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THE HISTORY OF
“Indian widows gone to bed In flaming curtains, to the dead” ……G.T. Garratt
Within the Indian culture, the highest ideal for a women are virtue, purity, and allegiance to her husband. From this tradition stems the Hindu custom in which a wife immolates herself on the funeral pyre of her deceased husband as proof of her loyalty. This custom in which a woman burns herself either on the funeral pyre of her deceased husband or by herself with a memento after his death is now referred to as “Sati . The word is often written as “Suttee in !nglish wor"s and papers. #.$. %ane, a renowned authority on Hindu scriptures and Hindu &aw, in his monumental wor" History of Dharmasastra, opined that the sub'ect of Sati is only of academic interest in India, since over a hundred years (i.e. from )*+,-, self. immolation of widows has been prohibited by law in /ritish India and has been declared to be a crime.+ This was probably true in ),0), when 1r. %ane wrote his magnum opus. However, following upon the highly publici2ed incident in ),*3 of 4oop %anwar5s “Sati in 6eorala village located in the Si"ar district of 4a'asthan, a great deal of attention, both western and Indian, was once again drawn to this barbarous and cruel practice, as many people describe it to be. What is of significance today is not 'ust the incidence of widows becoming satis but the attempt to 'ustify a custom at a particular historical 'uncture, a 'ustification which involves more than merely a custom for it also symboli2es an attitude towards women as well as
view of what is regarded as “tradition . Sati has perple7ed both the philosopher and the layman for centuries. It has been the sub'ect of constant debate ever since the custom came into prevalence. !fforts have been made to legitimi2e it so as to ma"e it universally applicable by incorrectly see"ing its 'ustification from the Hindu 6harma. It is argued that sati involves the 8uestion of 4a'put honour and is deeply ingrained in all 4a'puts. It is surely rather dishonourable that a societ5s honour should be dependant on women having to immolate themselves.
9rvind Sharma, Sati: Historical and Phenomenological Essays (:ew 6elhi; 1otilal /anarsidass #ublishers #rivate &imited, +<<)- ). + #.$. %ane, History of Dharmasastras—$ol. II, #art I (#oona; /handar"ar =riental 4esearch Institute, ),30- at >+>.
THE HISTORY OF
Sati has also been called as a symbol of an ideali2ed husband.wife relationship. It is rather surprising, since the relationship will then be 8uite unbalanced, as no one has ever heard of a husband immolating himself on the pyre of his wife. Sati has clearly become a heavily contested symbol, li"e arranged marriages and polygamy. Its discourses serve many agenda, and it has been appropriated as a symbol of female sub.ordination and female resistance. The practice of widow immolation is not a modern phenomenon nor can it be understood as e7clusively indigenous to India. It is reflective, more generally, of a specific manifestation of a social process that has as its underlying basis, deeply ingrained constructions of power and misogynous attitudes. 9 mi7ture of religion, economic interests and politics has played a ma'or role in the rise of the institution of sati, as we "now it today. 1uch of the Sans"rit material that articulates traditional prescriptive codes of conduct for women has been misread and misinterpreted? so as to legitimi2e the institution of sati by see"ing “scriptural sanctions. This has s"ewed the understanding of sati in the true sense of the term. In the heated debate that sati has been sub'ected to since the colonial times, people have overloo"ed the fact that sati-worship has given rise to a distinct identity of many communities, chiefly the trading 1arwari community of 4a'asthan. The fact that sati is worshipped in various parts of :orth India proves the point that widow immolation was not always illegitimate. However, it is the manifestation in its current form that has led to sati being loo"ed down upon as a religious suicide, rather than a religious ceremony. In this paper, the researcher has tried to study sati in its historical conte7t and then tried to conte7tuali2e as to how we "now it today. The paper see"s to study the theories of the origin if sati and its so called “scriptural sanction. Finally, the researcher has tried to understand the ways in which the defenders of this custom try to gain legitimacy for it from the past, and how this has led to satis being worshipped in many parts of the country.
abcdTo study the practice of widow immolation in the Indian history by loo"ing at various evidences. . To study the phenomena of sati-puja. which would have enabled the researcher to understand the issue better. To see whether sati really had the scriptural sanction. RESEARCH QUESTIONS: The 8uestions which the researcher has sought to answer in this pro'ect are as follows. which it claims to have. though the modern debates started during that very period. SCOPE AND LIMITATIONS: The scope of this research paper has been restricted to the period before the advent of the colonial period. METHOD OF WRITING: The researcher has endeavored to use a combination of descriptive and analytical styles of writing throughout this term paper. MODE OF CITATION: The researcher has followed a uniform mode of citation throughout the pro'ect. To loo" into the origins of the custom. The primary ob'ectives of the term paper are.@ SATI THE HISTORY OF RESEARCH METHODOLOGY AIMS AND OBJECTIVES: The researcher aims at understanding the history of the practice of sati through various evidences and see"s to understand the reasons for its e7istence in the Indian civili2ation. !8ual emphasis has been placed on both the styles. The main limitation has been the unavailability of sufficient translated material relating of the scriptures. SOURCES OF DATA: Secondary sources including boo"s and other te7ts as well as the articles from 'ournals have been used in writing the term paper.
and widows in particular.political and economic factors. scriptures and other historical evidences li"e inscriptions. by loo"ing at the various te7ts. Bhapter @ tries to understand the rise of the custom of sati in the conte7t of the status of widows and other socio.To what e7tent is sati prevalent during the ancient and medieval periods of Indian b.0 SATI history.Is the status of women in general.What are the reasons behind the tradition of sati worshipA CHAPTERIZATION: Bhapter ) deals with the general position of women in the Hindu civili2ation. Bhapter + tries to find historical evidences of sati in ancient and medieval India. responsible for the rise of the custom of satiA d. as inferred from the various scriptures and te7tsA THE HISTORY OF a.Is there a religious and scriptural sanction for the practice of widow immolationA c. . Bhapter 0 deals with the tradition of sati-puja prevalent amongst the 1arwaris.
This is why a ma'or part on discussion of the history of position of women consists of defining their status and position within the various familial relations. . 0 %&id.. The nature of its philosophy can well be ascertained from the observations of its philosopher about the nature and worth of the fair se7.C Thus. ). !he Position of "omen in Hindu #ivili ation: $rom Prehistoric !imes to the Present Day (+nd ed.. C Supra. even the discussion on religious practices and women5s access to property are located within the conte7t of the family.. 9 loo" through 9lte"ar5s wor" reveals to us that he identifies two contradictory long. religious rights. we see that indeed. :ew 6elhi. 1otilal /anarsidass #ublishers #rivate &imited.boo" of early Indian history. 9lte"ar5s wor" cannot be more apt than in the conte7t of studying the Hindu society. and in their participation in public life complemented by an increase in their propriety rights. There is some information on women in almost every te7t. a decline in their familial status. =f these. 6iscussion on the position of women has a uni8ue position in the writing. it is heavily preoccupied with religious and legal 8uestions @ 9. at page +. the history of the position and status of women is of vital importance to the student of the history of any civili2ation or society.. teaching and learning of early Indian history. 9s the discussion on the status of women in India e7ists entirely within the conte7t of Hinduism.. as the family is clearly privileged as the institution being particularly relevant to women while discussing their history.C. at page +..” # The above 8uote ta"en from #rof.. The reason behind this may be that the degree of freedom given to women to move about in society and to ta"e part in its public life gives a good idea of the nature of its administration and enables us to "now how far it had reali2ed the truth that women too have a contribution of their own to ma"e to its development and progress.. vi .C SATI THE HISTORY OF CHAPTER 1: POSITION OF WOMEN IN THE HINDU SOCIETY “One of the best ways to understand the spirit of a ci ili!ation and to appreciate its e"cellences and to reali!e its limitations is to study the history and status of women in it.. note @.). the first clearly outweighs the second.term trends influencing the position of women in the Hindu society.S 9lte"ar. 0 How far a religion stands for 'ustice and fairplay and how far it has succeeded in e7ploding pre'udices and shibboleths of a primitive age can be seen from the position it assigns to women in its ritual and theology. /esides.
the origin and development of the institution of stridhana. "omen in Early %ndian Societies (:ew 6elhi. . from %um"um 4oy. the e7istence of the institution of niyoga. 9ll these coupled with the various interpolations in the sacred te7ts. note @. a relatively high age of marriage.Bhristian was the decline in their education. 1anohar #ublishers. > Dma Bha"ravarti. Within this framewor".. > =n the religious front. . Towards a :ew Dnderstanding of Eender 4elations in !arly Indian History . the right to property for women.$edic and post. we can see that on the whole. and the degradation in the status of widows in the society were responsible for the rise of the custom of widow immolation or sati. 9 study of the Hindu civili2ation would lead us to infer that the main culprits for pitiable condition of women in the post. This is substantiated in terms of access to education. “/eyond 9lte"arian #aradigm. 3 %d. at page viii. the various social and political upheaval such as the invasion of foreigners including Huns. monogamy. * Supra. 'uslims and also the changes in the propriety hierarchy in the Hindu society. +<<). 9lte"ar5s wor" on the history of women is based on the two a7es of comparison vi . the oldest "nown society in the Indian conte7t that ascribed to the early $edic 9ge. and possibilities of widow remarriage.3@. the perspective on women is confined to seeing them within the conte7t of the family. at page 30. Supra.* Thus.immolation on her husband5s funeral pyre. the right of the childless widow to adopt and so on. is conceived as the best from the point of view of women. there is an obsession with the right of a woman to perform religious sacrifices either by herself or with her husband as also with her interest and involvement with the pursuit of religious goals. 3 The social position of women is usually concerned with the inclusion or e7clusion of women in public assemblies and their right to education. such as committing sati or self.> SATI THE HISTORY OF such as the right to widow remarriage. the absence of seclusion and sati. . It is the status of women within the family and primarily in the relationship of wives to husbands with which the history of the position of women is concerned. note >. within the Indian history and with the other "nown societies and civili2ations.
9lte"ar. Sati: ( Study of "ido) *urning in %ndia (:ew 6elhi.!uropeans too. )@ #. originally means a virtuous or a pious woman. /handar"ar =riental 4esearch Institute.)> It was 8uite common among the Scythians. there prevailed a belief in several societies that the life and needs of the dead in the ne7t world are more or less similar to those in this life. a man would of course re8uire his wives. )3 )< Sa"untala :arasimhan. ). if he is sad she should be sad..)+ WIDOW BURNING IN OTHER SOCIETIES: The burning of widows was not peculiar to /rahmanism. )3 Supra note )0. the highest ideal for a woman are virtue. Slavs. )> Supra note )@. now identified with widow burning. Eermans.at >+>. From this. ). we can infer that it was probably well established among the Indo. and burn or bury them with him. but the custom owes its origin to the oldest religious views and superstitious practices of man"ind in general.))C... The word sati is derived from sat meaning truth. )>. 1otilal /anarsidass. at page ))>. )+ Supra note )<. 9nd from this belief stems the custom in which a wife immolates herself on the funeral pyre of her deceased husband as proof of her loyalty. . Eoths. )@ as many are prone to believe. II. and it would therefore be necessary and desirable to "ill these all. :ew 6elhi. at page )>. #art I (#oona. and other races. the princes and the nobles. Such a belief should have given rise to the custom of burning or burying the husband also along with the wife. In prehistoric times. purity and allegiance to her husband.3 SATI THE HISTORY OF CHAPTER 2: THE SCRIPTURAL SANCTION OF SATI IN THE HINDU DHARMA “$ll the actions of a woman should be the same as that of her husband. )) The !nglish still call it as “suttee . at page ))>. )0 9... and a sati is a woman true to her ideals. !he Position of "omen in Hindu #ivili ation: $rom Prehistoric !imes to the Present Day (+nd ed. %uch a wife is called a &pati rata'…”………%huddhitatt a1( The above verse sums up what was and is e7pected of a woman in the Hindu society. horses and servants in the ne7t world. This custom is what we now call as “sati or “suttee . ).)C The practice of widow burning obtained among ancient Eree"s.*-. she should be happy. at page >+C. and if he is dead she should also die.. %ane.$. but was generally confined to the great ones.30.S. )0 Thus. If her husband is happy.)) Sati. Within the Indian culture. HarperBollins #ublishers India. History of Dharmasastras—$ol. )C %&id.
the 8uestion which arises is whether the Hindu scriptures or epics sanction. REVIEW OF THE HINDU TEXTS ABOUT WIDOW IMMOLATION: There is no reference to sati in the /rahmana literature up to 9. or suggest sati in the sense of immolation of a widow on the death of her husbandA To begin with. where it would certainly have been mentioned if it had been in e7istence. Supra note )<. we can conclude that the custom was un"nown in the $edic )* ).igveda. +@ Supra note )<. the son of &ord /rahma. Sati was the wife of &ord Shiva. although she did not immolate herself. sruti prevails. Women li"e Savitri. ). She consumed herself in a holy pyre in response to her father5s refusal to invite Shiva in the assembly of Eods. 3<<. Still.6.++ The sruti includes te7ts li"e $edas and /rahmanas whereas the smritis include te7ts li"e #uranans. )* There are several e7amples of women who did not immolate themselves but nonetheless came to be "nown as sati. +@ It is not referred to in the funeral hymns of the . +<<)@). sruti means “that which was heard and smriti means “that from memory . Therefore. at page +<. li"e that of the original Sati. +< Supra note )<. It may be noted that in the event of a conflict between the two. “Sati Savitri+ is a commonly used epithet when referring to a devoted wife. +< This clearly shows that the religious and historical roots of the concept of sati are 8uite different from its popular usage now. . Supra note )<. So. 1otilal /anarsidass. (rundhati and (nasuya of Indian mythology were all e7alted as pativratas or paragons of connubial dedication. To refer to a more recent e7ample. 1ahatma Eandhi5s wife %asturba is referred to fondly as sati %asturba. at page )*.days. :one of them “committed sati in the sense in which the word is used now. Self. Sati: Historical and Phenomenological Essays (:ew 6elhi. 1anusmriti as well as the two epics.sacrifice. sruti or divine revelations and smriti or te7ts attributed to human creativity+).a. ++ 9rvind Sharma. at page )*. at page )3. it would be useful to point out that the Hindu scriptural corpus comprises two bodies of literature. and was the daughter of 6a"sha.* SATI SATI IN INDIAN MYTHOLOGY: THE HISTORY OF The original Sati in Indian mythology was not a widow and did not immolate herself on her husband5s funeral pyre. She was so mortified that she invo"ed a yogic fire and was reduced to ashes. +) &iterally. became a Fdivine e7ample of wifely devotion5.
“Sati. to see" -edic sanction for the act by changing the word agre. %ma nariravidhavah sapatneeranjanena sarpisha samvishantu (nashravoanameevah suratna arohantu janayo yonimagre. . +* %d. probably in the si7teenth century. In History .B.igveda is often 8uoted to show that widows were.at page )>. Haimavati and Gambavati.rihyasutra lists rules governing a widow conduct. to the fire. +> In fact.ig--eda the act was only a mimetic ceremony. +> Supra note C. could be rendered plausible only by fraudulently changing the last consonant of the stan2a from agre to agneh: The verse in 8uestion refers to women with their husbands living coming forward to anoint the corpse before it was consigned to flames..<< /. to go forth into agneh. in fact. at page >+3. @+ This is dated around .B. the unanimous view of authoritative interpreters is that none of the sruti te7ts refer to widow immolations. the favourite wife of Pandu as well as the five wives of 1rishna// and four wives of +0 +C Supra note ++. however. +3 The point to be noted here is that the . li8uor and salt. The widow lay on her husband5s funeral pyre before it was lit. @@ :amely 4u"mini. at page @0. It says. Supra note )@. but was raised from it by a male relative of her dead husband. SATI THE HISTORY OF period. and should sleep only on the floor .. at page +@. Saibya. which implies that widows lived on and were not re8uired to end their lives on the pyre of the husband. in the specific verse. re8uired to ascend the pyre at the funeral of their husbands. +. and contains no reference whatsoever to any widow immolating herself on her husband5s funeral pyre. The *audayana . Eandhari. Seminar (). there are several references to widows becoming satis such as 'adri. @< 9mbiguity together with metaphoric. and it has been pointed out that widow burning could not have been decreed since the two are contradictory.**. a verse in the . although one opinion holds that it belongs to a period prior to @)<< /.@) WIDOW IMMOLATION IN THE EPICS: In the 'aha&harata/0.+0 However. meat. in the . @0+. +C The case. cryptic construction that mar"s the ancient Sans"rit te7ts ma"es for difficulty in decoding the true intent of some of the passages and edicts. @< Supra note )<. +* The (tharva--eda also clearly mentions widow remarriage. 9ttempts were made. Still.ig--edic te7t endorses the system of niyoga or levirate where a widow is permitted to marry her husband5s brother if she has not borne a son to her husband. “9 widow should eschew for a year honey. +3 4omila Thapar. (&evirate in patrilineal clans is often intended to consolidate property-. at page ))3. +. at page ++. @) Supra note )<.
forbade @0 @C :amely 6eva"i. written at before the dawn of the Bhristian era. is entirely silent about sati. at page +C. 9 chapter in the epic.hatot4acha and Drona burn themselves. 'anu suggests that a widow “may if she chooses. In the 5ttara4anda/6 we find -edavati3s mother becoming a sati7 but this story is more legendary than historical. was a “great advocate of female sacrifice . she e7pressed the wish to be burnt along with her husband. 0< THE EARLIER SMRITIS .amayana too has different versions. %autilya. by means of his magic. 4ohini and 1adira.6. In fact. roots and fruits . =ne view holds that sati is not mentioned in the original epic. at page >+>. @.)< SATI -asudeva /2 THE HISTORY OF burnt themselves along with their deceased husbands5 bodies respectively. . /hadra. at page >+>. we find that when . he would have surely made a mention of it. Supra note )@.@* &i"e the 'aha&harata. at page +C. 0< Supra note )0. however. she would go to heaven even if she were sonless. another important te7t of the pre. . at page +@. eight 8ueens ascended the pyre at 1rishna3s death while Satya&hama chose not death but ascetism and life as a recluse. written during the 1auryan age. for none of the wives of Dasaratha or . This passage is also probably a later interpolation. 0) 1anu is considered the foremost lawgiver in the Hindu tradition and his wor" formed the base for the law codes of later times. @<<. 0@ Supra note )<.avana are represented in the epic as accompanying their husbands on the funeral pyre.avana. who were slain in the battle of 1uru4shetra. at page )+). @* Supra note )<. @C 9ccording to the -ishnupurana (9. 0+ Supra note )@.><<-. no mention of immolation by the wives of other Pandavas or by the widows of the 1auravas. @>There is. :either did the wives of (&himanyu. If the practice of widow immolation had been prevalent in his time. 0@ %autilya5s (rthashastra. emaciate her body by subsisting on flowers. raised before the eyes of Sita the illusion of the fall of . @3 Supra note +3 . at page )C.ama. In the original "ernel of the epic. the . and declares that if she stayed virtuous and celibate.20 This is despite the fact that the 'anusmriti has been critici2ed for adopting a rigid and chauvinistic attitude towards women and lower castes. DHARMA-SHASTRAS AND OTHER ANCIENT TEXTS: The dharma-shastras seem to hold contradictory views on sati. 'anusmriti28. =ne other argument put forward in connection with the 'aha&harata is that -yasa who is said to have composed the original story.@3 It has been argued that these references to sati are late interpolations.Bhristian era. recogni2ed both niyoga and widow remarriage. @> Supra note )<. in fact.
!ven after the dawn of the Bhristian era. The -ishnusmriti ()<< 9. 0. at page )++. at page )). at page +C.. 0> Supra note )<. The :ata4a !ales. The great Sa4ya sage. 0* Supra note +3.0* Thus. for instance.thin"s the custom to be not illogical? it advanced the vies that in spite of diversity of 1arman. increasingly emphasi2ed on ascetism and branded women as “temptation incarnate. they were allowed remarriage? then celibacy was en'oined? later. though other relations cannot. at page +3. 0> However. . C< Supra note )0.. between the first and third century 9. at page )3.. who opposed sacrifice of dumb animals to Eod. 0C The /uddhist tradition. go the way of the departed soul by dying after him. THE LATER SMRITIS AND DHARMA-SHASTRAS: 9s we proceed chronologically from the earliest "nown sources to the medieval period. portray the demorali2ing influence of women. called a “punarbhu . 'udging by the large number of Gain widows who became nuns.6. C< However. sati was not a general practice.)) SATI condoned it. celibacy and immolation were mentioned as alternatives? then. and from this it is possible to infer that “even in times long after %autilya.B. it is one of the first te7ts to mention widow immolationH“9fter 00 0C Supra note )<. we can conclude from the available evidence that till around the dawn of the Bhristian era. Supra note )0. who practiced widow burning much before the other classes too" to it in imitation. . it is evident that although some might have become satis. we can observe a steady shift in the attitude to women down the agesHinitially. is mentioned by some writers li"e 9arada and Parasara. sati was not prevalent even among the 1shatriyas. a widow can. which came to prominence in the C th century /. the /uddhist literature is unaware of the custom of sati. at page )++. Still. 03 9lso. at page +>.6. immolation became the more sanctimonious alternative and finally. this was not the prevailing custom. it does not mention it as a “religious duty . Supra note )<. there was an outright glorification of widow immolation. 03 Supra note )0.. would certainly have been e7asperated by a custom of burning human beings alive and would have started a vehement crusade against it? if the custom had e7isted.00 THE HISTORY OF suicide of any "ind overtly and suggested stringent punishment for those who attempted or The son of a remarried widow.ajnaval4yasmriti mentions a widow as the first heir of a sonless man? there is no mention of widow immolation.0.
clear references to sati can be observed in the various writings. Instances of widow burning are said to have proliferated in the early years of the si7th to seventh centuries due to the political and social uncertainties. :arada. i. C0 Supra note +3. so as to protect the honour of the women endangered due to the rising rape and abduction. at page @+. of her mother. is a good and loyal wife. Supra note )<. CC Supra note )<.)+ SATI THE HISTORY OF C) the death of the husband. C@ Supra note )0. . writing around the same period. at page )+@. C> Women began to be secluded “to protect them and as an e7tension of this reasoning. as many as the number of hairs on a human body. =ne other oft. However.6. a woman had to preserve her chastity or ascend the funeral pyre. were made for confusion and contradiction.e.and anuvarohana (ascending the pyre-. also mentions about widow immolation. glorifies the act of becoming a sati with the theory that it ensures for the wife and the husband an eternity of living together after death.</ The Hitopdesha. vi . at page )>. at page +... The third view. such as those of *rihaspati. offers three different points of view and is an interesting e7ample of how amendments to the te7t over a period of time in "eeping with the changing attitudes.. immolation came to be loo"ed upon as a solution. “She who follows her husband will abide in heaven for three and a half crore years. “She. from the time of the of the Eupta period (0<< to ><< 9. C3 Supra note )<.6. and of her husband. CC These three statements span the changing attitudes towards women. a collection of stories dating to the early first millennium 9. C> Supra note )<. similarly a woman who burns herself draws her husband out to en'oy heavenly bliss with him. but 8ualifies it by adding that a widow should not immolate herself if she has young children or if she is pregnant. =ne view advocates remarriage while another decrees a life of chastity for the widow in order to attain heaven. C* C) C+ Supra note )<. C* Supra note ++. at page +*. He also added. at page +*.. another ma'or te7t. who dies when he dies.C+ /ut both the commentators consider immolation only as a secondary alternative to lifelong celibacy.-. C3 Harita reflected the pervading attitudes of the times in his unambiguous pronouncement. “Gust as a sna"e charmer draws out a sna"e from a hole. Parasara and the author of (gnipurana. “the woman who follows her husband in death purifies three families. C0 The Parasarasmriti. sahagamana (going together. of her father.8uoted verse is. at page +>. The act is described in various te7ts as sahamarana (dying together-. at page +*. presumed to be yet another later edition reads thus.
>+ Bommenting on the 8uotations from the 9arayaniya 5panishad.. made references on immolation.B. at page >+*. at page )*. H. >C !ven classic Sans"rit literature. at page )+@. who fell in C)< 9. Iueen Jashomati. 6o thou enable me to accomplish meKto gain the heavenly mansion I enter into theeHinspire me with courage and ta"e me to my lordK. at page @3. 1adam&ari. >< Supra note ). while fighting for his country against the Hunas. Wilson adds the caveat that the 5panishads are of “varying dates and not une8uivocal . The famous Sans"rit scholar /ana has described this instance in his Harshacharita. 9lthough both his wives were an7ious to ascend the pyre. when it was declared that there was no chance of her husband5s recovery.6.aruda-Purana and the Padma-Purana also portray the custom of widow immolation in good light. >0 Supra note )0. we find that the wife of general Eopara'a.>* In ><> 9. who died in @)> /. to give courage to the widow who wants to immolate herself on her deceased husband5s funeral pyre.ig-veda vadat saadh)i stree na &havedamaghtinee. at page @<. including the celebrated play 'ritcha4ati4a.. while fighting against 9ntigonos. as well as (ngirasa. at page @<. >C Supra note )@. >> HISTORICAL SATIS AND EVIDENCES THROUGH INSCRIPTION: The earliest historical instance of Sati is that of the wife of the Hindu general %eteus. Supra note )<. .ajnval4yasmriti. at page )++. >+ Supra note )<. at page @@. >@ Supra note ++. >3 To turn to historic cases of the Bhristian era. declares that the duty of “anvarohana+ was common to all women from all castes from /rahamans to BhandalaHprovided they are not pregnant or having young children..=6 In his other wor". “The loyal wife who burns herself shall not be deemed a suicide. >* Supra note +3.6.. >@ 'ita4shara. immolated herself on her husband5s funeral pyre. the mother of %ing Harsha. >) . the latest wor"s on Dharma-Shastras such as 9irnaysindhu and Dharmasindhu. may be due to the political and social turbulence prevalent at the time due to the 1ughal invasion. a commentary on . the Sans"rit scholar.H. 8uoted in the 9arayaniya 5panishad contains a verse addressed to (gni (fire god-C. >3 Supra note )0. I will observe the vow of following my husband. only the younger one was allowed to as the elder one was with child. /ana has severely C. >> Supra note )<. meaning.>< This verse is read in con'unction with a verse >) from the *rahmapurana.>0 The . “= 9gni.)@ SATI THE HISTORY OF The !aittiriya samhita. to assert that the $edas sanctioned sahamarana (dying together-. >. at page +. Finally. chose to predecease her husband by committing herself to flames. approve of widow immolation.
Supra note )0. Inscriptions from the peninsular region refer to women becoming satis when their husbands died in the battles fought between and among the Hindu rulers such as the Bhalu"yas.6. 3@ Supra note +3. 4ecord of this is present in 1alhana3s . so well "nown to us from numerous inscriptions. %alasa and Dt"arsha. it is strange that only a few epigraphical records from :orthern India of this period should be referring to the actual cases of the sati. who5s Eurus condemned the custom.ajatarangani.3C The Si"hs.6. when 4a'a 4an'itsingh died. four 8ueens and seven concubines ascended his funeral pyre. the custom became firmly rooted in this region at around )+<< 9. at page )+*. When 3< 3) Supra note )0. 9t abut this time. The 8ueen of only "ing /huta #andya of the Sangam age is "nown to have followed the custom. at page )+@.. we do not come across any cases of Sati down to . Jadavas and Hoysalas. at page )@). . which later became the stronghold of sati custom. at page )@+.))<< 9.<< 9. The wives of %ings Dchchala. The earliest among these is that of the mother of the #hahamana "ing Bhandamahasena.6. 9mong the members of the #allava. Satis became more fre8uent in northern India and 8uite common in %ashmir. as they did not want to lag behind the 4a'puts in following the time.>? 6uring the period 3<<.6. at page )>. The history of %ashmir during this period teems with the cases of satis in royal family. in %ashmir. >0 women mounted his funeral pyre. 3@ In the e7treme south. 3C Supra note )0. who claimed 4a'put descent. When 4a'a 9'itsingh of 1arwar died in )3+0. 3> Supra note )0. at page )+3. only a few epigraphs refer to it.6.)0 SATI THE HISTORY OF critici2ed the custom.3> !ven the 1aratha ruling families. honoured martial traditions. could not remain immune from the influence of the custom. immolated themselves on their husband5s funeral pyres. who became a sati in *0+ 9. the Bhola and the #andya ruling families. is also seen becoming a sati. sati was more an e7ception than a rule down to )<<< 9.30 6espite references in various writings. named 4a'yavati. 3+ Which was written in ))<< 9. in the period from the tenth to the fourteenth centuries.3) In the stories of the 1athasaritsagar>0. !ven in 4a'putana. the custom of sati is 8uite common. So.6. began following it once they became a warrior community. a :epalese 8ueen. 30 Supra note )0.
This account can be found in the (4&arnama. Their location and chronology have provided a new insight into the history of these areas. 9mong the members of the #eshwa family. Humayun wanted to prohibit it in the case of the widows. the sun and the moon indicating eternity? an upright. In the ++ nd year of his reign. and their accounts must be true in some cases.bearing age. They have a standard set of symbols. one of 9"bar5s officers. .stones which commemorated death in the course of a heroic act. contesting this territory. the widow being informed that she would lose her right to Stridhana. the widow of 1adhavrao I. 3.3. 9"bar translated his opposition to the custom into action by appointing inspectors to see that no force was used to compel widows to burn themselves against their will. who had passed the child. at page )>. Supra note +3. *< Supra note )0. satis became rare phenomena in the territories contiguous to 9gra. 1edieval travelers record many cases of sati where force was e7ercised. :icoli Bonti informs us that financial pressure was often e7ercised. right arm and hand. They occur in the same locality as the hero. only 4amabai. as many people believe that it was due to the 1uslim invasion during the medieval period that the sati custom was revived. They give us a deep insight into the prevailing custom of sati. /ernier 33 3* Supra note )0. open. 9 woman5s bangles being bro"en when she is widowed. became a sati. 9s a conse8uence. bent at the elbow and clearly showing bangles intact 3*? a lime held in the hand to ward off evil. as a general rule did not li"e the custom of sati. only one of his wives became a Sati. the bangles being intact would be an indication of her continuing marital status. at page )@C.@8 These instances are important.)C SATI THE HISTORY OF Shiva'i died. his son wanted to forcibly immolate his mother? she was eventually saved only by the intervention of 9"bar. at page )@@.>> SATI STONES: 9nother indication of the e7istence of satis is the sati memorial stones. 1anucci tells us that %shatriya women were burnt even against their wishes. *< In the case of Gaimal. SATI UNDER THE MUSLIMS: The 1uslim rulers. if she decided to survive. at page )@+. *) Supra note )0. SATI AS KNOWN FROM THE ACCOUNTS OF THE FOREIGNERS: The travelogues of the foreigners are as important historical sources as our scriptures and te7ts. Some of these areas were sub'ect to raids by "ingdoms in the vicinity.
I will not fail to go and see her and honour by my presence her funeral with that compassionate affection. which was restricted to only the warrior %shatriya classes to start with. #ietro della $alle*+ was also impressed by the courage of the average sati. Tavernier. *@ Supra note )0. as the were accustomed to pride themselves on following the most ascetic and self. *C *+ He said. at page )+. *C Supra note +3. as they did not want to be outdistanced by the %shatriyas.)@>. This was the reason why sati. in order to enhance their social and political power.6. a )3th century traveler .@/ In this manner. *0 !ven the wealthy traders too" to this practice in the eighteenth century. which such a great con'ugal fidelity and love seem to deserve K(as cited from 9lte"ar-. and how she held her hand in the flame of a torch till it was burnt to cinders in order to convince the officer that she was a willing party.denying mode of life. . Ibn /atuta. narrates how a widow of ++ went to the Eoverner of #atna to get his permission.)> SATI THE HISTORY OF has narrated the pathetic case of a child widow of )+ being burnt against her will at &ahore. by )<<< 9. who gleefully embraced the devouring flames of the funeral pyre. tells us how he fainted to see the unbelievable courage of a dauntless widow. at page )3. slowly but steadily spread in the /rahamana community as well.. a )0th century traveler. and was not afraid of the fire. “If I "new of a lady about to become a sati. *0 Supra note )0. the sati custom was prevalent in the Hindu civili2ation. at pages )@C. It obtained the status of a well recogni2ed and commendable practice in Hinduism..
6elhi. for the proper conduct of a widow included instructions that she should not eat more than one very plain meal a day. Widows were considered inauspicious. *> Treatise after treatise. this has been the case in the Hindu conte7t also. was seen as the ultimate degradation because it practically invalidated her continued e7istence.)3 SATI THE HISTORY OF CHAPTER : SATI!WHAT LIES BENEATH" In almost all cultures and ages..born lady was having her head shaved *> Sa"untala :arasimhan. disdain for the female has mar"ed social attitudes in general. *. and of course. therefore. no 'ewelry. . Widowhood. right from birth. Widows in Indian culture have had to bear the burden of social opprobrium of horrendous dimensions. it followed that her e7istence lost its rationale once the husband was dead. 9s loyalty. HarperBollins #ublishers India. *3 %&id.0>. Sati: ( Study of "ido) *urning in %ndia (:ew 6elhi.S. at page 03. religious practices and secular customs have mirrored this outloo" that condemns women to a lowly status. Supra note *>. to illustrate how women were denigrated and held worthy of only contempt. STATUS OF THE WIDOWS: Widowhood. *. 1orally and intellectually. 9lte"ar. for Indian women. in matters large and small. 1ost laws. most humiliating of all for a high.)<3. /y and large. 9 girl5s upbringing was patterned entirely around the concept of Pativrata.. wear nothing but the drabbest clothes. came to be seen as the worst calamity that could ever befall a woman. women were held to be inferior and wea". never sleep in a bed.. *3 The husband had natural “propriety rights over the wife.** The whole situation was summed up by 'anu3s declaration as follows.*. that she should perform the most menial tas"s. and devotion in a woman assumed such an overriding emphasis. barred from festivities and forbidden all comforts and pleasures. #erhaps. 4eferences are available in plenty from the time of the earliest of the ancient te7ts. For the ideal woman. ). ). leave the house only to go to the temple. often reiterated.. through every period in history. #rescriptions. “9 wife5s marital duty does not come to an end even if the husband were to sell or abandon her. ** 9. They were not permitted to study the -edas7 and marriage and motherhood were their only goals. !he Position of "omen in Hindu #ivili ation (+nd edn. over e7tended periods in time. there could be no e7istence apart from that of the husband.. chastity. at page C<. in Sans"rit and in other languages eulogi2es the wife who relegates herself to the bac"ground and puts herself last. 1otilal /anarsidass #ublishers #rivate &imited. "eep out of sight at festivals.
at )C. Bontrol over female se7uality would be a further reason. the fiery pile assumed. .< 6orothy %. they would become the victims of men and go astray? and that would mean dishonour to the family. ). Stein.3*+0N+.0N@9+N@B+C@N@9WT/S99N@!+.>.) 9ll this was due to the fact that the death of the husband was construed as punishment for the sins committed in a previous birth? in order to atone for those sins and ensure that she would not suffer widowhood in her ne7t birth. if the future stretched out blea" and barren. the only choice before the widow is to suffer throughout her life or to commit sati? out of the two. . @0+.3. sati is a better way out because the agony of burning would be short. .+>* as cited from http. “Women to /urn. although this is not typical of bride. Suttee as a :ormative Institution . the unfortunate woman had to perform all "inds of austerities and flagellations prescribed for her. .price . . With nothing to do. with the possibility of religious merit thrown in as a bonus. at page >3.C Supra note *>.@ Widows were not allowed to remarry. The notion of bride.LLlin"s. in comparison. the denial of all "inds of adornments for widows was sought to be 'ustified as “in their own interest Hif widows loo"ed attractive. :o.orgLLsiciAsiciM<<.0 Dnder these drastic circumstances. .) %d.B=N@/+. In some circumstances. the logical termination of which may have been the re8uirement of her dying together with her husband.**.0 Supra note *>. “9ccording to Hindu Shastras and $edas.@ Supra note *>. They were forbidden to turn to religious learning? as social outcastes they could not immerse themselves in 'obs or interests outside the home. .> 4omila Thapar. if not an attraction then at least a semblance of an escape hatch.lived.price. #erhaps. at page >3. . a more acceptable e7planation may relate to societies changing their systems of "inship and inheritance. can suggest in some situations the purchase of a woman. . “Sati in History . $ol.)* SATI THE HISTORY OF monthly by an untouchable ale barber. Signs.< 9ll this was held to be necessary for the sa"e of her husband5s soul and to "eep herself from being reborn as a “female animal . compared with the agony of lifelong widowhood. pages +C@. which denied women the identity of her own. the wife would be an alien in the early stages of change.3*-.<.30<N+*). for e7ample.+ Supra note **. at page >>. .0.+ To add insult to in'ury. Shan"aracharya of #uri said. Seminar (). it was obvious that widows chose death over a miserable life.+ .+ (Winter. . .C 9nother reason for the deplorable condition of the widows was the prevalence of a patriarchal society. The practice may have originated among societies in flu7 and become . .'stor.
)<) 9s already stated earlier. in spite of the opposition from her parents. not only her husband but also her parents and of course herself. Sati: Historical and Phenomenological Essays (6elhi.>. )<< %d. Therefore.. when the practices of niyoga and widow remarriage were abolished. she will be reborn as a woman in many successive births. in the later period. . Dnder the 6ayabhaga)<+ system of inheritance. SATI THE HISTORY OF customary among those holding property such as the families of chiefs and %shatriyas. a widow was entitled to inherit the property of the deceased husband. +<<)-.8uoted inscription of the eleventh century referring to a shudra woman whose husband died in battle against the Eanga ruler. . The entire property of a . and the marriageable age of the girls was drastically reduced. =nce it was established as a custom associated with the %shatriyas. the . the women were not allowed to hold property. It was said that a woman who burnt herself on her husband5s funeral pyre would dwell in heaven for as many years as there are hairs on the human body and will dwell with her husband served by apsaras. it would continue to be so among those claiming %shatriya status as well. became a sati. among other things. it is li"ely that members of lower castes holding similar positions emulated the style of the %shatriyas. . 9rvind Sharma. )<) Supra note **. The inclusion of her parents was a shrewd move appealing to her filial emotions. 1otilal /anarsidass #ublishers #rivate &imited. /ut.3 =ne e7ample is the oft. where mundane considerations would not apply.. 9nother reason for the rise of the custom of sati in the early centuries of the post. at page @C+.. )<+ =ne of the two standard authorities for Hindus on the division of property among heirs. It was said that her act would purify of all sins. In the $edic times. Her insistence may have been occasioned.* %d. overriding the claims of his other relatives. society had to devise an honorable means to enable the widow to maintain herself. . although their position was much better compared to later times.Bhristian era is the change in the propriety rights of the women. and who.).)<< 6eification was a compensation for suicide and acted as an incentive as well as an attempt to ta"e the act onto another plane. Her husband held a high military position under the Bhola control. Supra note . The custom it would seem was prevalent at this time among those who held high administrative and military positions generally associated with %shatriyas. by the wish to establish status.3 . The ultimate threat is that if she does not burn.ajnaval4yasmriti mentions widow as the first heir of a sonless man.* Deification of the woman was another incentive to becoming a sati.
This led to the pre'udice in the minds of the relatives against the widow. #art I (#oona. a widow could not gift away her property or sell or mortgage it? which meant she could not distribute it to the /rahmins for performing rites to ensure her husband5s passage to heaven. %ane. there were very few instances of widow immolation in this area. !ven under the 'ita4shara law. education and male chauvinism. )<> 9nother prevalent view is that it was necessitated by the “1uslim invasions when upper caste Hindu women resorted to it to defend their honour from 1uslim marauders. under the 6ayabhaga law. as well as certain economic factors. supports this viewpoint. Dnder the circumstances. CHAPTER #: SATI$PUJA IN THE MARWARI COMMUNITY )<@ )<0 Supra note *>.30. II.+< SATI THE HISTORY OF man dying without sons went to his widow who became as much a coparcener as the male. )<C Supra note *>. where this system was prevalent. )<0 The large number of cases of widow immolation in /engal. There is a further aspect of the inheritance issue that standard e7planations in terms of 6ayabhaga and 'ita4shara laws have not ta"en into account. )<C Hence. #. History of Dharmasastras—$ol. ). religious pressure.$. )<3 Thus. )<3 Supra note . )<> Supra note *>. /handar"ar =riental 4esearch Institute. )<@ In addition. even this dubious protection was whittled away. at page *).heirs and did not have sonsHthat is. where under the prevailing 'ita4shara law. With the erosion of this lifestyle in the face of increasing e7posure to the alien ethos of the invaders. whatever protection the 'ita4shara offered the widow against avaricious instigations to immolate herself held good only as long as the 'oint family system remained intact.at >+*. at page *@. the relatives did not stand to gain much through her death. at page )C. at page *). This can be contrasted with areas li"e /enares. . the widow got the husband5s property if he happened to be separated from his co. the rights of the widow were limited and amounted to no more than a lifetime maintenance. This must have fre8uently induced the surviving members of the Hindu 'oint family to get rid of the widow by appealing at a most distressing hour to her devotion to and love for her husband. we can infer that the approval of the notion of a woman ceasing to e7ist on the death of her husband is part of a wider canvas of social attitudes towards women and the triviali2ation of their lives.>.
year old Hindu bride named :arayani 6evi was coming home for the first time with her husband.-. at page +). for the glorification of their “4ani Sati+ lineage Eoddess are among the wealthiest temples in India. on one day about si7 hundred years ago. Sudesh $aid.))< This myth appropriates many cultural values associated with the 4a'puts. a traditional warrior class.**-. The temple was built in ). ))) Family deity. $ol. The 1arwari temples. ))+ The worship of 4ani Sati occurs overwhelmingly in public temples.+) SATI THE HISTORY OF The She"hawati region. built a temple for her after her death. The servant 4nan. including the importance placed on the 4uldevi888 tradition. )<* 1ost “1arwari families come from the districts of Ghun'hunu and Si"ar districts.<. all originally from 4a'asthan but now spread all over India.3C+. 1uslim invaders suddenly attac"ed her husband and his companions.. @0+. 4ani Sati has become a public symbol of a community.identified goddess who reflects particular ideals of domesticity and gender roles )<* )<. ))< 9nne Hardgrove. !he :ournal of (sian Studies. “#olitics of Widow Immolation . . :o. a fourteen.<*N+. %&id... and her loyal 1uslim servant 4ana survived the attac". which lies close to Gaipur district and consists og the Ghun'hunu and Si"ar districts. tradition and cultural identity. 1aheshwari and =swal. 9ccording to popular community legend. at page +<. )<.'stor. What is notable is that during neither the medieval nor the colonial period was this region particularly "nown for this practice. along with the entire community. which means “respected grandmother and the ostensible matriarch of a longer e7tended lineage. 9ccording to the story.@ (9ug..@>. has in the post. “Sati Worship and 1arwari #ublic Identity in India . :arayani 6evi then bravely burned herself t death by spontaneously bursting into flames to avoid being captured and "idnapped by these invaders. Seminar (). :arayani 6evi maintained the boundary lines of the community.))*N+*). 1arwaris are typically described as comprised of a large number of e7tended family lineages from the communities of 9garwal. ))+ Supra note ))<. /y "illing herself. 'ust after their marriage.. following her instructions. =nly :arayani 6evi.C*N@9@N@B3+@N@9SW91#IN@!+.B=N@/+.independence period witnessed a deliberate and organi2ed effort to revive the practice of widow immolation.orgLsiciAsiciM<<+). as sourced from http.LLlin". many 1arwaris maintain that the worship of sati has nothing to do with actual widow sacrifice and assert that sati worship is an essential part of their religion. She is often referred to “6adi'i .%. ). depositing and burying the ashes where the horse carrying them had stopped. This formed the site of the current 4ani Sati temple. a member of the :alan lineage. pages 3+@. therby avoiding her capture and rape by the invaders.C*. . However. brutally "illing them.
who venerate martyrs but do not promote martyrdom as a religious practice. they do not get attached to what Indians call as “service traditions. without actually becoming a sati. Supra note ))<. self. it is important to loo" at the social status and practices of 1arwari women inside "inship structures and the community generally. 9 parallel could be made here with the Bhristians. which would suggest that the family suffers from financial hardship. 9lthough. despite their history of migration from one place to another. /y worshipping their lineage goddess 4ani Sati. 1ost of the 1arwari women are housewives. who sustains family.))0 The managing committee of the 4ani Sati temple trust. and do not pursue a career outside of the home.sacrifice and service to family. . 1arwaris are asserting an ideal of wifely virtue in the public sphere that emphasi2es the values of women5s fidelity. 9 1arwari woman can become sati-li"e. In order to understand the cultural and historical meaning of sati-puja. /ut the one at Ghun'hunu still holds an important historical and cultural sanctity for the 1arwaris. The reasons for its rise and prevalence have also been considered. in this sense. reflecting the devoted widow. of the entire 4ul. which is traditionally patriarchal in nature due The figure of the sati. serves as a powerful symbol of a woman. located in Balcutta.88/ 9 sati. It has been discovered that the notion of sati as a ))@ ))0 Supra note ))<. CONCLUSION The history of sati has been e7amined in this term paper. reflects the self. has established many temples all over India. While some read the 1arwari practice of sati worship as a rationali2ation or 'ustification of widow immolation. for the 1arwaris. they have increasingly obtained higher levels of education and become active in public sphere.++ SATI to its businesses. THE HISTORY OF which are valued in the 1arwari community. sati has become a prescriptive definition of wifely devotion to husband. family and the 4ul.sacrificing nature which 1arwari women are supposed to embody. In this way. lineage and domestic virtues. 9lthough a typically patriarchal tradition. they do not compromise the family5s reputation by wor"ing for others. in their maintenance of the e7tended family and indeed. the sati-worship has given the 1arwaris an identity as a community.
In fact. there are several instances to be found where the sati was committed out of a feeling of true devotion and love. but references to it are available in the later te7ts. but the social. tried and succeeded to some e7tent in ma"ing immolation the better alternative for the widow. The verses in the $edic te7ts were misinterpreted so as to forge the scriptural sanction for the custom. the worship of satis and they being accorded the status of heroes goes on to show that the people really were awe. The main factors for the rise of the custom were not purely spiritual or religious. political and economic factors also played a ma'or role.Bhristian era. #robably. The point to be noted is that the same te7ts. However. 9lso.+@ SATI THE HISTORY OF custom has not been sanctioned by the smritis or other te7ts of the ancient period . it does not mean that all instances of sati were involuntary and unauthentic. However. The custom also gained a strong foothold due to vested interests of certain powerful people to remove a potential inheritor form the way. which the defenders of sati used to legitimi2e the practice. To achieve their unscrupulous ends. #eople also see" to identify the characteristics of an ideal women in the satis and thereby. the earliest recorded instances of sati is to be found only in the post. This is parado7ical. this is the reason as to why even after more than )>< years of its abolition by the /ritish.immolation. made many interpolations in the ancient te7ts and advocated the custom in the medieval te7ts so as to legitimi2e this horrendous and barbaric practice. we still find cases of widow immolation. BIBLIOGRAPHY ARTICLES: .stric"en by this very courageous act of self. Some of them were even committed to protect their honour and chastity from the various invaders. the propriety and other interests li"e protection of honour of the family lest the widow go astray. li"e the one of 4oop %anwar. see" their salvation from the worship of the Eoddess. the leaders of the patriarchal society as well as the writers of the time. also advocate certain moral code of conducts to be practiced by the widow. These facts prove that sati as a religious custom stemmed only very late in India. Finally. but was a purely voluntary one. especially the 1uslims. and it goes on to show that sati was not a compulsory course of action to be followed by every Hindu widow.
@0+. History of Dharmasastras—$ol. Seminar ().$. )..LLlin"s. Seminar ().S..B=N@/+. @0+.. Suttee as a :ormative Institution . “Sati.**-. $ol.orgLLsiciAsiciM<<.%um"um 4oy.+ (Winter.9rvind Sharma.. .+>* as cited from http.'stor.. /handar"ar =riental 4esearch Institute.30<N+*). $ol.%. Sati: ( Study of "ido) *urning in %ndia (:ew 6elhi. In History .30-. "omen in Early %ndian Societies (:ew 6elhi.<.B=N@/+. BOOKS: a.))*N+*). :o. 9lte"ar. pages +C@. )..0. Sati: Historical and Phenomenological Essays (:ew 6elhi.orgLsiciAsiciM<<+).'stor.C*N@9@N@B3+@N@9SW91#IN@!+. !he Position of "omen in Hindu #ivili ation (+nd edn.3*+0N+. ).#.@ (9ug.C*. c. pages 3+@.Sa"untala :arasimhan.**-.0N@9+N@B+C@N@9WT/S99N@!+.LLlin". II.. as sourced from http. 6elhi.+0 SATI THE HISTORY OF a.3*-.*- . . #art I (#oona.3C+. +<<)d. %ane.9nne Hardgrove. b. Signs.4omila Thapar. Stein.<. “Sati Worship and 1arwari #ublic Identity in India ..6orothy %. “#olitics of Widow Immolation . HarperBollins #ublishers India. +<<)c..+ .-. :o. 1otilal /anarsidass. ).9. d. 1otilal /anarsidass #ublishers #rivate &imited.Sudesh $aid. “Women to /urn.<*N+. e.b. !he :ournal of (sian Studies.3. 1anohar #ublishers. ).
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