This article is about historical facts about sati practice in our ancient days.
Our Indian culture has given at most value and status to women. For food we worship Sri Annapurna Devi and for wealth, we worship lord Laxmi Devi and for education and wisdom we worship lord Saraswathi Devi and for water, we worship rivers and worshipping earth we compare with bhoodevi and finally motherland we Indian worship Bharat Mata.
So here we compare every emotion as a mother (females goddess).
So if we analyze the above great things, Do you think our culture encourages sati practice or satidaha pratha, like forcing her to enter into the fire of her husband’s pyre. after her husband’s death.
If we define actually what is sati? means,it is a widow burning herself to death on husband pyre.
Pyre meaning – A heap of combustible material, especially one for burning a corpse as part of a funeral ceremony.
Let us know the authentic historical facts one by one to burst the myths.
Sati practice – Striking historical facts
Was sati (suttee) practice a religious obligation mentioned in ancient texts?
No the actual meaning mentioned below from rigveda.
It is important Funeral hymn is from rigveda 10.18.7 . The hymn was used by critics to propagate that sati was mentioned in our scriptures. But actually what this hymn says.
It tells the widow to sit next to her husband’s dead body and moisten your eyes with ghee and get up to resume your place in the world. The last word agre (earlier) was replaced with word Agni (fire) in this hymn.
So the Hindu bashers deliberately misinterpreted that sati tradition is a religious obligation.
But the above scripture is not saying like that.
The experts of dharma Sastra condemned this distortion. That sati daha pratha in india is not a religious obligation.
In ancient days remarriage is not there and loyalty towards the husband. So our culture says the process of converting our sexual desire, energy into spiritual desires, energy is known as sati. That can happen only with the fire on inner knowledge and gyan marg
In garuda Purana 4th chapter verses 90 to 98 mention abt sati. They are some exceptions if the women have children or if she is pregnant she must avoid this practice.
In Devi Bhagavatham also some scriptures mentioned abt sati practice.
Scriptures and scholars views on sati sahagamana-
Kautilya Artha sastra did not refer to sati funeral or he never mentioned any instances.
Orientalists like HH Wilson also never told that sati system was mentioned in Hindu scriptures.
Dharma sutras or smrithis mentioned the duties of a wife but do not recommend sati pratha
manu describes wives as worthy of being worshipped that lamps lit the households and manu also says the wife is legal heir of the husband property after his death.
yajnavalkya describes wives were gifts of gods and strict rules for widow bit, not self-immolation.
vishnu smrithi says a good wife, who perseveres in a chaste life after the death of her lord, will go to heaven like (perpetual) students, even though she has no son.
Vyas Smriti, Kalidas, court poet of harsha kadambari he condemns of sati (banabatta)
some scholars medhatithi compared sati practice as black magic.
late medieval period smrithis till time had carried no instruction on methods of sati ,rituals.
In the 18th century Thanjavur a book stree dharma paddati written by triyambaka pandit threat to Hinduism by islam and missionaries Europeans.He told how to preserve threats he recommended way of salvation in a troubled scenario to protect their chastity, but the option of leading aesthetic life is always open
Mahaveer van tantra also condemns sati.
Ancient religion legal texts mentioned austere life for women.
Was sati forced?
Here in india the marriage tradition marriage is a sacrament not a contract. Generally, our culture says life partner is half of her husband and she is having equal priority in a family.
If we see images of artha nareeshwar shiva has given his entire half place to lord Parvathi . It means wife is equal to her husband and she is the soul of her husband.
The travellers who saw sati saw women while performing sati they indicate fingers. If suppose if she shows 4 that means she will commit sati another 3 times. It totals ads up to 7
So in our marriage rituals, the couple circumambulates 7 times around the fire circle. The circle is 360 degrees. This relation is up to the next 7 rebirths. The only number which cannot divide 360 degrees is 7. So the couple go around 7 times ensuring that nothing can divide their relationship. We Indians firmly believe life after death.
Travellers who observed our traditions wrote in their travelogues that our women are so emotional and love towards her husband and they were taught to love her husband. so if he dies, then the women with love and attachment on him she uses to perform sati.
Hindu scriptures which i mentioned they say if we perform sati they both will go to heaven and next rebirth they will again become wife and husband. In this way a lot of things mentioned. We Indians firmly believe life after death.
So now we should not come to the Conclusion that women performed sati and people also encouraged it. Not at all. In garuda Purana, Devi Bhagavatam it is mentioned as voluntary not forced. so sati in history was not forced.
Here the Rigvedic scripture is distorted and the garuda Purana , etc mentioned about sati is just a suggestion only not force. Our Hindu scriptures never mentioned killing innocents and our Hindus never behaved in a rigid and foolish manner from past to present. May be few instances but not high.
So sati was never a forced tradition in India. so our Indian wife forced was not true it was her personal choice.
who is sati in India tradition?
The sati came from sat means chaste, faithful widow sat goodness or virtue. virtues women, personal strength. This is the origin of the word sati.
In Puranas, sati is a reincarnation of Lord Adi shakti the wife of lord shiva. Her father Daksha performs a yagna and in that ritual function, he insults lord shiva. because of humiliation to her husband,sati commits self-immolation. This is the story of sati death.
Some great women in history sita, anasuya, Savitri got sati name without self-immolation.
There is no sanskrit word for sati (widow immolation). Some expressions were used sahagamana,sahamarana,anumarana.These are not sati .
The Europeans described the widow burning funeral rite as sati .
In ancient days women who performed this self-immolation with her husband considered as a goddess and people use to worship her by constructing sati stupas and stones.
Sathi in Ramayana-
There are no instances of sati practice in Ramayana and after the death of Dasaratha also his 3 wives did not commit sati.
After Ravana’s death, mandodari also did not enter into her husband’s fire funeral. But his son Megha Nath wife sulochana committed sati
Sati in Mahabharat-
After the death of Pandu raja and one of his wives madri only tried to dissuade herself because of guilt feeling that her husband died due to her. Another wife kunti didnt persuade herself and she took care of the pandavas.
When Lord Krishna Father Vasudev died, then his 4 wives committed sati .but it was not forcefully.
When lord Krishna died his wives did not commit sati and lived aesthetic life.
Finally in Mahabharat lakhs of soldiers died and their wives did not commit sati . Some might have dissuaded themselves but we did not find any thousands or lakhs of sati instances historically or Veda Vyas Mahabharat book.
Lets come to facts and figures who, when, where and how many instances of sati occurred in the medieval, ancient period and regions like central, south India and other parts of India.
The practice of sati in Ancient India-
There was an impression that sati was a widespread practice in ancient days and thousands and lakhs of women are immolated themselves or forced.
We should know the history of sati to burst these myths.
The first recorded instance of sati was recorded in 3rd-century b.c during the alexander period. He was returning to his country saw one Indian contingent name Shashi gupt died and his 2 wives are fighting each other at the dead body who should commit sati.
This is an eye witness and it was recorded by Greek historian Diodorus.
After another instance happened in 510 A.D. We can found in the Eran stone inscription pillar in Madhya Pradesh. A famous king Bhanu gupt soldier goparaja who died in battle and his wife did self-immolation with her husband.
In the 6th century a Chinese historian hieun Tsang recorded evidence of sati . His mother also immolated when her husband was ill. He tried to convince not to do but she committed sati.
But when his sister tried to immolate for her husband’s death but he persuaded her not to immolate and she accepted after that she became an advisor to him in the court.
In the 7th century during Rajendra Chola and a soldier wife insisted her self for sati when he died and her father erected a sati stone in memory of her.
Up to 1000 A.D, sati incidents are rare in Deccan and exception in rare south. Up to 900 A.D in Cholas, Pallavas, Pandyas kingdoms no sati cases occurred.
Some queens 4-5 women committed in sati and sati was extremely rare among the common people.
When Chhatrapati Sivaji died in 1680 her one of his wives committed the practice of sati.
Sati system in India( central and south India)-
In Madhya Pradesh Sagar region during the 15th century to the 18th-century weavers, barbers, mansion families have few instances of sati.
In Karnataka inscriptions like epigraphic carnatica during the period of 1000 to 1400 A.D., It says only 11 cases were recorded.
During the period of 1336 A.D to 1646 A.D only 64 cases occurred as per sati inscriptions.
Here none of the vijaynagaram Queens did sati when their kings died.
From 14th to 16-century sati happened in mostly warrior families.
In Maratha kingdom in village happened but Marathas never encouraged and his son Rajaram wife also came across this practice.
In Maharastra, Gujarat very few cases and in peshwas 1 case occurred.
Ahilya Bhai Holkar when her husband died she bravely stood and ruled the kingdom.
Jhansi Laxmi bhai fought with the British bravely after her husband’s death and she did not commit sati.
In the book veer, Vinod was written by Shyamal kaviraj and he mentions only 2% of women committed sati. He says women did with lot of love and he admires their bravery.
Sati in bengal-
Here particularly why I mentioned Bengal because the missionaries did a lot of propaganda that in west Bengal lot of sati incidents are happening. So let us see the facts.
How missionaries and British did bad propaganda and their act made women to commit sati and suicide that I will write a detailed article.
The most important thing is no sati stones or records were found in Bengal.
In fact the brahmin scholar of the manu samhita does not mention the practice of sati.
Sati in nepal-
It happened in 464 c.e and king name is Mannar dev father died her mother expressed a desire to commit sati but it did not happen.
Sati in other civilizations-
Sati is there in other civilizations also. In China and Egypt when the kings died they use to bury with their number of wives along with him. In Europe, Before the Christian era self-immolation was there.
Especially we need to mention the samurai female ritual suicide in japan. It is called as female seppuku.(Jigai)
The wives of samurai use to cut the arteries of the neck with one stroke with a knife called tanto. It is done to avoid capture by enemies after the war.
Sati described by foreigners and historians.
Indians from ancient times to present has a lot of travelers, historians and researchers and students visited and stayed for a long time and also the invaders.
So what is their view and observation on sati mentioned in their records, books letters or travelogues, etc from 2nd B.C to 19th century?
Alberuni who is a court member of Muhammad Ghazni. He refers to sati in 1000A.D that the wives of kings committed sati but he never witnessed any incident with his eyes as he spent a lot of years in India.
Marco polo in the 13th century referred to the custom in Malabar but he did not witness any sati incident.
Friar Roderic wrote when a man dies they burnt a wife with him but if she has sons she could live with them.
In the 14th century a Moroccan traveler saw instances in Madhya Pradesh when 3 women proceeding to immolate themselves because of husbands died in the battlefield.
William Hawkins a ship captain saw an incident in a kingdom widow were brought to the king and king dissuade them not to self immolate and the king offered them gifts and financial support to the widows.
Italin traveller pietro della valle wrote –
“This burning of women upon the death of their husband is at their own choice to do it or not, and indeed few practice it.”
French Traveller jean Baptiste Tavernier visited India 5 times during the 16th century says –
“sati committed by women was voluntary and it is very difficult to dissuade the women who have decided to immolate themselves”.
He saw in Patna a young widow approached dutch governor requested permission for sati. He witnesses sati for the first time.
John Grose employee of East India company in his book voice to east indies in 1757-
“Attributes the Hindu women’s affection and veneration for their husbands to early marriage”.
Nathaniel halhed a noted orientalist in 1779 wrote a letter to England
“From all accounts, i never saw forced immolations and all are voluntary”.
Like this i can give more statements.
I will mention some more in my next article.
So if we examine the total sati incidents based on epigraphic records and eye witness accounts from 1900 BCE to 1900 CE hardly 500 incidents occurred that means 1 case every 8 years.
If we go through the entire article we can understand our Hindu scriptures, culture or our society or administration never encouraged sati custom and it is voluntary and optional only.
In Fact, many tried to dissuade this sati practice. So many witnesses say we were astonished by valor, bravery, and love towards their husband, customs and culture.
So coming to the main part of sati.
Till the 19th century we have accounts of a few instances of sati but in the 19th century how thousands and lakhs of women immolating themselves as sati ritual was forced and religious obligation. Such stories were created and still, we are reading and believing.
They created fake narratives that the women were a victim of relatives and hungry brahmins and women were drugged and tied with ropes and forcefully thrown into fire.
So in my next article more facts on sati system like what is Jauhar and why, how the British , missionaries, who is Raja ram, Mohan Roy? pseudo-intellectuals did fake propaganda, distorted the facts to make us feel inferior. Also, Who abolished
We bharatiyagnanacharitra.in are trying to make aware of our present generation about the greatness of our Indian glory.