Author: Shrikanth Krishnamachary

Historical Perspective of Sati

The custom of Sati is among the widely cited and the most reviled of Hindu practices, despite being more or less extinct for nearly 190 years. Long after its ban in 1829, Sati remains in public discourse by virtue of being a polemical weapon. Whenever there is a defense of any tradition, the common heard retort is – “Oh…what about Sati? Was that not also a tradition? Did we not get rid of that?” More often than not, this weapon is used rather liberally in contexts where it is out-of-place. Recently the journalist and political commentator Rajdeep Sardesai used Sati as a polemical weapon while arguing in favor of changing the rules of admission at the shrine of Shri Ayappa at Sabarimala. Sati remains alive not just in Indian public discourse, but also continues to fascinate the West, some 300 years after modern Europeans first encountered the practice. It is used as a polemical tool by some to denigrate the rituals and culture of Santana Dharma. For some outsiders of a feminist persuasion Sati is a convenient …