Religion in the lives of Hindu widows: Narratives from Vrindavan, India.

Religion’s impact on society cannot be overestimated. In the multireligious country of India, it is prevalent in the micro-level interactions and practices of commoners and the macro-level strategies and policies of political parties. Religion thus holds power to make or break societal structures and practices. This article investigates the role of religion in the lives of widows living in Vrindavan, India, by analyzing 37 narratives. Religion was found to have a dual role. Through the sociological lens, it is among the major reasons for these widows’ marginalized and dejected condition, having been abandoned by their families and society. The sociological themes comprise interpreting the doctrine of karma to rationalize widowhood, the formation of negative attitudes toward widows, and religion as a source of exclusion. Conversely, through the psychological lens, religion provides them with the necessary psychological resources to cope with several hardships in their daily lives. The psychological themes comprise seeing misery as an instrument of God, developing a personal connection with God, surrendering to God, using religious rituals as distractions from misery, helping others, and conceptualizing Vrindavan as a place of Krishna and enabler of spiritual retreat. The linkages to theory and a model for religion in the lives of Vrindavan widows are also discussed. (PsycINFO Database Record (c) 2019 APA, all rights reserved)