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B.3 Ch. 9: Women Burning Themselves with Their Deceased Husbands

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chap, ix          THE BURNING OF WIDOWS                  163
life, and prefer to ascend a funeral pile to be consumed alive with the body of her deceased husband, rather than be regarded by all the world for the remainder of her days with opprobrium and infamy. Besides this the Brahmans induce women to hope that by dying in this way, with their husbands, they will live again with them in some other world with more glory and more comfort than they have previously enjoyed. These are the two reasons which make these unhappy women resolve to burn themselves with the bodies of their husbands ; to which it should be added that the priests encourage them with the hope that at the moment they are in the fire, before they yield up their souls, Ram will reveal wonderful things to them, and that after the soul has passed through several bodies it will attain to an exalted degree of glory for all eternity.
But it should be remarked that a woman cannot burn herself with the body of her husband without having received permission from the Governor of the place where she dwells, and those Governors who are Musalmans, hold this dreadful custom of self-destruction in horror, and do not readily give permission.1 On the other hand, it is only childless widows who can be reproached for not having loved their husbands if they have not had courage to burn themselves after their death, and to whom this want of courage will be for the remainder of their lives a cause of reproach. For widows who have children are not permitted under any circumstances to burn themselves with the bodies of their husbands ; and so far from custom obliging them, it is ordained that they
Brahman widow is allowed to wear her bracelets till she is about thirty years old, and then, when another death occurs in the family, her bracelets are broken, her head is shaved, and she wears the dark dress of a widow {Bombay Gazetteer, ix, part i, 50. Mrs. S. Stevenson, Sites of the Twice-born, 203).
1 On Mughal efforts to repress Sati see Ovington, 344 ; Bernier, 306 ; Smith, Ahbar, the Great Mogul, 226. At a later time Sleeman (Rambles, 18 ff.) was asked to allow a Sati, and failed to save the woman's life. Akbar prohibited the burning of a widow against her inclination (Smith, Ahbar, the Great Mogul, 382). The custom was prohibited by the Sikh Gurus, and does not prevail among the Nambutiri Brahmans of Malabar. (M. A. Macauliffe, The Sikh Religion, i. Introd. xxii; E. Thurston, Castes and Tribes of S. India, v. 189.)
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B.3 Ch. 9: Women Burning Themselves with Their Deceased Husbands Page of 417 B.3 Ch. 9: Women Burning Themselves with Their Deceased Husbands
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