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Sati Practice: A dark history in Hinduism

Kathmandu: By Sabitri Gurung. Sati or Sutee practice used to be a part of Hindu rituals of Indian subcontinent in the past. It was a practice in which the widowed wife was cremated or burnt alive with the dead body of her husband. It was a compulsory ritual in India till it was abolished in 1829 by the British Government.

In Nepal, it was banned in 1920 by Rana Prime Minister Chandra Shamser Junga Bahadur Rana.
Whatever the myth or legends are associated with Sati practice, even in original Hindu religious books or vedas, there is no mention of compulsory 'self-sacrifice' of widows after her husband's death. The Sati practice is said to have originated from the story of Goddess Shakti who was born in human form by the name of Sati, daughter of Daksha Prajapati, the first human son of Lord Bramha. Due to her humanly nature, Sati couldn't tolerate her father's insulting behavior towards her husband, the supreme Lord or Creator Lord Shiva and being unable to control her rage, she created a yogic fire and burnt herself to death. It was regarded by many in the world as a means to show true devotion to one's husband. Later it took the form of binding custom in the patriarchal Hindu societies for women to die with their dead husband.
Whatever religious or traditional explanations are given to justify this Sati practice by its supporters, even within religious experts and followers, there are disputes about whether it was religiously permitted or the story was a moral to not lose one's control out of rage and not cause a destruction like taking one's own life. In the Sati story, Lord Shiva was not dead when Sati burnt herself alive. Lord Shiva was devastated which caused great gloom and terror in the universe. So justifying Sati tradition as a religious instruction and a way to show loyalty towards a dead husband is just a white lie by the male-dominant society. Even in the past, there were sages and learned ones who opposed this tradition as inhumane.
Sati practice, although criminalized today, has left a dark mark in Hinduism. It remains as a dark history when powerful men in the society committed unforgivable crime against thousands of women in Indian continent while trying to overshadow the crime by divinizing the victim. The one to be made Sati was made to do so either by manipulation or by threat. She was called a Devi [goddess]. She was made to take intoxicant so that she wouldn't cry out of pain or run away from the funeral pyre. Drums were beaten loudly so that her cries wouldn't be heard. People didn't dare oppose it even when they feared the practice as they were under the influence of misinterpreting social and religious leaders.
This crime against humanity and its consequences in our past societies shouldn't be forgotten while practicing our traditions and cultures. Although Sati practice is abolished, there are many other practices still existing in our societies that that denigrate Hinduism. The misinterpretation of tradition and imposing of cultures that degrade us from basic characteristics of humanity should be opposed and redefined in our Hindu culture.
Tradition and culture are man-made, created for forming societies where communities could live a life that was different from animals and wildlife. Tradition and culture need to be for bettering human life, for strengthening communal bond, for humanity and for shared happiness. Hinduism does contain superior practices, knowledge and culture that are even practically and scientifically proven better than others. But those traditions that torture members of the community, the traditions that causes unhappiness and terror, the traditions that seize one's right to live and love should be abolished and redefined. Human life is, was and will ever be much more precious than man-made traditions. One's life, freedom to live and freedom to seek happiness should never be compromised for anything in the world. I bet no true Hindus are or should be proud of Sati tradition.

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