I have ranted on Indian women being the strongest creatures on the face of earth and I’d say it again for those Indian women who have lost their husband. Their loss is rubbed in at every turn, ironically, in most cases by other Indian women.
The attributes of an Indian lady are her colourful silk saris, pottu, bangles, flowers adorning hair and jewelry. She has those attributes as a maiden but once her husband dies, she is stripped off all the above.
Hindu married ladies wear kungumum/sindhoor on their forehead and on the parting of the hair in front. It is a sign of a married Hindu Indian woman. It serves as the red light in traffic lights which carries the message that a lady wearing sindhoor on her head is taken and any guy intending to woo her to pull the brakes. It is also said to lengthen one's husband's lifespan. Unmarried Hindu ladies, maidens and girls wear only bindi in a variety of colours and shapes, a round dot being the classic shape.), adorn her hair with fragrant flowers. Married Indian Hindu women have another semblance that communicates her marital status, the thali. (Thali is also known as mangalsutr and is tied around a lady's neck by her husband on the wedding dais on their wedding day. It signifies commitment and possession. Yes, you heard me, POSSESSION. Why do you think Indian actresses like Jyothika, Shalini, Kushboo, etc stopped acting as heroines, the former two, quitting acting altogether after they got married when their husbands are still acting, engaging in liplock and intimate scenes? It's because the ladies are now their husbands' possessions, one that cannot be touched by another man even if it is mock and in front of a whole camera crew. I hate this concept of Hindu marriage. Wearing the string like a tethered cow. Again, the presence of the string signifies that she is taken and putting a stop for wooing)
Indian Hindu widows are considered as a bad omen and they are not allowed to stand in the front lines of auspicious functions like weddings, engagements and whatnot.
Widows remarrying is also widely frowned upon by the Indian community. Things are changing but at a very slow pace. Indians here are still generally judgmental at widows as well as female divorcees remarrying particularly if they have children. The moment an Indian Hindu widow considers or even speaks of remarriage, she would be presented with aghast looks and gasps as though she has committed a grave sin or said something highly blasphemous. In extreme cases, she would be called prurient, forgetting that marriage is not all about sex; marriage is contained in companionship and life support mostly. And, often times, the worst censure towards Indian widows come from Indian women.
The same is not true for Indian widowers; they are given the same respect they got when they were married as when before the death of their wife as of after the death of their wife. And, widowers are encouraged to marry especially if they have young children because the children need a mother. That’s why the term and the existence of a single father is not as common as a single mother.
Indian Hindu widow sidelining is not that extreme in Malaysia as it is with the case of widows in India but some semblance of widow discrimination is extant and axiomatic, adhered to strictly by ironically Indian ladies here.
Are Hindu Indian widows meant to be classified as 2nd grade humans?
It is not only an issue that I have a bone to pick with, many Y generation Indians think that Indian maiden attributes should not be put aside once a woman’s husband dies – the doing away of thali and sindhoor is enough, the attributes of a married woman. Even today, many orthodox Hindus oppose the idea. I think it will take time like how sati took its time to get out of existence.
Speaking of sati, it was not performed by Indian widows under compulsion initially – widows jumped on their husbands’ funeral pyres out of their own volition, on the sentiment of not being able to part with their husbands as seen in the cases of Madri, Pandu‘s second wife and Vrushali, Karna‘s wife. They are the forerunners of sati – the earliest depiction of sati predating Jauhar Rani Padmini and Rani Karnavati; the Rajput queens and womenfolk resorted to sati so that they won’t be taken by Muslim conquerors.
In Mahabaratham, widows played prominent roles in administering kingdoms and making decisions in place of their husbands (kings and princes). Rajamata Satyavati governed Hastinapur after the demise of King Shantanu. After the death of Pandu, Satyavati along with her daughters-in-law Ambalika and Ambiga went to the forest for penance and died in the forest; she went to the forest on her own decision, greatly saddened by her grandson, Pandu’s untimely death, not by coercion. Kunti, the widow of Pandu guided her sons and her stepsons, Sahadeva and Nakula (the twin sons of Madri), the Pandavas throughout their lives not only as a mother but an advisor as well as a father figure. Uttara, the widow of Abhimanyu took aarathi for the Pandavas after their victory in the Kurukshetra war.
The above paragraph and observation tells us that widows are not meant to be sidelined and considered as bad omen not only in daily life but also in auspicious events. What was a personal choice of mourning was made into an imposition – Indian widows are made to mourn for the rest of their life by reminding them of the death of their husband every moment of their life.
If we talk about sati now, we say that it’s inhumane and a violation of women and human rights. But, isn’t forbidding Indian widows from partaking actively in auspicious ceremonies and only granting them last/second turn to bless their children on their big days inhumane too? If we can abandon sati, we can abandon the dehumanizing of Indian widows too which is nothing short of malicious superstition designed to subjugate women. There is no term for widower in any Indian languages so it corroborates my claim.
Discard the mentality of considering widows as bad bode
My mother is a widow – my dad went to glory when I was 19. I am utterly upset at my mom’s renunciation of the pottu, glass bangles, colourful sarees and flowers on her hair. I tried to convince her to wear a small pottu black or maroon pottu at least but she pathologically resisted my implore – my mom is one of the most stubborn persons I know and she worries more than what other people would say if she retained the wearing of pottu rather than her child’s (me) desperate plea for her mother to look wholesome and not like a woman mourning the demise of her husband for the rest of her life. It really breaks my heart to see my mom sidelining herself from the center of auspicious religious functions and wearing drab, murky coloured sarees. Why is such punishment meted out on widows for a natural occurrence in which they did not have a hand on? Is losing a husband to death a sin punishable by dehumanizing? I am reminded of a statement an ex World War 2 Japanese soldier made in a documentary I watched. He said that when they raped women, they thought of the women as women but when they killed them, they thought of the women of being lesser than pigs because pigs can be eaten. That’s what Indian widow stigma is.
We, the younger generation of educated, progressive Indians should call for the abortion of such redundant, partisan rites and conforms that are irrelevant to these times.
We should be able to draw the distinction between which cultural rites that we should stick to and those which belong to the dumpster of the present. Garbage has more value than such practices.
Culture should be ever evolving, not ever devolving or stagnant. If one is adamant to live in the past risks his or her present and future’s advancement. I mean, what kind of human being could eschew a woman who has lost her husband who is their mother, aunt, sister, niece, cousin etc? Surely a prick.
The overall aim of life is to be as happy as we could be and no one has the right to steal the happiness of others. Hindu Indian widows deserve the exuberance they had in their maiden and married days. They should flaunt their pottu, wrap themselves in gaily coloured sarees, adorn their hair with flowers and make themselves look beautiful. It is a basic human right and those who think otherwise are nothing but sadists. All women are the embodiment of Maha Lakshmi; no one has the right to say otherwise.
I wonder what would happen if a widow is allowed to be in the frontlines of auspicious occasions. Have anyone really tried it before and found the marriage in which widows did rituals end up in divorce or the baby they blessed on its naming ceremony die before it reached the age of two?
I wonder how a widow who is a mother is told that she cannot bless her son first or bless him at all on his wedding day just because her spouse had died feels..
Indian widows are considered as bad luck, imminent and inauspicious and are discriminated for something which is not their fault and for something no one can do anything about.. A good heart is enough to give blessings – Indian women’s marital status shouldn’t be a criteria to give ashirvatham to their child whom they gave birth to on their wedding day. Above all, above all your beliefs, she’s a mother. Do those who forbid the mother of a son to give her blessings for her son on his wedding day just because her husband is no more have good hearts?
Konjam maathi tha paapome. Kudiya moolghi poyidum?