly prefer to have a male sex than a female one. The survivors and born child-girls, in future will impose high-cost dowry to her family to get marry. The issue to be focused on this article is bad-luck girls in Hindu culture who by losing their husbands, will face a chain of new problems afterwards; they cannot have a new chance to get married again culturally (not legally) ,for instance. (3) Because based on Hindu culture it is forbidden for a Hindu widow to start and taste new life with a new man, the right that other women in the world have it mostly. In other cultures like Iranian or the Middle East, if a women feels no satisfaction with her husband and reach to this point that continuation is impossible for her( or his also), they can legally get divorce and try another chance.
Another Indian girl’s problem backs to the ancient customs, girls used to get married at a very early age, (4) by this kind of marriage, little girls should be separated from their family and join to a new one that is not so familiar and close to them and they had to live with their in-laws in other place maybe long distance from their birth place. This occurs while they weren`t ready to live separate of their parents. And after marriage, if they faced any problem with her-in-laws or husbands, she would have no one to talk or seek support from. Unreachably of parents and relatives for giving help to little girls would make worse the damages they faced. Arrange marriage as an on-going tradition which brings other problems for them, its devil face will be shown when the little girl finds her husband intolerable, but at this time also there is no choice for her and she should live besides an unlovable man till the life ends and culturally it is not evaluative and a moral act to get divorce. (5)
Hindu culture as a male-dominance society, (6) during a marriage’ negotiation also don’t pay attention enough to the girl side’s needs and considers them as an object that based on a contract exchanged among two families, and marriage is not considered a contract between a couple, that reached together during marriage process. (7)
Female’s inferiority in an Indian male-dominated society downgrade half of an Indian society, for example, the people who in Vedic time were enjoyed equal right with men, to have properties.(8) But during the time they changed to an inferior against superiority of males.
Remarry also was a right which was recognized for Hindu’ widows in Vedic period; (9) this right too is taken by the time from women society during centuries and now based on new Hindu culture the widows could not get married again and they should wait to die after their husband death. Although we can see some progresses in Hindu culture in contemporary reforms, by putting Sati (सती) away, a custom that has caused for centuries death of Hindu widows, the people who would throw themselves on their husbands' funeral pyres, to reflect the view of that, they were of little social worth without their protector and breadwinner; a radical Hindu cultural rule that based on an atmosphere for widows constructed that they burnt themselves side of their husband dead body. Although practice sati, has been outlawed, but widows are still traditionally considered inauspicious and the Hindu widows situation is not backed in normal position till now and they are suffering big problems.
At the absent of Sati, now social-cultural compulsory lead widows to leave their society and take shelter somewhere else. for instance , Vrindavan (10) is a city in central India, that is known as a holy town for Widows. Some census reported that, nearly 15,000 widows have taken a roof over their heads in this city. Vrindavan is where, the Hindu god, Krishna is said to have grown up there. Many widows come to this city that have 4,000 Hindu temples, to escape from abuse of others in their home town, or banished by their husbands' families so they won't receive property. Some of these widows also were accused as a cause of their husbands' deaths and so their-in-laws put them under more pressure. So they wish death and escape from such situation and suicide based on Sati, is thought to be better than living likewise.
This is an imposed situation by an old Hindu law, that suggests to widows to reach enlightenment, they should reject luxuries and showy clothes, and should pray, eat a simple vegetarian diet and devote themselves to their husband's memory. (11)
But some social changes show a growing number of widows, who remarry especially in urban areas. Another positive movement is a low that passed by Indian government that all widows over 60 year olds are eligible for receiving a $16 monthly government pension, and food allowance, the capacity that is provided by legal system to use it in favorer of power this backless people, but up to 80% of illiterate widows cannot reach to it during Indian long troublous bureaucratic system. So the charity which has become available by temples and some social activist is the hope for such illiterate widows. Another sources of living fund for this widow is the money who receive from begging.
Regard to Hindu widows, we have face with two kinds of them; the widows who backed by their sons or families and the widows who do not receive any help from their families, So the latter as backless women face with so many problems. Recently Indian Women’ movement regard to improvement of their situation brought some important results; as the act that passed by Lok Sabha (India’ lower house) for protecting women recently. (12)
On the other side you can see some Hindu who because of such cultural laws changed their religion, like Dr.Behim.Rao Ambedkar who converts to Buddhism (13) or the recent case that Miss Kumari Mayawati (born 15 January 1956 in New Delhi) whose Nick Name is Bahenji (Respected Sister) as leader of BSP (Bahujan Samaj Party) is converted to Buddhism also, (14) etc.
Apart from unsuccessful widows in India who are suffering problems, some of them like Miss Indira Priyadarshini Gandhi (1917–1984) who rule India two times as Prime Minister and managed her problems perfectly and control her rivals powerfully. Or Miss Sonya Gandhi as widow of former Prime Minister of India, Mr. Rajiv Gandhi, is one of the world powerful women who announced by Forbes Magazine as one of the 100 Most Powerful Women in the world. But most of Indian widows are not in the position of Miss Sonya Gandhi or her mother-in-law, Miss Indira, to place as India National Congress party (INC) leaders and mobilizing their ability to lead a vast country like India. Most of them are the ordinary people who should live with their-in-law or with their sons or families. If their sons help them they can live as mother among their grandchildren and on the other hand they should return to their families and live with them, otherwise they will find no shelter and no support and should take shelter in some temples; the city like Vrindavan is an example for it.
The first chose for a Hindu’s widow is living with their son’s family; because India is a male-dominance society and their sons can provide a good situation for them in their house, but they can find such facility in their daughter’s house rarely, and it is imaginable that their daughters may also have the same position as inferior in their husband house.
Cultural reforms and governmental legal activity is going to control this situation and in urban area is going to less this problem, but in rural area still this social problem shows itself more strongly than urban area.
The women as the most effect taker and vulnerable in any social - political change or a natural disaster, should be at the core of society’ attention; to less their problem. Mothers who bring us up and give use a safe shelter when we are at a weakness, etc; should keep safe when they need our help, so Hindu society have to solve widow’s problems, when they face with large number of troubles; the difficulties that traditionally imposed to widow’s community.
Hindu society should review its approach to innocent widows who lost their breadwinners. They all are a part of women society with just a small difference; they have just lost their husbands.
2- www.abcnews.go.com › Health
12- www.guardian.co.uk › World news › India
Social Structure of India
by: Dr. Heshmat Sadat Moinifar
Occasional paper on a film Review
By: Seyed Mostafa Mostafavi
M.A Student in Indian Studies
Faculty of world studies - University of Tehran
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