Post Card From India – The Elusive Widows of Vrindavan

Post Card From India – The Elusive Widows of Vrindavan

Vrindavan, located on the banks of the Yumuna River, is the birth place of Hinduism’s Lord Krishna. The town is filled with hundreds of temples and ashrams and is home to several thousand widows and destitute women. It is these widows we came to see. They live in rather austere conditions in ashrams, or rooms run by the government or NGOs. Their only means of support is to pray and sing Bhajans or mantras in exchange for a free meal. Though their existence is very basic and, many would say, inadequate, it is better than their previous abusive conditions. Becoming a widow often means being abandoned or abused by their families.

We interviewed three of these women and I will be telling their stories in future posts.

In the meantime a few photos of the Widow of Vrindavan.

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Ron Mayhew

Fine Art Photographer specializing in Still Life and Commercial Photography.

This Post Has 16 Comments

  1. Striking images. Look forward to the future stories.

    1. Thank Cynthia. There’s is such an amazing story.

  2. Incredible photos, particularly the hands. I especially noticed the women with grey/blue eyes; so expressive. This must be quite an experience. Thanks for the posting. Hope to see more.
    All the Best, Mickey

    1. Thank Mickey and thank you for visiting. Yes, the entire trip was an extraordinary experience.

  3. Amazing images, yet so sad.

    1. Sad yes, but many of the women seem to be quite content.

  4. Ron, your photos are emotionally devastating, which I think is exactly as it should be. The best photographs do not need words to tell their stories and you have certainly accomplished that lofty goal with the post. Congratulations. Out of curiosity, did they welcome you? Did you offer them any compensation for the photos? Whatever the answers, really well done. Thanks for sharing.

    1. Hi Tina. Thank you for your thoughtful comment. I will be delving deeper into their stories in future posts. The widows were very welcoming and enjoyed having their pictures taken. No I do not pay for photos. I ask for permission and if they say no, I walk on. However, after interviewing and spending time with three of the widows we gave each a few rupees. It was not a condition of the interview, it was simply something we wanted to do.

  5. Beautiful and haunting images. Thank you very much for sharing. As the old cliche goes, one picture is worth a thousand words, works for me. Great job of digging into the culture.

    1. Thanks Jack. The culture is so fascinating and begs to be delved into,

  6. This was a substantial tit-bit Ron, but I must say I’m looking forward to your full post. It will be fascinating to learn the back stories to the lives of these women I only learned about when Deepa Mahta was forced to abandon filming ‘Water’ in Varanasi a few years ago (eventually coming to Sri Lanka to finish her lyrical and devastating project.)

    1. Thank you Meredith. The filming of “Water” has made access to the widows more difficult. The government and NGOs that look after them are sensitive to criticism and less willing to give outsiders access. We contacted a NGO before we left which enabled us to see more of their daily lives and to talk to several.

  7. I liked the post because the images are so sad and haunting. But this is one thing that really saddens me. It’s almost brutal the way these women are left by their families to fend for themselves, all alone and at this age. Its shameful!!!

    1. I agree with you 100%. The reason behind their abandonment is often economic and apparently Hindu tradition allows for it. But, that does not make any of it morally right, IMO.

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