The Sati has come in honour of the goddess Sati, who jumped into the sacrificial fire as she could not bear her father insulting her husband Shiva.
The word originally was used to mean a chaste woman, and then became synonymous with good wife. Suttee is the anglicized version of the name. This word appears both in Hindi and Sanskrit. So sati actually meant the woman, and the act. However since the Roop Kunwar hype the commission of Sati Prevention Act, 1987 Part I, Section 2-C defines sati as the act or the rite itself. And it is
- Any widow along with the body of her deceased husband or any other relative or with any article object or thing associated with husband or such relative. OR
- Any woman along with the body of her relatives, irrespective of whether such burning or burying is claimed to be voluntary on the part of the widow or the women otherwise.
The prevention of sati act makes it illegal to support glorify or attempt to commit sati. Support of sati, including coercing or forcing someone to commit sati can be punished by death sentence or life imprisonment, while glorifying sati is punishable with 1-7 yrs in prison.
Coming to Konkan and Maharashtra Naryan.H.Kulkarnee documents that sati was practiced in medieval Maharashtra by Maratha nobility claiming Rajput descent. It then spread across caste distinction as an honour saving custom in the face of Muslim advances into the territory. But it has never been as prevalent as in Rajasthan or Bengal. Apparently there are no attested sati incidents since 17th century CE.
- What makes sati such a burning issue…? Here are some interesting inputs from the Hindi scholar Nirmal Jain.
- In the immediate economic effect it means one mouth less to feed.
- It also means one portion less in property division.
- It means long term income for the family–When a woman becomes a sati, a shrine is built-in her honour. She attains the status of a goddess, people tend to do offerings. This is called as chadao. This is huge and the wealth amassed is considerable.
For the media and press this is grabbing the international eyeball… this translates to Urban socialite movement creating a flow of wealth.
At the end of the day whenever this dwindling act occurs it is a failure of the system of the police and judicial not enforcing the murder and abatement of suicide acts to punish the people who do not stop the event.
Hath blown thee out with their sudden breath;
Naught shall revive thy vanished spark . . .
Love, must I dwell in the living dark?Tree of my life, Death’s cruel foot
Hath crushed thee down to thy hidden root;
Nought shall restore thy glory fled . . .
Shall the blossom live when the tree is dead?
Life of my life, Death’s bitter sword
Hath severed us like a broken word,
Rent us in twain who are but one . .
Shall the flesh survive when the soul is gone?