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Sati

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For those who are not familiar of Sati, Sati is a ritualize suicide

[or murder?] of widows. When the husbands die, the widows are so “grief-stricken”, that they offer themselves to the flames of the funeral pyre. This is mainly practiced in India.

Introduction

Roop Kanwar. 1987. Eighteen years old. She was from a tiny village in Northwest India. Who would have known that this young lady would stir such controversy. For Roop Knawar is not an ordinary person. She is the motive behind the Anti-Sati movement.

In December of 1987, Roop Kanwar had done what many women in India have done before her: She had committed Sati., Was she forced into heavy sedation? Was she coerced into the funeral pyre? Or did Roop Kanwar sat serenely talking to her realitives, not showing any sign of pain ? As we explore Roop Kanwar’s case, we will also look into other cases of Sati, as well as the controversy of Sati. It is important to view their origins and its impact to culture, religion, and politics.

Origins

The term “sati” is a Sanskrit word meaning “virtuous” woman” . However, it is often used to refer to women who are faithful wives, who self-immolate themselves on the funeral pyre of her husband”. Sati is also named after the Hindu goddess, Dakshayani. She symbolizes maritial fidelity and longevity . So how does a woman become a sati? How did it originated?

One explanation for the exsistence of Sati is for “the sole purpose of maintaining the caste system.... . This assertion may hold some truth. However,

it is important to understand how does Sati play into India’s caste system in India ids made up of four classes: Brahmins [priests and teachers]. Ksatriyas [warriors, rulers], Va’syas [farmers], and Sudras [laborers]. The last class is the outcaste group: the Untouchables [polluted laborers] . The Brahmin caste were more suspected to take part of the Sati rituals than other classes for two reasons: One was to ensure that their lineage is kept within their social standing. A woman who married outside of the lineage would lose her identity within the process. Because of the cultural ties, to identity and status, women and girls were often married to older men .

Another reason for it is the importance of Sati. Sati is Sanskrit for “virtuous woman”, which is an attribute Brahmin women would like to own up to. By being a “virtuous woman”, the women will do what is necessary to be viewed as virtuous. Since Brahmins are of higher caste, they need to show the lower classes why are they considered high caste, and why their women are the most pious and dedicated of all.

First Accounts

How do we know for sure that the majority who practiced Sati were Brahmins? How

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