Initiation Rites of Passage
In contrast with the many young male sadhus, a beautiful young woman is but rarely seen in the brotherhood. About ten percent of sadhus are women, called sadhvis, but most of them are old, having become sadhvi after they were widowed. This reflects the generally subordinate position of women in Indian society -- the popular belief is that women have to be born again as men before they can be spiritually liberated -- and the even more marginal position of widows. Choosing the sadhu life was -- and still is -- about the only respectable way to escape from the 'living death' of widowhood.