In Pictures: The Water Wives of Maharashtra

For the men in Denganmal village in western India, the solution to their water problems was getting a ‘water wife’.

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In a village in Maharashtra, some men marry twice or thrice just to make sure their households have enough drinking water. (Photo: Reuters)

There are several norms and traditions that are practiced in certain parts of India, that are hard to believe.

In the parched village of Denganmal, in western India, there are no taps. The only drinking water comes from two wells at the foot of a nearby rocky hill, a spot so crowded that the sweltering walk and wait can take hours.

For many men in the hamlet, some 140 km from Mumbai, the solution was a “water wife”. They started the practice of getting married twice or thrice just to make sure their households have enough drinking water.

Becoming “water wives” allows the women in this village, often widows or single mothers, to regain respect in conservative rural India. When the water wife, who does not usually share the marital bed, becomes too old to continue, the husband sometimes marries a third and younger spouse to fetch water in metal pitchers or makeshift containers.

Namdeo poses with his wives Shivarti (L) and Bagabai (R) outside their house in Denganmal village, Maharashtra, India, April 21, 2015. (Photo: Reuters)
Namdeo poses with his wives Shivarti (L) and Bagabai (R) outside their house in Denganmal village, Maharashtra, India, April 21, 2015. (Photo: Reuters)
A ‘water wife’ fetches water from a well outside Denganmal village, Maharashtra, India, April 21, 2015. (Photo: Reuters)
A ‘water wife’ fetches water from a well outside Denganmal village, Maharashtra, India, April 21, 2015. (Photo: Reuters)
Shivarti, second wife of Namdeo, empties a water pitcher as she gets ready to fill water from a well outside Denganmal village, Maharashtra, India, April 21, 2015. (Photo: Reuters) 
Shivarti, second wife of Namdeo, empties a water pitcher as she gets ready to fill water from a well outside Denganmal village, Maharashtra, India, April 21, 2015. (Photo: Reuters) 
Sakhri, second wife of Sakharam Bhagat, carries an empty metal pitcher as she walks to fetch water from a well outside her village in Denganmal, Maharashtra, India, April 20, 2015. (Photo: Reuters)
Sakhri, second wife of Sakharam Bhagat, carries an empty metal pitcher as she walks to fetch water from a well outside her village in Denganmal, Maharashtra, India, April 20, 2015. (Photo: Reuters)
Bhaagi, third wife of Sakharam Bhagat, carries an empty metal pitcher as she walks to fetch water from outside her village in Denganmal, Maharashtra, India, April 20, 2015. (Photo: Reuters)
Bhaagi, third wife of Sakharam Bhagat, carries an empty metal pitcher as she walks to fetch water from outside her village in Denganmal, Maharashtra, India, April 20, 2015. (Photo: Reuters)
Bhaagi (L), third wife of Sakharam Bhagat, takes out water from a well as Sakhri (R) helps her outside their village in Denganmal, Maharashtra, India, April 20, 2015. (Photo: Reuters)
Bhaagi (L), third wife of Sakharam Bhagat, takes out water from a well as Sakhri (R) helps her outside their village in Denganmal, Maharashtra, India, April 20, 2015. (Photo: Reuters)
Bhaagi (L) and Sakhri (2nd from L), wives of Sakharam Bhagat (R) walk to fetch water from a well outside Denganmal village, Maharashtra, India, April 20, 2015. (Photo: Reuters)
Bhaagi (L) and Sakhri (2nd from L), wives of Sakharam Bhagat (R) walk to fetch water from a well outside Denganmal village, Maharashtra, India, April 20, 2015. (Photo: Reuters)
Sakharam Bhagat, 66, poses with his wives, Sakhri, Tuki and Bhaagi (L to R) inside their house in Denganmal village, Maharashtra, India, April 20, 2015. (Photo: Reuters)
Sakharam Bhagat, 66, poses with his wives, Sakhri, Tuki and Bhaagi (L to R) inside their house in Denganmal village, Maharashtra, India, April 20, 2015. (Photo: Reuters)
Bagabai, first wife of Namdeo, listens to him inside their house in Denganmal village, Maharashtra, India, April 21, 2015. (Photo: Reuters)
Bagabai, first wife of Namdeo, listens to him inside their house in Denganmal village, Maharashtra, India, April 21, 2015. (Photo: Reuters)
A woman helps another in carrying metal pitchers filled with water from a well outside Denganmal village, Maharashtra, India, April 20, 2015. (Photo: Reuters)
A woman helps another in carrying metal pitchers filled with water from a well outside Denganmal village, Maharashtra, India, April 20, 2015. (Photo: Reuters)
Bhaagi, third wife of Sakharam Bhagat, carries a metal pitcher filled with water from a well outside Denganmal village, Maharashtra, India, April 20, 2015. (Photo: Reuters)
Bhaagi, third wife of Sakharam Bhagat, carries a metal pitcher filled with water from a well outside Denganmal village, Maharashtra, India, April 20, 2015. (Photo: Reuters)
Sakhri, the second wife of Sakharam Bhagat carries a metal pitcher filled with water from a well outside her village in Denganmal, Maharashtra, India, April 20, 2015. (Photo: Reuters)
Sakhri, the second wife of Sakharam Bhagat carries a metal pitcher filled with water from a well outside her village in Denganmal, Maharashtra, India, April 20, 2015. (Photo: Reuters)
Shivarti, the second wife of Namdeo, holds her grandson while carrying metal pitchers filled with water from a well outside Denganmal village, Maharashtra, India, April 21, 2015. (Photo: Reuters)
Shivarti, the second wife of Namdeo, holds her grandson while carrying metal pitchers filled with water from a well outside Denganmal village, Maharashtra, India, April 21, 2015. (Photo: Reuters)

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