In different mainlands, cultures abound, each having spiritual and socio-economic implications. In numerous social orders, these cultures have hurt the general population, prompting its boycott.
Sati-the widow consuming society is one of those. Sati or suttee is an antiquated Indian practice where a widow gets herself burnt to cinders during her late 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 several wives, only one of the wives, his preferred was granted the privilege of being immolated 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 pregnant or menstruating.
Things began to take a different turn 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.
Fully 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 Lord William Bentick, the then Governor-General of British India, who worked with him to place a ban on Sati practice via the famous Regulation XVII in 1829 that situated Sati as illegal and punishable by courts.