The practice of sati, or ritual suicide, was performed until the twentieth century. The basis for this act can be found in the following excerpt.

Points to Ponder:

What is the ritual?
What are the reasons given for this action?
How are women portrayed?

Then all said 'Ah, this great hero has been killed in battle by his opponents. . . .' And seeing this his wife said: 'Sire, my husband has been slain by the enemy. So, that this my beloved may not be wooed by the heavenly nymphs, I will go to where he is. Let fire be provided for me.' Hearing her words the king said: 'My daughter, why will you enter the fire?' She said: 'My lord, for whom this body of mines exists, has been slain. Now for whose sake shall I preserve this body? For thus it is said: The wife who enters into the fire when her husband dies enjoys bliss in heaven. A wife who abides by the law of righteousness saves her husband, even if he be guilty of all crimes. What profits is there in the life of a wretched woman who has lost her husband? Woman's highest refuge is her husband, even if he be poor, vicious, old, infirm, crippled, outcast, and stingy.' When the king heard her words, his heart being tender with genuine compassion, he caused a pyre to be erected. . . .
Source: Franklin Edgerton, ed. and trans., Vikrama's Adventures (Cambridge MA: Harvard University Press, 1926) vol. 1, 228-230.


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