Adventures in India

This is an open journal of some of the things I see and think about while trying to find a place to live in India. It may or may not be interesting. I make no promises.

Saturday, May 28, 2005


Another case of sati occured a few days ago in a small village up in Uttar Pradesh. This is when a widow lays herself on her husband's funeral pyre. The British outlawed the practice when they were in charge, because they noticed many of the widows had to be encouraged into the act by lots of relatives wielding long sticks.

It rarely occurs these days, or at least is not often reported. A few years ago I read about a widower who climbed on his wife's pyre, but that is a rare case. The police have set up guards to make sure people don't erect a shrine over the sight. Worshippers from the surrounding villages were turned away, but local brahmins have said they will build a shrine to her anyway. This may seem strange to Westerners, but what is being venerated is the devotion that transcends the self.

Years ago in college I was the only man in a class studying the Feminine in India. When this topic came up I found myself in the strange position of being the only voice condemning it. The women pointed out the fate that awaited most widows in India at the time: begging or prostitution. I was castigated for blindly applying my Western humanist values to another culture without thinking about all the implications. I just thought how sad it was for a woman to burn herself to death, and how much it must hurt.

The newspapers were filled with editorials the day after the Sati, about India still struggling in darkness after all these years, and how people must be shown the error of their ways through education. But then maybe it is possible to feel a love so overwhelming that a fiery death seems the only possible conclusion.

I have no idea.

I just wonder what that woman was thinking as she crawled into the flames, and whether she had any regrets when her sari caught fire.


  • At 5:46 AM, Blogger Frankie said…

    I think it is amazing you have experienced this archaic practice.
    I do understand the pain of going on without the person you most cherish and love.
    If my lover would die, I think I would have myself cremated with him.


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