Sati Tradition

Why it is important to study the Sati tradition:
It may be, prima facie, astonishing when we talk of the ‘Sati Tradition’ in today's age of the ‘new woman’, where there is a widespread resonance of the ongoing clamor for women's rights in India. Talks of women’s emancipation, dignity and equality can be heard in every part of the country, and to talk about the ‘Sati’ tradition would seem quite conservative on the part of researchers, since Sati is a historical practice which supposedly does not hold any relevance in today's discourse.

Regarding the above notion some pertinent questions can be raised: 

has the concept of Sati become part of forgotten history? 

Has the underlying thought of Sati been erased from our social consciousness? 

Have we finally abolished this ghastly form of violence against women? 

Has the social system in which Sati takes place, been dismantled? 

Is ‘Sati’ a glorified tradition in its intrinsic character, which has no connection with other gruesome forms of structural violence like female-foeticide, bride-burning, demand for virgins, gendered concept of disgraced entity, honour killing, dowry death, rape, witch-hunting, womb marriages and subjugation in social relations of different shades? 

Has woman successfully won the war against the practice of Sati? 

What does Roop Kanwar's ceremonial murder (1987) indicate? 

Without a sense of the history of the practice of Sati, we cannot diagnose and understand the social malaise, of which Sati is just one of the symptoms. It shows that the phenomenon of ‘Sati’ is still not irrelevant for us. Therefore, without developing a profound insight into the history of woman-centric misogynous values like ‘Sati’, the stumbling - blocks in the movement for freedom and equality of women cannot be removed.

What is Sati: Etymological Trajectory

‘Sati’ (Suttee) literary means “a pure and virtuous woman”.This concept permits “live widow burning in funeral pyre of her deceased husband”. A widow committed self-immolation with her husband's death. The commission of Sati (Prevention) Act, 1987, part 1, section 2(c) defines Sati term as: “The burning or burying alive of -

(i) Any widow along with the body of her deceased husband or

(ii) Any woman along with the body of any of her relatives, irrespective of whether such burning or burying is claimed to be voluntary on the part of the widow or the women or otherwise.”

In Mythology, the term has interesting meta physical a narrative related to it. “Sati, also called Dakshayani, is one of the daughters of Prasuti and Daksha. She loved Shiva, but her father, Daksha, forbade her marriage to the dark lord, she did so anyway, and Daksha avenged his humiliation by not inviting him in a festival.
Sati killed herself by self-immolation in a fire. After Shiva returned and found Sati's body, he killed and decapitated Daksha, later replacing his head with a goat's. Sati was reborn as Parvati (The daughter of the mountain or parvata), and reappears as Shiva's consort. The term appears in Hindi and Sanskrit texts where it is synonymous with a good wife and chaste woman. Sati designates, therefore, originally such a woman rather than the rite. The practice took different forms and women were being forced to die by sitting on their husband's funeral pyre.
How this transformation took place, is not clear from historical sources. No version of the myth really fits the ritual as it developed.”
In its core Sati is a ceremonial social self-immolation by widows. The terms such as Sahagaman, Sahamarana, Pativarta, Satimata, Mahasati, Sativarta, Saktimata virtuous woman etc. also depict this spirit. A woman who dies burning herself on her husband's funeral pyre was considered most pious and was believed to directly go to heaven, redeeming all the forefathers rotting in hell by this meritorious act. She was worshipped as a goddess.

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