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Widowhood in the Indian Society

Widowhood in the Indian Society
Dr. Radhika Kapur
Since the past period, women in India have been regarded as one of the most
disadvantaged sections of the society. The low status of women and particularly the widows,
can be traced back to post-Vedic era, where restrictions were imposed upon widows to
contribute towards socio-religious functions and ceremonies. Depending upon certain
situations, they were regarded as inauspicious. Subsequently, more restrictions were put on
widows, belonging to marginalized communities. There are numerous problems that are
experienced by them, but there have been implementation of measures and schemes to
upgrade their status within the society. The main purpose of this research paper is to
understand widowhood in the Indian society. The areas that have been taken into account are,
widowhood perceived through the ages, socio-cultural and psychological conditions of
widows, problems of widowhood, empowerment of widows, property rights of widows,
significance of religious places for widows and measures leading to improvement in the
status of widows.
Keywords: Widow, Society, Conditions, Property Rights, Religious Places, Measures,
In Accordance to the 1991 Census of India, there are 33 million widows in India. This
accounts for eight percent of the total female population, or one out of every 13 women.
Large section of these widows are living in religious places like Vrindavan, Varanasi,
Mathura, Hardwar, Puri and mobility to these religious places is a continuous process. These
places are not only having a high population of widows but also accommodate many women
residing in destitute conditions. In the patriarchal society like India, when the husband of the
woman expires, she is looked upon as a burden by the entire family and is forced to lead a life
of the recluse. This is mainly in the case of women belonging to disadvantaged and
marginalized communities. Strict social customs and rituals are imposed upon them, and they
have to abstain themselves from a number of other areas (An Exploratory Study, n.d.).
Widows were started to be seen as unfavourable throughout the social classes. Various
norms were placed on them relating to food and socio-religious behaviour. They abstained
from wearing jewels and were supposed to dress in white. Somewhere in the medieval period,
the practice of sati was started in some parts of Rajputana and later spread to many parts of
the country. There were initiation of many socio-religious movements to abolish sati and
encouraging widow remarriage. But somehow even after more than one and half centuries,
nothing much has changed for the widows and they still continue to follow the same norms,
and principles. The condition of the widows in rural areas is more pitiful. After the death of
their husbands, in most cases, they are driven out of their homes and left to fend for
themselves. In many cases, when these widows are driven out of their homes, they often land
up in religious places (An Exploratory Study, n.d.).
Widowhood perceived through the Ages
The lives and status of the widows through the ages have been stated as follows: (An
Exploratory Study, n.d.).
Vedic Period - In the Vedic period, a widow had to perform symbolic self-immolation
at the death of her husband. In one of the funeral hymens of the Rig Veda, the widow lies
down besides the dead man and his bow is placed in his hand, then the bow is removed and
the woman is called on to return to the land of the living. It is not clear whether the rite was
restricted to the aristocracy alone. It may have been the origin of the practice of sati when, in
later centuries, a widow actually burnt herself on her husband’s funeral pyre. By medieval
times, the custom became more common, and there are uncountable sati stones all over India
observing the many faithful wives who followed their husbands in death.
Medieval India - The emergence of the Bhakti movement, the cult of devotion to God,
opened up another passage for women in medieval India, wherein they could transcend their
social or familial roles and direct their sexual and emotional energy. In the medieval period,
widows were mostly devoted towards religious movements and beliefs. They even inverted
the traditional ideals of womanhood by rejecting marriage and family and protesting against
the patriarchal social conventions.
Modern India – In the modern era, there were movements to liberalize the attitudes
towards the widows, eliminate practices like sati and give them access to religious life. The
opportunities began to develop during this period, leading to empowerment of women, they
enhanced their educational qualifications and acquire roles of professionals such as, doctors,
lawyers, teachers and journalists. Only for the past two or three decades, the Government of
India, voluntary organizations and social science researchers have become aware of gender
discrimination in general and discrimination of widows, in particular. The discriminatory
treatment that was observed in case of widows, led to affirmative actions like welfare
measures, empowerment effort and initiation of research to understand the problems of
women in general and widows in particular. It is unfortunate that many of the affirmative
programmes like welfare and empowerment and even research studies do not recognize
widows as a separate category, requiring separate treatment but they are considered as a part
of the general category of women. Widowhood is painful, unfavourable and humiliating for
women, because of discriminations and ritual sanctions of the society against the widows.
Widows in India not only suffer social and economic sanctions but also face many
psychological consequences, seclusion and in many cases deprivation, causing emotional
disturbances and inequality.
Socio-Cultural and Psychological Conditions of Widows
The socio-cultural and the psychological conditions of widows have been highlighted
in the following points: (An Exploratory Study, n.d.).
Residence - There are widows who become permanent residents of certain religious
places, where they are residing. The reason being, the widows normally dedicate themselves
to religious devotions and movements, hence, in holy cities, they usually reside permanently.
There are other groups of widows, who do not reside in religious places, but stay for a
temporary time period, out of their own will or compulsion, they are stated to be the most
distressed. There are widows, who visit a religious place for one month in the holy month of
Kartika to observe the rituals and then go back to their own homes. These widows also
experience adversities during their stay at the religious places, but are not as disadvantaged as
the ones who stay here permanently, without their own home. There are quite a few widows
who visit religious places on various festive occasions and stay here for some time and go
back to their villages. Widows, who have grown up children, usually live in their own homes
and their children respect them, primarily for being their mothers.
Age - From the perspective of the age group, most of the women seem to be widowed
at a later age, i.e. after 40 years of age. This is not to plan it as a trend of widowhood
happening in the state. Widows normally belong to all age groups. As the scope of the
research on widows is rigorously confined to the religious places of Vrindavan, Mathura,
Varanasi, and Puri, this seems to hold good as one can observe the lifestyle of the elderly
widows residing in these religious places. When research was conducted, it was found that in
most cases, women attained widowhood after obtaining the age of 40. There seems to be a
small percentage of women who were widowed at a young age of less than 25 years.
Basic Amenities – There have been cases of widows, when they are not provided with
basic amenities of food and shelter and are forced to leave the house. The primary reason for
the lack of basic amenities is, they are considered inauspicious and burden by the family
members. The death of the husband is stated to be a condition of distress for women, the
main problem that they experience is of finances and how they will sustain themselves. There
have been instances, when widows go and live in ashramas, where their needs are taken care
of. There are reasonable number of widows who stay in ashramas, they either live here on
their own or they are forced to live here by their family members. Within the course of time
period, widows find their living pleasurable, as they get along with other individuals.
Financial Background – Finances is regarded as the imperative means for living an
efficient life and in meeting the needs and requirements. In some cases, widows were
financially not strong and found it difficult to sustain their conditions. This is primarily a fact
for women, belonging to socio-economically backward sections of the society. Their monthly
income was less than 3000 Rupees. On the other hand, there were widows, who were
financially strong and found it manageable to meet their as well as the requirements of their
family members. Their monthly income was 6000 Rupees or even more. The destitute
conditions of the widows are to some extent responsible for the hostile attitude of the other
individuals towards them. The main reason that compel them to leave their homes is the lack
of financial resources.
Treatment by Family Members and Friends – The treatment that widows experience at
the hands of the family members and friends varies. There have been instances, when widows
are not treated well by their in-laws. The various types of negative treatment that widows
experience from their in-laws include, misbehaviour, verbal abuse, physical abuse, taunting
and indifference. On the other hand, there are various types of positive treatments as well,
these are, providing care and treating them with sympathy and respect. There have been
cases, when parents of the widows developed an apathetic attitude towards their daughters.
On the other hand, there have been parents, who developed concern and frequently visited
their daughters. Children normally cared for and respected their widowed mothers. Widows
normally lived in isolation and did not get much involved in social and cultural activities of
daily life, therefore, their social circle was not large.
Personal Appearance and Lifestyle - A widow should give up ornamenting her hair,
chewing betel-nut, wearing perfumes, flowers, ornaments and coloured clothes. They are
supposed to take food from a vessel of bronze, take two meals a day, apply collyrium to her
eyes, should wear a white garment, should restrain their senses and anger, she should not
resort to deceitfulness and trickeries, should be free from sluggishness and sleep, should be
pure, moral, truthful and of good conduct, should always worship God, should sleep on the
floor at night on a mat, she should be determined on concentration of mind and on the
company of the good. The lifestyle of the widows is simple and they mostly devote
themselves to pursuing of religious attitudes and beliefs. They do not participate in social and
cultural ceremonies and functions.
Problems of Widowhood
Not only in India, but widows all over the world have been found to experience
problems, particularly regarding social, cultural, economic and psychological aspects. These
have been stated as follows:
Finance – Finances is the major problem of the widows in India. Large number of
widows experience difficulties in meeting the basis needs for themselves and their family
members. With regards to their children, the major problems experienced are, unable to make
provision of nutritious food, clothing and school fees. The other problems are, they are
unable to obtain luxury items, maintain give and take with friends and community members,
pay back the loans borrowed by their husbands, and meet personal expenses. Another major
concern that widows always worry about is, how they would pay dowry and meet the
marriage expenses of their children. Since financial problems of the widows is severe, as a
result, they restrain their expenses on food, clothing, social, cultural and recreational
activities (Singh, & Gill, n.d.).
Child Rearing – Majority of the widows indicated that they experience problems
regarding child rearing. Many of them experienced difficulties in taking care of the daily
requirements of the children, taking care of illnesses and health problems of the children, and
disciplining them. Problems of helping children in their school assignments, selection of
subjects for their higher studies, getting them enrolled in higher educational institutions,
employment opportunities, taking them for outings and leisure activities, picnics and trips to
hill stations, and making arrangements for their weddings, are also expressed by the widows.
The lack of proper source of income may become the foundation for the added difficulties in
adapting to widowhood. There have been cases, when children do not obey their single
parents and become maladjusted, therefore, for the widows, controlling and disciplining them
is a major problem (Singh, & Gill, n.d.).
Personal and Social Life – The problems relating to personal and social life are
common amongst widows. There were severe restrains imposed upon their personal
appearance, they were not allowed to wear embellished garments and were supposed to dress
up soberly. They felt isolated and withdrawn and experienced problems in communicating
with the other individuals. They were supposed to manage the household requirements on
their own, take care of their needs on their own and need to develop abilities to deal with the
outside world. In case of social functions, they catered to the needs of the guests by
themselves. Widows usually develop fear from number of factors, such as, criticism and
mistreatment from family members and friends, staying alone at night, and in going out in the
community functions. In some cases, as a result of these factors, they become withdrawn
from the society (Singh, & Gill, n.d.).
Violence and Mistreatment – Widows are regarded by the society with suspicion.
There have been instances, when they are looked upon with suspicion of having murdered
their husbands, mainly for property and wealth. The prevalence of this attitude does not
enable them to live a life of respect and admiration. There has been prevalence of different
forms of violence and mistreatment against them. They are verbally and physically abused,
harassed and are deprived of getting engaged in weddings, ceremonies and other celebrations,
and even get evicted from homes. Another form of mistreatment is cutting off their hair and
abstaining them from wearing any cosmetics or jewellery. In some cases, they even lose
rights of obtaining custody of their children and are not allowed to meet them. In some cases,
they are malnourished, because they do not obtain a healthy and a nutritious diet (The
Challenges Faced by Widows, n.d.).
Forced Child Marriage - The daughters of the widows, residing in the conditions of
poverty and backwardness are also at the risk of violence of a forced child marriage. A
common action of poverty stricken and deprived status widows is to remove their daughters
from school and to marry them, or sell them to older men. They possess this viewpoint that
they will not be able to take care of the needs and requirements of their daughters and regard
them as liabilities, therefore, they marry them off at an early age. In the framework of the
HIV and AIDS pandemic, such men are often widowers, and carriers of the HIV virus. Child
marriage is itself a violence, but most of these young girls become child widows, they also
are subject to the stigma and violence that their mothers faced (Sahoo, 2014).
Conflicts - Armed conflict and post conflict has resulted in a massive increase in the
numbers of widows, since a common feature of present day conflicts is the separation and
killing of men and boys, and the sexual violence including rape and harassment of women
and girls is the outcome of the occurrence of conflicts. In some conflicts, widows have had to
witness the murder of their husbands, before or after they have suffered any type of mental
torture. The widows experience threats to their lives, violence and often death sentence. It is
vital for them to be courageous enough to give evidence against the rapists at the
international or national tribunals. Displacement as a consequence of war have a negative
impact on the status of widows and their dependents disproportionately, since without any
adult male protector they are at a risk, whether in IDP or refugee camps, or in flight seeking
safety across the frontiers (Sahoo, 2014).
Homelessness – The problem of homelessness amongst widows is common. When a
person is residing on the roads, pavilions, ashramas or a friend’s or a relative’s house, then he
is stated to be homeless. When individuals do not have their own homes or shelters, they are
stated to be homeless. Widows experience this problem, when they get evicted from the
house by their family members, which mainly includes in-laws, or children. The problems
that take place due to homelessness are severe. They experience health problems and
illnesses, are unable to obtain nutritious diet and clean drinking water, as a result they are
under-nourished, unable to meet the needs and requirements of their young children, unable
to acquire employment opportunities to sustain their living conditions and in some cases, this
problem even compel them to sell their children. Their condition becomes deprived and are
unable to obtain a luxurious and a comfortable living.
Problems of Child Widows – The problems that are experienced by child widows are
more severe, since they contribute in depriving them from all their childhood activities. The
major problem that child widows experience are particularly related with the acquisition of
education. There have been instances, when girls become widows, before they have attained
the age of 18 years. In such a young age, they are subjected to all kinds of restraints that
widows are supposed to follow. They are supposed to be dressed in white, abstain from
wearing ornaments and cosmetics, abstain from consuming certain food items, luxuries and
comforts and devote themselves to religious beliefs. The major barrier that arises is within the
course of acquisition of education and getting enrolled in educational institutions. Throughout
their lives, they have to follow religious texts, norms, values and beliefs.
Empowerment of Widows
The widows in the past as well as in the present existence in some areas are neglected
and are regarded as the unrepresented group in the Indian society. The domineering
traditional social norms and values have been implemented upon the widows after the demise
of their husbands. They are denied even the basic human rights like attending ceremonies,
writing letters to friends and relatives and getting engaged in other social and cultural
services. The widows, in most cases fear that they will be mistreated and harassed by other
men. They are provided with low protein food and are meant to live in isolated places within
the house, they are regarded as symbols of misfortune. They are forbidden from appearing in
the public. Widows in India are experiencing lot of hardships due to traditional norms,
cultural practices and beliefs in the society. They were forced to withdraw completely from
the social life of the community and were made to follow a severe discipline which made
their existence a virtual social death. Due to these factors, they developed apprehensiveness
and vulnerability. Efforts were made during the early colonial period to work toward
implementation of reforms to improve the condition of widows in India (Anji, & Velumani,
Several supporters and activists have struggled for the rights of widows. Social reform
movements started in various parts of India that had the main objective of enhancing the
status of widows. Such social uprisings have led to the adoption of various legislative
measures including the Abolition of Sati Act, the Hindu widows Re-Marriage Act etc. The
measures have been put into practice to give recognition to the widows. They are allowed to
move out of their secluded places and render a contribution in ceremonies and other events.
Discriminatory treatments against them should be abolished and they should be given rights
and opportunities. Various Welfare Schemes for the advancement of widows have been
introduced in Tamil Nadu, since the launching of the Five Year Plans. Several Welfare
Organisations have been working for the upliftment of widows. What needs to be researched
is, how far have these legislations, reforms, social activism and welfare schemes brought
about the transformations within their lives (An Exploratory Study, n.d.).
The main factors that lead to empowerment of the individuals are, education,
employment opportunities, participation in social, political, cultural and economic affairs,
working towards welfare of the family and community and generating awareness and
knowledge regarding various areas that are needed to live an efficient life. The viewpoints of
the widows towards various factors like remarriage, employment opportunities, participation
in politics, social and cultural affairs, education after widowhood, child adoption and other
activities leading to well-being are positive. On the other hand, the attitude of other
individuals towards widows, particularly the parents-in-laws, brothers-in-law and other
women towards them was negative. These negative attitudes primarily prove to be barriers
within the course of attaining empowerment. Some of the approvals like compulsory
education for women, employment to widows, property rights in the name of widows,
formation of Self Help Groups for widows will bring about immense changes and
transformations within their lives. The primary factors that lead to empowerment of not only
widows but also other women are education and employment (An Exploratory Study, n.d.).
In rural communities, girls within the family are usually considered as liabilities, and
their parents believe in marrying them off at an early age. They are usually trained regarding
the performance of the household chores and married off. There have been number of child
widows within the country. There have been cases, when they are supported and sent to
schools by their parents or in-laws. The main motive of getting child widows enrolled in
schools is leading to their empowerment, and helping them in acquiring self-sufficiency.
Upon the death of their husband, their life usually comes to a halt, they do not possess any
awareness regarding what to do with their lives, hence, getting them educated will enable
them to acquire self-support and they will be able to become achievement oriented. On the
other hand, adult widows are acquiring education, knowledge and getting engaged in various
types of jobs and employment opportunities, they even work as entrepreneurs and have their
own businesses. In the present existence, in urban and rural areas, widows have all the rights
and they are not bound by any rigid social, and cultural norms, beliefs and practices.
Property Rights of Widows
The suggestions made to recommend the registration of joint property in the name of
both husband and wife have been stated as follows: (Chen, & Jean, 1995).
The transfer of property should take place automatically and rapidly, after the death of
the husband, the widow's name should be automatically entered in the land records. Further,
if the husband's share of land is still held jointly with his father and, or brothers,
transformation and divider of the holding should take place simultaneously. The responsible
property dealer should be made responsible for ensuring that transformation and partition
takes place. The right to property is stated as the basic right and widows should be given first
The land registers or records are required to be rationalized and habitually maintained
in the light of these recommendations. Landless widows should be given significance, when
there is distribution of cultivable land by the Government. Widows, who do not have access
to land ownership, are given preference, when there is allocation of cultivable land by the
Further, when the land is allocated to married couples, it should be registered equally
in the name of both husband and wife. Modern legislation relating to the property rights of
widows should be enforced. The rules and policies should be formulated in an adequate
manner to ensure that widows have the right to property, upon the death of their husbands.
The Hindu Succession Act 1956 is required to get amended to invalidate the provision
according to which, a man is allowed to will away his entire property. State tenancy laws
need to be reviewed for unambiguous biases against women in general and widows in
particular. In the previous cases, widows were denied property and they even got evicted
from their homes. Hence, there have been cases, when widows are given rights in the
Land reform acts need to be reviewed for unambiguous biases against women in
general and widows in particular. The state should get involved in cases of bigamy, the reason
being, only the first wife can file a suit against the husband and of levirate, the reason being,
enforced remarriage through levirate is one way of denying a widow of her property rights.
Awareness of modern law should be promoted, and widows should be helped to
implement their legal inheritance rights. It is important to conduct research on the following
issues, these are, options available to widows regarding inheritance of property and
remarriage and motivation available on the part of the women regarding making their own
choices. The implementation of joint family system should be done in an efficient manner.
Customary practices and how they interact and interfere with the Statutory Law. The gap
needs to be identified between theory and practice of law and how differences can be
reduced. The reasons behind women have internalized the notion of property rights by the
men. The strategies that have been implemented by others to deprive widows of their
inheritance rights and the approaches that they can follow to exercise these rights.
Significance of Religious Places for Widows
Despite an increase in the literacy rate and recognition of the significance of
education, the attitude of the society and the family still has not improved towards the
widows. The widows in rural areas are still looked down upon and are deprived of certain
rights. Only those widows who have grown up sons seems to be in a secure state and are
revered. This respect is due to being mothers, rather than widows. As a widow, she is still not
given any recognition and in most cases, when she is childless, she is subjected to physical
and mental abuse and is driven out of home. The reasons are many changing from socio-
religious to economic. The widows are still stigmatized and are forced to observe the rituals
and practices, as expected of them, which the Hindu lawmakers have imposed on the widows
for ages. While most of the widows are destined to live the life of an ascetic, many others are
driven out of their homes to religious places on the pretext of washing their immoralities (An
Exploratory Study, n.d.).
When the widows are spurned by their family and community members, they are
forced to seek solace in the religious places. They believe, now that they are evicted from
their family and community, they can spend their lives in offering prayers to the Lord. These
widows either obtain solace on their own will or forced wait for a slow and a painful death at
the religious places (An Exploratory Study, n.d.). The widows normally are depressed and
miserable, especially when they do not have individuals to share their worries with. In
religious places, they are able to obtain food and shelter, in this way, they are able to enhance
their living conditions. Though widows live in religious places, but difficulties that they
experience do not come to an end. Living in full of hardships and struggles for widows, and it
is vital for them to develop will-power, determination and strength of mind to cope up with
Various religious places, like the Jagannath Temple, is the heart and soul of widows in
the state of Orissa. It is the spirit of every widow of the state to spend some time, at least the
holy month of Kartika at Puri every year. For the widows of Orissa, the holy month of
Kartika means a month of prayer to the Lord. Thousands of widows from all over the state
gather into the temple in this month and spend most of their time in religious activities at the
temple premises. The widows, who are elderly usually possess this viewpoint that they need
to devote their time towards worshipping the Lord. They usually get themselves involved into
the activities of the temples and serving the humanity. There are hundreds of widows who
either live willingly or are forced to live in religious places. They believe, they would attain
salvation by providing services to religious places and to the needy and the poor (An
Exploratory Study, n.d.).
Measures leading to Improvement in the Status of Widows
There have been implementation of measures that are focused towards leading to
improvement in the status of widows:
Widowhood in India is referred to as a complex institution and many widows do not
conform to the projected ideals of widowhood. Noticeably, the ideals of widowhood have
been redefined over time and in accordance to the regions. In the Indian society, particularly
amongst the Bengalis, widowhood is a factor, which serves to separate a particular section of
women from the mainstream of life and as they age, their condition deteriorates. There are
numerous factors, which influence the demanding nature of the transition to widowhood,
including the ego strength of the survivor, the nature of previous relationships, availability of
support from others, health facilities, loss of income and anticipated loneliness. These are
some of the factors that are experienced by widows, but they are required to put into practice
certain measures that are needed to overcome the problems. First, is widows have the right to
become achievement oriented and accomplish something in their lives, such as, they have the
right to obtain employment opportunities or practice a business of their own. Widows have
the right to get enrolled in educational institutions and training centres. They have the right to
acquire autonomy and self-sufficiency (Summary Report of the Situation Analysis of Widows
in the Religious Places of West Bengal, 2009).
Recognizing the presence of widows in society, the traditional Hindu lawmakers
articulated a set of rights as well as duties for the Hindu widows. In principle, a widow is
entitled to the share of her late husband’s property or to maintenance by his extended family.
In return, the duty of the widow is to uphold the propriety, the respect and wholesomeness of
the husband’s family and lineage. If her husband’s extended family does not provide any
support or assistance to her, a widow has certain residual rights in her natal home. Even if the
law is clear regarding the rights of widows for maintenance and inheriting property, they are
not given this right by the family members. Most often than not the family members do not
wish to part with their property, after the death of a son in the family. So an attempt was made
to acquire information, to what extent, the women are aware of their rights to inherit property
as a widow (An Exploratory Study, n.d.).
There have been implementation of laws and policies to curb violent and criminal acts
against widows. As it has been stated that widows undergo various forms of violent and
criminal treatment, hence, it is important to put into practice the measures to eliminate these
treatments. First, it is vital to determine the prevalence of cases of violence against widows.
What is the rate of occurrence of violence, what forms of violent acts are usually prevalent
etc. Determination of the laws, policies, rules and procedures is vital to eliminate any forms
of violent and criminal acts against widows. When the widows experience various forms of
abuse, harassment, rape, they are free to approach the legal authorities to seek assistance.
Widows are normally helpless, there has been an increase in the criminal and violent acts
against them, therefore, legal authorities are available to make provision of support and
assistance to them (Sahoo, 2014).
The scarcity of resources enable the widows to reside in the conditions of poverty.
There have been schemes promoted by the Government to lead to an increase in the intake of
a healthy and a nutritious diet. Antodaya Ann Yojana is a scheme that provides one time diet
from the temple. Number of widows obtain BPL rice from the Government. Most of the
widows obtain mahaprasad from the temple authorities. Research has indicated that widows
had even obtained some financial benefits under the National Family Benefit Scheme
(NFBS). Though, due to low levels of literacy, widows are not able to remember the names of
the schemes in an adequate manner. They stated that after the death of their husbands, they
did receive around ten thousand rupees (An Exploratory Study, n.d.). This amount of money
was beneficial to them to some extent and they could satisfy their needs.
Health is stated as an important indicator to lead to the socio-economic well-being of
the individuals. The deprived condition of the widows, lack of adequate diet and nutrition
would surely cause a deterioration in health. When widows are without family support, then it
becomes difficult for them to maintain good health. On the other hand, when family members
are available, when there are helpers and caregivers around, when they have financial
resources, then it is not difficult for the widows to take care of their health care requirements.
Health problems need to be take care of, otherwise they may prove to be impediments within
the course of carrying out the daily routine activities. In rural areas, there are establishment of
medical and health care centres, so that elderly widows do not have any problems. Medical
practitioners even visit widows in their houses, in case they are unable to commute to the
medical centres.
Widowhood in India is a multifaceted institution, in which women experience many
problems as well as support. In the Indian society, widowhood is a factor, which serves to
seclude a particular section of women from the mainstream society, they in most cases devote
themselves to offering prayers to God and possession of religious beliefs. As they age, their
condition deteriorates and they experience illnesses and health problems. There are numerous
factors, which influence the demanding nature of the transition to widowhood, including the
capability of the survivor, availability of help and care, health facilities, source of income and
Restrictions are imposed upon their clothing, dietary intake, participation in social
functions and remarriage is prohibited for them. Widowhood exposes the opening between
cultural and social realities, and between principles and practices. Losing husband is
appalling, particularly when widows have to take care of their small children by themselves.
The most severe problems that they experience is of finances, sustaining their living
conditions, meeting the requirements of the children, paying fees and so forth. There have
been implementation of measures and schemes to lead to their up liftment. There has also
been an increase in widow remarriage. In the present existence, widows in urban areas are
attaining empowerment opportunities, they are becoming professionals, such as, doctors,
lawyers, teachers, journalists, entrepreneurs etc. On the other hand, there are lack of
empowerment opportunities for widows, particularly in rural areas. Complete economic
dependency on other people, the stigma associated with a widow as well as social barriers for
remarriage, especially for the upper caste have made their positions vulnerable in the Indian
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Full-text available
Women are regarded as one of the most disadvantaged sections since past years. Be it in any religion, Hindu or Muslim or Christian or sikh, they are the most affected categories in the society. The social norms are such that men are given much more importance than women. This study includes the Women especially widows of Hindu Religion. Since the post-Vedic period, the low status of widows can be clearly felt, where there is various restriction regarding them related to socio-religious and cultural ceremonies. The main purpose of this paper is to understand the widowhood in Indian society by giving special reference to Habisialis, to understand the Historical origination and problems of Habisialis in the context of gender in India, to understand the theoretical transitory of the widows, to understand Social, Cultural, Economic, Religious and Political issues and challenges faced by Habisialis in Odisha. A number of schemes and facility has been made for the up gradation of Habisialis by the governmental organisation, but is cannot solve the everyday problem of the Habisialis. The area that has been studied in this paper is Puri, Odisha, by taking 300 respondents who are widow and have come to Puri to practice Habisa Culture. Habisa is a Brata which is practiced by married women, especially widows in the Holy month on Kartika where widows and women come from different parts of the state to stay at Puri for 1 month and practice this culture. The women who practice this culture are called Habisialis.
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