The verandah of the Bihari temple, in Radhakund, a few kilometers away from the Hindu temple town of Vrindavan, comes alive with chants and grateful ululations at 11 o’clock every morning as widows in white saris eat free meals of lentils and rice. “If not for this meal, I would go hungry most days,” says Shakti Dasi, a widow from the northeastern Indian state of Tripura.
Dasi is among the 500 women who eat at the temple kitchen, run by Delhi-based nonprofit, Maitri. Vrindavan and Radhakund are home to around 15,000 widows, most of whom were driven from their homes by family members. “In our country, when women become widows, they cease to exist,” says Winnie Singh, executive director and co-founder of Maitri. “It is a failure not only of the government but of society at large.”