India’s City of Widows: An Online Photo Exhibiton by Claude Renault
When American talk show hostess Oprah Winfrey visited India, she paid a special visit to the town of Vrindavan, and what she saw there horrified her such, that she said, “I couldn’t understand this paradox that a country where families who have so much love for their elders could discard their women just because they did not have husbands.”
Thousands of widows, of all ages, from all over India have made the holy cities of Varanasi and Vrindavan their home. Every year they are joined by hundreds more.
Many of these widows are here because they have been driven out from their homes and they have no place else to go. They live in terrible poverty, generally begging for alms on the streets or singing at temples for a measly meal.
Many of the younger widows are forced into prostitution. They wear white, the only color widows are permitted to wear, and their clothing becomes a source of discrimination for them, much like the yellow star for the Jews. Even today, middle-class educated Indians shun the presence of widows at certain ceremonies like weddings, because they are thought to bring “bad luck.”
For centuries widows have been socially ostracized in India. Sati was a practice where widows would be burnt alive on their husband’s pyres. Even after sati has been legally banned, there continue to be isolated incidents. In western India, there are temples that glorify sati, that the government of India does not dare take down.
Here we present an online photo exhibition on India’s City of Widows by French photographer Claude Renault. With much sensitivity Claude shows through his pictures what everyday life is like for these women. Claude is a professional photographer from Brittany (France), and is also one of the 2300 supporting member photographers of The 50 Million Missing’s Photographers’ Group on Flickr . His website is www.clauderenault.fr/
CLICK ON THE MONTAGE ABOVE TO SEE THE PHOTO EXHIBITION