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Life after death
Photo by Shome Basu

During the latter part of the Bengal Renaissance, Ishwar Chandra Vidyasagar,an Indian philosopher, reformer, and important figure of the movement, proposed the remarriage of widows in a bid to transform orthodox Hindu society “from within”. When he asked his mother her opinion, she is rumoured to have said, “Women are like pests in the country, crippled with misfortune and affliction. You are going to relieve them from their miseries, and make them happy.” The orthodox Hindus were against this, but widow remarriage started becoming more and more acceptable in society in general. That’s not to say that this retrograde practice doesn’t exist today — it is unfortunately still prevalent in various parts of the country — but the widows in Vrindavan, a town in Uttar Pradesh’s Mathura district, are ready to break the shackles off the stringent patriarchal system that has long stifled their rights. Abandoned by their families, these women land up at Vrindavan’s shelter homes (an initiative taken by Sulabh International, Dr Bindeshawar Phatak, and the government), determined to take charge of their own lives. They don’t wallow in self-pity, and instead partake in various celebratory occasions that come their way, especially festivals such as Holi, Durga Puja and Diwali. My pictures capture some moments of their bliss.

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