Lovers often say "I would die for you," Satis had the courage to follow through on that promise to their husbands.
Plenty of rajput men died protecting the honour of their women. The history of Rajasthan is replete with their love for their women. The Rajput women, ladies of the warrior caste, were just has strong in their body and mind as their men. They were willing to do or die for their country, and their family.
Sitting in our Ikea furnished homes, safe from warring bands of mercenaries and zealots, we can term Sati as a reprehensible act. Secure in our cosy surroundings, knowing full well that the govenment will support us throughout our lives, we cannot even begin to imagine what life was like for these women a thousand years ago. Unemployment, famine, old age, war, illness all had to be coped by the individual. The family / community was the only support structure that could / would help you. Loss of your huband, who was honour bound to protect you, was a great danger for women in those days. Murauding armies of muslims were happy to carry away young men, women and children to sell them as slaves and convert them by force to their unforgiving brand of islam. Slavery and conversion were often prelude to rape, humiliation and loss of all contact with your family roots.
Sati was performed after the husband died in battle.
Johar was performed before the battle began to encourage the men to fight till death.
Johar was the last stand, when the army commander knew there was no way to win or stall the enemy. Children and important members of the royal family would be sent away to safety and the rest of the warrior clan will prepare for a final show-down. Their women would don their bridal saris and prepare to die, so as to avoid the dishonour that follows capture - rape and conversion. Having lost their beloved wives, the warriors drank opium and prepared for the final battle. None of them planned to come back alive, there was nothing to come back to - and so they fought without restraint, killing as many of their enemies as they could before dying themselves.
During the partition of India and pakistan in 1947, many Hindu and Sikh women prefered to die than be carried away by muslims. There are many gruesome tales of entire clans prefering to die by the hands of their relatives than the enemies. Sikh men were requested by their women to kill them rather than face the shame of being handed over to the pakistanis.
Faced with death or dishonour women often prefered death - it was quicker and less painful than being forced to serve, physically and sexually, as a slave to your enemy for the rest of your life ! Women who bacame sati, or commited johar, did it to safeguard their own human rights, as there was no NGO, Human Rights Commision or Amnesty International to plead their case. They had to do it themselves !
Sadly, Hindus are still derided about the practice of Sati, over a century and a half after the practice stopped.
Originally, practice of Sati had kshatriya / warrior and royal connection. Ladies of the warriors families did it to save their honour and enslavement.
Later, landowners, wanting to don the mantel of royalty, took on this practise.
British banned it as it was relatively easy to do and affected the elite of the society only.
Typically, they saw it as a barbaric act without understanding the roots of the practise.
They did nothing to help the widows in general, whose condition was worse than beggars in many cases.
Sadly, convent educated intelligentsia of
are still hanging on to the coat tails of British long gone. They are unduly sensitive about the practice of sati in medieval India and shun any mention of Sati, especially if spoken of with respect. Recently, the politically correct brigade stopped people from organising a tour package specifically designed to promote Sati sites / temples in Rajasthan. Why should Hindus be denied their religion or history ? Why should we be embarrassed about what we had to do to preserve our honour in face of overwhelming terror ? Hindus should be allowed the same freedom as other religions and be allowed to revere their sacred sites and symbols without undue pressure from outsiders. India
Japanese honour their Samurai and the sacrifices they made in the name of "honour". Their ritual sucides are the stuff of legends and are still venerated in films and serials.
Hindus are not given the same freedom. We are still not allowed to vernerate Satis and our films and TV serials still do not show the full horror of 800 years of muslim occupation of our land.
Hopefully, one day we will be allowed to accord Satis due honour for their sacrifices in preserving the honour of their race, religion and culture.
Here is an excellent article on the subject at India Cause - http://indiacause.com/columns/OL_060328.htm - Sati-Pratha by Prabhat Varun
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