Widow Burning

by K-Berens

This stone memorial in Jodhpur ,shrine to wives of the Maharajas, marks the location where several women committed sati. As they left home for their funeral pyre, the women dipped their hands in red pigment and left a symbolic mark of devotion and loyalty to their deceased husbands.

A practice that took place in India starting around 4 BC, known as “Sati” or widow burning was carried out when a woman’s husband had died. The original meaning of Sati is “faithful wife” in Sanskrit. The wife would voluntarily, or involuntarily set fire to themselves in the pyre where her husband was being cremated. The term was named after the goddess Sati, who immolated herself because she couldn’t stand her father’s humiliation of her husband Shiva. She committed suicide before her husband died, and was reborn again to be with Shiva under the name Parvati.

Women were encouraged to die this way to show that they were extremely devoted to their husbands, and that it would be a way of accepting that their lives were over now that her husband was gone.

This ultimate act of proving devotion to someone was not limited to wives committing suicide over their husbands – mothers would do so over their sons, servants over their kings, and in rare cases, husbands over their wives. Often, people who commit Sati prove their devotion with a test – the test was usually to burn their finger with a candle without showing signs of pain.

Sati was made illegal in 1829, under British rule, after almost two thousand years of practice. However, it did not stop Hindus from practicing this in states that were outside the British jurisdiction.

Read more:

Sati | Widow Burning

Sati – Burning of the Hindu Widow

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