National Geographic : 2017 Feb
life after loss 85 from the family home can make it plain every day that her role among them has ended—that a wid- ow in India, forever burdened by the misfortune of having outlived her husband, is “physically alive but socially dead,” in the words of Delhi psychologist Vasantha Patri, who has written about the plight of India’s widows. So, because Vrindavan is known as a “city of widows,” a pos- sible source of hot meals and companionship and purpose, they also come alone, on buses or trains, as they have for generations. “None of us wants to go back to our families,” a spidery woman named Kanaklata Adhikari declared in firm Bengali from her bed in the shelter room she shares with seven other widows. “We never talk to our families. We are our family.” She sat cross-legged atop the bedsheet, even though her limbs were contorted by age and dis- ease and she was able to walk only by bending over almost double and shuffling. Her white sari INDIA Communities of widows in temple cities draw Hindu women from Nepal and Bangladesh as well. Bangladeshi widow Bhakti Dashi, 75, has lived for a quarter century in the back of a temple in the riverside spiritual center of Navadwip, West Bengal. Alongside others who have left home or been pushed away by their families, she sings prayers inside, for hours at a time, in exchange for her lodging and food.