File Photo (Fire)

Different places with various cultures, each having spiritual and socio-economic implications.

In many social orders, these cultures have hurt the general population, prompting its ban.

Sati, the widow consuming society is one of those. Sati or suttee is an antiquated Indian practice where a widow is burnt to ashes during her dead spouse’s funeral fire.

This, the widow would do by setting herself on fire while his corpse is being burnt. There were several ways of performing the Sati- She was first required to place her hand on the Sati stone for remembrance; next, she had the options of drinking poison, cutting her neck with a sharp object or allowing herself to be snake-bitten.

Thereafter, she could either lie next to the dead body, walk into the pyre, or sit on the pyre and light herself. Some communities perform the last honour by building a hut for the woman and her deceased to perform the pyre. Other place the name on the pyre while the woman walks into it.

This act, hailed as heroic, was first adopted by the royal families of the Kshatriya caste before it became forcefully practised between the 15th and 18th century. Interestingly, unlike the families of the Kshatriya, the women of the Brahmin caste were excluded from this practice because the Brahmins believed that because they belonged to this caste (also regarded as a high caste), their caste allowed them naturally attain purity hence there was no need to perform Sati.

While Sati spread to Russia, Fiji and Vietnam, some historians claim that this practice might not have been indigenous to India but brought to them from some other cultures like Scythian invaders earlier in their history.

If the man had more than on wife, only one of the wives, his preferred was granted the privilege of being killed with him. The wife who performed this was also envied by the others and her family was treated with respect.

Widows who refused to die with their deceased were pressured into doing this especially if she had no children. She could only be free from Sati if she was menstruating or pregnant.

Things began to change in the 19th century after Raja Ram Mohan Roy began the fight to reform the Hindu society. A feminist, he founded the Brahmo Samaj, a sect of Hinduism that believes in One God- monotheism.

Completely accepting western education, he became vocal against the Sati system, casteism, child marriage and polygamy. Instead, he advocated for widows to remarry. His effort caught the attention of the then Governor-General of British India, Lord William Bentick who worked with him to place a ban on Sati practice through the famous Regulation XVII in 1829 that situated Sati as unlawful and punishable by court of law.

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