Sunday, September 13, 2015

Sati (or suttee) in Indian culture

One of the oldest forms of femicide is suttee, or sati: the Indian practice of burning a woman alive on the pyre of her deceased husband.

Often defined as a form of suicide and glorified as the act of a woman who shows strength of character, it can be placed in the category of ritual femicide.

Sati came to connote the perfect or good wife’s ritual self-immolation either on her husband’s funeral pyre, sahagamana (going together with one’s husband), or by herself if he had already been cremated elsewhere, anugamana (following one’s husband).

The first textual description of suttee is by the Greek Diodorus, who describes how the Indian general Ceteus, fighting in Asia Minor in 316 BC, fell in battle and was cremated together with his two wives.

Suttee spread from some segments of the warrior caste in Bengal, and was abducted by interpretations of religious texts; but Mogul rulers such as Akbar and Aurungzeb, disapproved of it, and it was finally abolished by the British in 1829.

Since Indian independence, suttee has remained illegal, although it still occurs now and then. There is still however, a great amount of stigma attached to widowed women, who often remain single after becoming widowed and very rarely remarry.
Sati (or suttee) in Indian culture

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