Author: Andrea Major
Publisher: Oxford University Press
ISBN/UPC (if available): 0195678958
Sati, the burning of a Hindu widow on her husband’s funeral pyre, has always been a sensational issue and highly controversial act, Western account s of India since the fifteenth century, as well as the significance of sati’s ethos, if not its actual practice, within Indian culture, have assured its place in the public eye for several centuries. This anthology explores some of the multiple meaning of sati by bringing together a wide range of both Indian and European historical sources on sati spanning many hundreds of years.
This anthology collects a wide selection of primary-source material, revealing a broad range of responses and attitudes, both Indian and foreign, on the concept and ritual of sati down the ages. Extracts from the Rig Veda and other Hindu scriptures, accounts by commentators as diverse as Battuta, Bernier, Pelsaert, Bentinck, Rammohan Roy, Sarojini Naidu and Gandhi, right up to feminist and other responses to the Deorala Sati of 1987, offer glimpses of the historical development of this rite, as well as the opinions, of travelers, colonizers, and today’s thinkers thereon. The extensive introduction places the texts in perspective, and guides the readers through a range of sources disparate in time and place.
Useful and enriching, the anthology delves into little-known aspects of sati and its abolition, such as the views of the Indian Princely States to the rite. Also included are accounts of a controversial sati that took place in Barh, Bihar, in 1927. Such accounts shed new light on the history of sati.
The breadth and focus of this volume will make it relevant for historians, sociologists, anthropologists, and those working in the field of gender studies.
I witnessed the devotion and burning of another widow… She was by no means uncomely. I do not expect, to convey the brutish boldness, depicted on this woman’s countenance; the freedom from all perturbation, the look of confidence, she sat down upon the funeral pile, placed her deceased husband’s head in her lap, took up a torch and with her won hand lighted the fire within, My recollection is so distinct that it seems only a few days since the horrid reality passed before my eyes, and with pain I persuade myself that It was anything but a frightful dream.
-Francois Bernier, Seventeenth-century traveler
The woman, took her seat on the pyre, Suddenly the woman’s clothes were on fire, Unable to bear the agony she jumped, or fell, into the water, the unfortunate woman’s pain, must have been acute, almost the whole of her back, and her legs and thighs had been burnt,. In the meantime the abettors of the sati, sent for the sandals of her husbands, which are apparently and orthodox substitute for the husband’s body, with a view to a further attempt at sati.
-Police Report, Barh Sati, 1927
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 in gone?
-Sarojini Naidu, 1905
I-SATI IN ANCIENT AND MEDIEVAL INDIA
1. Extracts on Sati from Hindu Texts
2. Classical and Medieval Accounts
II-EARLY MODERN AND COLONIAL ACCOUNTS
3. Early Modern Travelers
4. The Eighteenth Century
5. The Nineteenth Century
III-DEBATING ABOLITION (1805-30)
6. Missionaries and Philanthropists
7. Official Debate
8. Indian Opinions
IV-SATI IN THE PRINCELY STATES
10. Official Policy
11. Indian Responses
V-SATI IN THE ERA OF NATIONALISM
12. The Barh Sati, 1927
13. British Ideas
14. Indian Attitudes
15. Early Modern and Eighteenth-Century Fiction
16. Early Nineteenth-Century Fiction
17. Raj Fiction
18. Indian Fiction
VII-SATI IN CONTEMPORARY INDIA, ROOP KANWAR, AND BEYOND
19. Roop Kanwar
20. Charan Shah
21. Secondary Sources
Thapar, In History