Treatment of Widows in India


My father passed away 6 months ago & now since my mom is a widow, my extended family who is very orthodox don’t even prefer drinking water from her hands. This deeply hurts me and her. And I can do nothing about it which is even more painful. The grief of losing a person is itself so painful. Why we have to face even more grief in this form? I am young so cannot even put sense in them. What does Paramahansa Ji say about such backward thinking which does no good, infact causes pain to people?

—A, India


Dear Friend,

Paramhansa Yogananda made the statement that every country and culture has its own misery-making karma. The treatment of widows in India is one such misery-making cultural practice. Reformers and public awareness have both attempted to erase this tragic trait. Ananda Sangha in India has a special trust in Vrindavan where widows are fed, housed, and given medical care and gainful employment.

It won’t help to criticize your relatives, but perhaps you can bring yourself to a point where you can speak privately and kindly to this one or that one about how hurtful and adharmic (unrighteous) this attitude is. It is superstitious to believe that a widow brings a curse or bad luck to the household in which she remains.

Show the extended family by your own example that you love your mother and cherish her presence in the home and her service to you and others. She is, after all, your mother: a living form of the Divine Mother.

Be firm in your commitment but try to avoid being angry or critical in return. This will not help your mother. It is your time and turn to give back to her as she gave to you life in this incarnation. Make a special effort to be seen with her in the presence of family, neighbors, and the public. Go to the temple, to the market, to a satsang.

For how long must she dress in any certain way indicating her status as a grieving widow? The sooner you can encourage her to step away from affirming her status by her outward appearance and behavior the better — for her and for others to see the example of normality that she can set. The more normal she can be in speech, dress, and attitude the more she can contribute to breaking the “ice” of prejudice. She can be encouraged to be courageous and strong as well as you, too.

Be loyal to your mother and stand up for her soul: eternal, pure, and joyful. Pray for your father and your mother, for their paths have separated and separation is always difficult after so many years shared together.

May the Light of Wisdom shine upon and through you!
Nayaswami Hriman