Holy Town explores the lives of widowed women living on the borders of society in Vrindavan, Uttar Pradesh, India. It is estimated that some 20,000 of India's 40 million widows live in the small town of Vrindavan, located in northeastern India. I have sought to humanize a small community of these women and to show the beauty in their everyday lives despite their traumatic past.
Known as the mythological birthplace of Lord Krishna, it is estimated that some 20,000 of India’s 40 million widows live in the holy town of Vrindavan, Uttar Pradesh. In traditional Hindu culture, once a woman loses her husband, she is unable to remarry and is expected to renounce all earthly pleasures – shaving her head, wearing white as the symbol of death, and subsisting on little food. Girls as young as 11 and women as old as 107 are shunned by society, kicked out of their homes, abused, neglected, sexually exploited, and considered inauspicious creatures. Whether young or old, the majority of widows make the journey to Vrindavan to live out the remainder of their days with God, to escape difficult life circumstances or because they have nowhere else to go.
I have spent the past two years documenting a small community of widows from West Bengal living in Vrindavan. Though many of these women have a similar story of abuse, neglect, and poverty. Holy Town is a story about the resilience, strength, and humanity of widows living on the borders of Indian society. It is about a community of women and the perseverance and beauty in their everyday lives.To me, the most sacred person on this earth is my mother. I see my mother in all of these women and I imagine her enduring the abuse and neglect that many of these women experience at the mental, physical, and sexual level. Every day they are reminded of their status in society as inauspicious beings. This is what drives me to continuing pursuing this project - to spend time with these women, to bear witness to their lives, and to reduce the stigma that is associated with widowhood so that Indian society can begin to see these women just as they are, human beings.