From time immemorial, Indians have celebrated Goddess Durga as the embodiment of Stree Shakti. According to Hindu Mythology, when the celestial gods or devas could not control the menace of the demons or asuras, they convened with the powerful trinity of gods, Brahma, Vishnu & Mahesh. It is their collective wraths that gave birth to this extraordinary woman. Thus, did Durga the invincible, come into being. With eyes that drained the strength of the demons, her ten hands brandishing ten different weapons, she slaughtered the infamous Mahishasur demon and restored balance to the world. This is how she’s celebrated even today, in India and all over the world.
But a woman, born of man! That is certainly a man’s perspective! Indians, the world over, have been celebrating Goddess Durga as the embodiment of ‘stree Shakti’. It becomes crucial to see how a woman in the present world, finds her place in an increasingly patriarchal society of India. It is a place where her voice is deliberately muffled and she has to fight for an equal status – social, economic & even sexual– which the man so takes for granted.
Perhaps, the biggest case of social injustice till day is one that is faced by widows. Their plight portrays a fine picture of neglect and social irresponsibility. Despite our motherland making exponential progress, the matriarch is target to stigma, superstitions and social dogma.
Widowhood is a curse, still, in our country. Upon the death of her husband, the fate of many a woman changes overnight. She is forced to give up all worldly pleasures, wear only white and have her hair cut off. Often, she is mentally and physically abused and thrown out of home. Little do we know of her abject condition and a life of endless hardships; not to mention humiliation?
Even today a majority of widows, from the farthest corners of India, turn up at the holy city of Vrindavan, in search of solace and an honourable existence. The Government of India has taken steps to provide them a nominal pension. Several NGOs have set up shelters, providing them with a respectable life in their sunset years.
But not much has changed over the years in terms of their social acceptability.
It must be strange for a society, such as ours, that idolises Ma Durga and yet turns a blind eye to a million destitute mothers and wives, treating them with so much indifference and hostility. It makes us all look a tad hypocritical, don’t you think? A society that propagates respect to women only in relation to her status with a man!
It is time we realised that there resides a DURGA in every woman, whether she is the well-educated lady from the upper echelons of society, the quintessential middle class working woman, the village simpleton or the old and abandoned widow in Vrindavan.
Story and Photography by Sharmistha Dutta
Written by Devajyoti Dev J Haldar
Enacted by Rakhi Biswas