The practice of Sati – where the widow burnt with her late husband on his funeral pyre, is now prohibited by law.
I think the choice should be left to the person concerned and not be banned by law.
The concept of Sati has been lost in time then re-discovered by society, transformed and re-formulated by each generation. The speculations on the purpose of Sati include preventing wives from poisoning husbands and enactment of the story of goddess Sati. It is now considered an almost barbaric practice.
Sati, of all the practices, is a good example of how concepts can be twisted by people over generations which result in their true meaning being lost.
Even in today’s day and age Sati has several advantages. But it should be kept in mind that Sati was voluntary (if you go by the story of goddess Sati) and something done with inner resolve. It was never supposed to be ‘forced’ on a widow by society. Throwing a widow on to the funeral pyre of her late husband, against her wishes is a crime. But willful immolation is not. Also Sati here also needs to involve the widower and not just widows. The sexist nature of the practice is like adding insult to injury.
The main advantages of voluntary Sati are:
– Taking the Hindu concept of life and death followed by re-birth, Sati quickens the jump to the next birth.
– Living without a loved one can make each day on Earth hell. Especially if the love felt was true and deep.
– These days children grow up too fast and are busy in their own lives, many times making their parents live alone, perhaps even in a different city. Imagine all that when your partner, is dead and you are all alone. It is better for the couple to end their life together than for one person to suffer all this alone.
While all these factors are important, we must remember things have changed. The concept of widow (or widower) remarriage is now well established in society. The advantages of Sati might be nullified by professional grief counselling.
So if due to intense grief the widow or widower is not able to handle the loneliness and decides to take the Sati option, professional help and support of loved ones can convince them to live on. Things are rapidly changing. This goes back to the original point that Sati needs to be voluntary with a clear inner resolve. It is not just about throwing yourself (or being thrown by someone else) into the funeral pyre.
I don’t think people will agree with this point of view. But the fact is a person’s life is in their own hands. No one has the right to control it. No law can prevent X from taking his/her own life. Instead of treating Sati as barbaric and something to be ashamed off, it should be treated as the ultimate compliment to life and love.
It, in my opinion, defines the saying: “to live and die in love”.