Widows brought together on a boat by a charity to help them cope with grief
They will attend the largest festival on the Hindu calendar, in Kolkata
Hindus celebrate goddess Durga who symbolises triumph of good over evil
Fifty Indian widows have been brought together on a boat in Kolkata for a Hindu festival to help 'rehabilitate' them after losing their husbands.
They have travelled more than 800 miles from the northern Indian town of Vrindavan to spend a week on a striking decorative ship on the River Hooghli to celebrate Kolkata's Hindu festival considered to be the 'Rio Carnival of the Eastern Hemisphere'.
It is the biggest festival of the year in West Bengal and for a week, people celebrate and worship the Hindu goddess Durga, with a dizzying array of colourful 'pandals' – ceremonial decorative structures – music, art and dancing.
Therapeutic: A group of 50 Indian widows have been brought together on a striking boat in Kolkata to help them cope with the grief
Durga Puja festival marks the victory of goddess Durga over the evil buffalo demon Mahishasura. Hindus believe that the goddess symbolises power and the triumph of good over evil.
For the widows on the boat, the festival will be an opportunity for them to worship Durga, and enjoy the companionship with others in the same situation, as a means to cope with their grief.
The charity boat trip was organised by Bindeshwar Pathak, chairman of Sulabh International, a non-governmental organisation which helps widowed women in India.
In preparation for the festival which runs from this coming Friday to Monday, the women have performed group chants on the boat.
Charitable: The once-in-a-lifetime trip has been paid for by an Indian NGO which helps women who have been widowed and brings them together to share their experiences
Aboard the magnificent ship they have joined together in group chanting; mantras form a integral part of the Durga Puja festival
Biggest annual festivity: The Durga Puja festival is the biggest event in the Hindu calendar and celebrates goddess Durga's triumph of good over evil
Hindu mantras, which are chanted in Sanskrit, are an integral part of the Durga Puja festival and are accompanied by burning incense and flowers. They completed their Hindu ritual by visiting a temple.
Durga Puja has been a major ceremony on the Hindu calendar since the Medieval period and continues to be as important today as it was then, if not more so.
The festival not only celebrates the triumph of good over evil through worship of the goddess, but also brings the Hindu community together, in a religious festival spirit.
The festival lasts for around a week and in Kolkata in particular the most spectacular decorative structures – pandals – are produced