• Widows at the wedding were gifted shawls and milking cows. (AAP)Source: AAP
An Indian man, Jitendra Patel, has defied taboos by inviting 18,000 widows to his son's wedding. Widows are seen as inauspicious figures in Hinduism. However Mr Patel hopes his gesture will remove the stigma attached to widows and throw light on this disenfranchised part of the Indian community.
Shami Sivasubramanian

3 Feb 2016 - 1:23 PM  UPDATED 3 Feb 2016 - 1:58 PM

In old Hindu practices, inviting widows to a wedding or any auspicious celebration is considered taboo. Of course, modern India and several Indians abroad don't subscribe to these beliefs. In fact, Indian legislation has been in place for nearly a century to protect widows from this kind of discrimination, and even to allow them to remarry.

But for widows in rural parts of India, where these archaic traditions still have hold and legislation is seldom enforced, they are openly treated with hostility and disrespect. Once a Hindu woman's husband dies, they are made to shave their heads, remove all their jewellery, wear only white, and to never remarry.

However, men are free by traditional Hindu protocol to remarry if their wife dies.

Widows are also considered inauspicious figures that emit bad luck to those they associate with, and usually made to live together in a widow's house or ashram in quarantine. 

The trailer for Water, an Indian language film set in 1938, when child marriage was common, best explains the discrimination faced by many widows, including child widows. The film was nominated for an Academy Award in 2005.

However, one man in rural Gujarat, a state located in northwest India, has embraced love and acceptance of widows and defied this taboo.

Jitendra Patel, a businessman, has invited 18,000 widows to his son's wedding, asking them to "bless" the occasion with their presence,

"It was my heartfelt desire that the couple should be blessed by widows, who are mostly neglected by the society. Their presence is considered a bad omen at auspicious functions but I wanted to prove that all these beliefs are nothing but superstitions," Mr Patel told Times of India.

The widows were invited from five districts in northern Gujarat to Mr Patel's younger son, Ravi, and his new wife's ceremony.

Every widow who attended was presented with a shawl (an item typically given to distinguished guests and honorees as a sign of respect) as well as a sapling for them to plant in their own backyards. 

Five hundred widows from poorer families were each given a milking cow in order to help them become financially self-sufficient.

This kind of heart-warming story, especially in parts of India where archaic and sexist customs still have stronghold, will hopefully encourage those who still believe widows are bad omens to change their minds.

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