Saturday, May 05, 2007

Widows Once Followed Their Husbands Into The Grave

Monuments all over India testify to the devotion of Hindu widows to their husbands. Each of the suttee (virtuous women) had made a supreme gesture to expunge her own and her husband's sins and ensure eternal bliss for them both: each had hurled herself onto the flames of her husband's funeral pyre.

Whether these women sacrificed themselves voluntarily or not is a moot point. Any Hindu widow who might have questioned her expected duty may also have decided that death was preferable to life as the reviled outcast she would have become had she refused. And if, in the end, her courage failed her, there were men at hand with poles to pin her down among the flames.

This grim practice dates back at least to the 4th century BC. It was a progressive Hindu sect, the Brahmo Samaj, who first agitated against suttee (sati in Hindi) and, in the face of orthodox Hindu opposition, persuaded the British to prohibit it. In 1829, suttee was outlawed in British India, but remained legal in some princely states for 30 years. And there are unconfirmed reports that it still secretly occurs today.


Bobby Revell said...

Nice post! I find India a magical place filled with mystery.

Danielle said...

Satti does in fact still happen in the more isolated Hindu villages. The in laws often encourage it. In the days of the Rajas before British colonization when fighting occurred it was a means to preserve the blood line of the losing caste and royalty lines. There were to be no booty of women for the winner. In the Ramayana Sita had to be purged by fire before Rama will accept her back after she was kidnapped even though nothing had occurred. A woman's "purity" is still of utmost importance to both sexes in India.

Great post.

BtenO said...

Nice post,but then terrible practice,hope that's been abolished now?

aagung said...