The “Cursed” Widow: Surrounded by false gods, a Nepali widow remains focused on Jesus

The “Cursed” Widow: Surrounded by false gods, a Nepali widow remains focused on Jesus

Among their many false gods, Hindus honor snake deities called nagas during the monsoon season. Tavesa has been particularly tested during the snake festival.

Once a month, Tavesa invites six women to her small, dilapidated home in Nepal. 

The women read Scripture and pray, ignoring the idols and pictures of Hindu gods peering blindly at them from nearby tables and surrounding walls. 

When Tavesa’s husband died eight years ago, her 24-year-old son took over her home and forced her to move into his run-down house. As a zealous Hindu, he rules his widowed mother like a dictator, insisting that she leave the idols and pictures of his favorite gods where he had placed them. 

“The only thing that I can do is pray and ask God to change his heart,” Tavesa said. “If I take the photos down, he would probably beat me.” 

Snake Worship

Tavesa became a Christian two years after her husband died, when she received healing through the prayers of a Christian in her village. While leaving Hinduism and placing her faith in Christ did nothing to improve her earthly status, as a widow she was already considered cursed. 

In Nepal’s predominantly Hindu culture, a widow has no status. Any property owned by her late husband goes to the children, usually the oldest son. 

For at least the first year following her husband’s death, a widow must wear white. And many who see one of Nepal’s roughly 500,000 widows will avoid them in public, believing the widow’s bad luck could be transferred to them. A widow is often blamed for her husband’s death, regardless of the actual cause. 

When Tavesa declared her faith in Christ, she was viewed as worthless by not only her son but also her two daughters, ages 22 and 18. 

And her son continues to force his Hindu beliefs on her. Each year during an annual Hindu festival, he hangs a poster of snakes on her front door. In Hindu mythology, snakes (or nagas) represent mortality, death and rebirth. Worshipers offer gifts like incense and fruit to snake idols, hoping to gain knowledge and wealth. 

Tavesa said her faith has been tested during the snake festivals, especially the first one she experienced as a Christian. Her children wanted her to celebrate with them and perform the Hindu act of worship called puja, offering flowers and fruit to the idols and snakes. 

“Even then I had decided to follow Christ and not turn back, no matter what my children say,” she said. “Jesus gave me a new life, so this life is for Him.” 

And Tavesa prays that her children will also come to know the one true God who can provide them with eternal life. “My major prayer request now is for my children,” she said, “that they may also come to know the saving relationship with Jesus Christ. I have lost my husband without him knowing Christ. I don’t want that to happen to my children.” 

Tavesa’s son believes he is honoring his father by working to ensure that his family remains Hindu. And Tavesa can’t challenge him because he is now the head of the family. 

The boldest act she has taken — other than publicly professing faith in Christ — was hanging a cross on her wall. But one of her daughters took it down, believing it would anger the Hindu gods. Now when her son hangs the snake poster on her door or displays Hindu idols in her home, Tavesa doesn’t fight him. She trusts that God knows she didn’t put them there. 

Prayers of the Righteous

Tavesa’s children aren’t the only ones opposed to her Christian faith. Of the approximately 200 families in her village, only two are Christian. And her neighbors often pressure her to stop attending church and to return to Hinduism. 

In Hindu society, Christianity is often viewed as a religion of the Dalits, the “untouchables” who compose the lowest of the traditional Indian castes. Although Tavesa is not a Dalit, her neighbors consider her one because she follows Jesus. 

Still, through Tavesa’s persistent prayers to the one true God, she has seen hopeful signs that her son’s heart is starting to soften. About two years ago, he started allowing her to attend church services in the city. Although her son doesn’t pay for her bus fare as he does when she travels there for other reasons, Tavesa is grateful to God that she is now able to worship with other Christians. And more recently, her son began allowing the monthly prayer meetings in her home. 

Since Tavesa never attended school, church members are helping her learn how to read the Bible their pastor gave her. She said she is especially moved by verses about the protection and care of widows, and she also enjoys the Psalms, which encourage her during times of spiritual isolation at home. 

One particular verse she has found helpful is Matthew 5:44, in which Jesus tells us to love our enemies and pray for those who persecute us. “From the time I first read that,” she said, “I am praying for them also because they are not persecuting me, but they are persecuting Jesus. I realize whatever people tell me, they are not telling it to me but to Jesus. From that time, I am praying for the people around me and my children.” 

In addition to the increased freedom to practice her Christian faith, Tavesa has seen other prayers answered as well. Until last year, she had to walk an hour to get water because her Hindu neighbors refused to let her use the local well. And during Nepal’s 2019 monsoon season, hail severely damaged her roof. VOM helped her get a water pump and a new roof. 

“I really thank God for helping me to receive those blessings,” she said. “Those were the experiences that helped me strongly believe that God is answering my prayers.” 

Tavesa continues to pray that her children will come to know Christ. She said she hopes they will one day attend a prayer meeting in her home or at least overhear it. “When there is a prayer meeting in my house,” she said, “on that day I feel a different happiness or peace in my heart. But I am disappointed that my children are not there.” 

Although Tavesa lives alone, she said she knows God is with her. 

I am alone nowhere,” she said. “Jesus is with me and there are so many people praying for me, so I am not alone.”