Sati handprint on the entrance to Junagarh Fort. Sati was the practice where a woman burned herself on the her husband’s funeral pyre or when her husband died in battle defending the fort.
Suttee or Sati (Skt. “good woman”) has two meanings, both related to wife-burning.
In the ancient and medieval Hindu tradition, suttee occurs when a husband dies, is cremated and his wife enters the flames to be consumed along with him.
Although usually seen as horrendous by non-Hindu standards, the practice was formerly legitimized with an alleged spiritual significance.
The wife entering into the flames was once seen by Hindus as an act of sacred devotion to the husband—a devotion that continued into the afterlife. At least, this was the official take on things. It’s hard to know if women were simply forced or if they voluntarily entered the fire.
17th century Muslim rulers showed some opposition to suttee¹ and British colonialists outlawed it in 1829 while occupying India.
Suttee also refers to the contemporary and illegal practice of wife-burning in apparently accidental kitchen fires.
As mentioned in the Indian media and elsewhere,² unscrupulous husbands murder their wives by faking kitchen fires. That is, some Indian men apparently marry and murder women merely to obtain dowries.
This may sound incredible but one must remember the considerable geographic size and massive population of India, along with developmental issues which can make the enforcement of social justice difficult.
1 The complexity of the situation is outlined here: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sati_(practice)#Attitudes_of_Muslim_rulers
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