Sati, Widow, and Re-Marriage!
“Udayji, yesterday I participated in a University debate on Sati (widow burning) practice in India. When I argued based on your article on Sati, everyone pooh-poohed me and I felt ashamed…” a message from Mahesh, one of my readers.
“What did you say?” I asked.
“I said Sati was never practiced by Hindus…”
“I didn’t say that. What I said was Sati has nothing to do with Sanatana Dharma or Hinduism and its scriptures… I am responsible for my writing, but not responsible for your understanding…” I said.
“What do you mean by that?”
“To the best of my knowledge, Vedas do not mention Sati anywhere, nor do Brahmanas, Aryanakas, or Griha sutras. Even Manusmriti, which has so many Interpolations, does not mention Sati Pratha. Even the ancient Buddhist/Jain scriptures do not mention such things. They would have used every opportunity to criticize the such practice. You misunderstood my article and believed that Hindus did not have such a ritual…Some sects of Hindus may have performed Sati – but even while it probably existed, it was not rampant.”
“Udayji, a speaker, who is a European scholar on Ancient India, linked Sati practice to the Hindu Goddess Sati, who burned herself to death in a fire. The scholar also quoted the mention of Sati in the Mahabharata Story of Madri. She said there are umpteen examples of Sati in Hindu scriptures…”
“She might have confused with the Europeans’ practice of the “witch burning” ritual, in which a woman who was believed to be a witch was burnt in full public view. It’s really weird that among millions of Hindu Purana stories the Hindu bashers could find only two related to Sati! But even those examples are null and void”
“Goddess Sati’s jumping into the sacrificial fire doesn’t count as Sati because her husband Shiva was alive at that point! Regarding Madri’s story – it is a very strange conflation of two different accounts of the same incident in Mahabharata. What’s more, Madri burned herself to death not due to the custom of Sati Pratha but due to regret. She felt that she was responsible for the death of her husband Pandu. There is no evidence of women performing Sati Pratha in Mahabharata post-war whose husbands were killed in the Great War. Even in Ramayana, we can see all the widowed mothers were there to receive Rama after 14 years. In Ramayana, after the demise of Ravana, his queen, Mandodari, married Ravana’s brother Vibhishana and after being widowed, Tara becomes the Queen of Sugriva, Vali (Bali)’s brother.”
“So, you mean to say there are no scriptures in Hinduism that support Sati?”
“There are thousands of Scriptures in Hinduism. In all probabilities, the Sati Pratha may have been extolled in some scriptures but none mention it as something mandatory. So, it can’t be enforced upon them as a directive from authentic Scriptures.”
“Then what do our scriptures say as direction for a widow after her husband’s death?”
“Good question. Manusmriti (5.157) says the killing self is against shastras(read Vedas). Hence Sati is ruled out. Vedas advise a widow to return from her Husband’s corpse and live a happy life in her remarriage. To a widow who is with her husband on his funeral pyre, the text says: rise up, abandon this dead man, and re-join the living. (10.18.7 and 8). Atharva Veda also speaks about the continuation of worldly affairs by women in this world after her husband’s death. However, the phrase ‘choosing her husband’s world’ is often interpreted by lunatics as the Wife is advised to join the dead husband. But it clearly advises the widow not to sit beside the dead body, but bestow upon her both wealth and offspring for the rest of her life to continue her afterlife in this (Husband’s) world. (Atharva Veda 18.3.1 and 2)”
“So our scriptures recommend widow marriage?”
“Yeah, sure they do”
“Udayji, then, who and when did Sati start in India?”
“As said, Sati is NOT a part of Hinduism and is a later practice. It was a regional cultural practice. It actually started after the Islamic invasion. Most of them (not all) used to acquire women forcefully, mostly raping and molesting them. Kshatriyas (especially Rajputs) started practicing Sati. Rajput wives were not alone, even Sikh women used to do Sati when Sikhism doesn’t promote it at all. However, the ritual was not rampant and not mandatory, though many people practiced it due to various compulsions. Remember, in Maharashtra when the father of Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj died his mother Jijamata didn’t go for a Sati!”
When scriptures advise us to follow umpteen Sadachara (good practices for upliftment), why would anyone follow Duracharas (anti-human practices) and Anacharas (Irrelevant practices), even if some scriptures mention such things? 🙂
(From Udaylal Pai’s WhatsApp Broadcast List – articles/ blogs/ answers)
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