Maharashtra: Village in Kolhapur passes resolution to ban `widow rituals`


A village in Kolhapur district in Maharashtra has shown the way in the death centenary year of social reformer king Rajarshi Chhatrapati Shahu Maharaj by getting all its residents to endorse a ban on funerary practices carried out to make a woman aware she was a widow.

Herwad village in Shirol tehsil of Kolhapur district on May 4 passed a resolution banning the practice of women breaking bangles, wiping off kumkum (vermillion) from the forehead and removing the mangalsutra of a widow as part of rituals that have been handed down over time, said its gram panchayat sarpanch Surgonda Patil.

He told PTI that Pramod Zinjade, founder-president of Mahatma Phule Samaj Seva Mandal in Karmala tehsil of Solapur, took the initiative and encouraged the gram panchayat to pass a resolution to ban this “insulting” way to reinforce to a woman that she was now a widow.

“We feel very proud of this resolution as it has made Herwad a torch-bearer for other gram panchayats, especially when we are observing the 100th death anniversary of Shahu Maharaj, who worked for women`s emancipation,” Patil said.

Speaking to PTI, Zinjade said, “In the first wave of COVD-19, one of our associates died due to a heart attack. During his last rites, I witnessed how his wife was subjected to breaking of bangles, removing of mangalsutra and wiping off of kumkum etc. It amplified the woman`s sorrow. The scene was heart-wrenching.”

Deciding that such a practice should be stopped, Zinjade said he wrote a post on it and approached village leaders and panchayats, and was glad when he received good response from several widows.

“To set an example from my side, I declared on stamp paper stating after my death, my wife should not be subjected to this practice. Over two dozen men followed suit and supported my declaration. It is then that Herwad gram panchayat reached out to me and proposed they would pass a resolution,” Zinjade said.

He said those supporting the move have decided to spread the word through a multi-pronged programme that includes preparing a declaration, gram panchayats passing resolutions, approaching elected representatives to enact a law, and also conducting workshops to educate and sensitize people.

Anjali Pailwan (35), a resident of Arjunwad village, some 21 kilometres from Herwad, who lost her husband in 2020, said she reached out to Zinjade after learning about the initiative.

“I told him about my painful experience of being a widow and expressed my wish to do something for women like me. To start with, from Gudi Padva, I installed gudi at my house, wore all the ornaments and had haldi kumkum ceremony at my house,” she said.

Pailwan, who is a graduate and works with a women`s self-help group, said she wears ornaments now, moves about freely in society and no longer cares about what people may be thinking about a widow making such moves.

“We have given a memorandum with signatures of widows to state minister Rajendra Yadrawkar seeking a law to ban this practice,” she added.

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