The first batch of women from Bengal to undertake the Haj pilgrimage without a mahram or male guardian have come back home with stories that they believe will inspire others to break yet another glass ceiling for women in their community.

Forty-eight women from Bengal set off for Haj in July without a male guardian for the first time in history. They flew to Saudi Arabia in clusters of at least four to perform the pilgrimage, considered to be one of the five pillars of Islam.

TOI spoke to four of these women, all widows after they returned to their homeland. All four agreed that the “excellent arrangements” made by the Indian government, which included women security guards and Haj assistants and specialised doctors, and the “smooth handling of logistics by the Saudi government” ensured that they could focus on their pilgrimage without worrying about other issues.

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