WIDOW BURNING OR SATI IN NEPAL AND TAMIL LITEARTURE (Post No.11,207)

WRITTEN BY LONDON SWAMINATHAN

Post No. 11,207

Date uploaded in London – 19 AUGUST 2022         

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Xxx

 Those who do not study literature in Tamil and Sanskrit, two ancient languages of India, can easily mislead the people. Sati or Widow Burning was practised in India from the Himalayas in the north to Kanyakumari in the south. Dharma sastras including the well -known Manu Smrti, don’t speak about it. Since they were very old, the custom of widow burning, did not exist during the time of Smrtis. Not even Kautilya’s Arha sastra mentioned it. Even the only one Anti- Sati remark in the Rig Veda is interpreted differently. Some people say the word AGRE is misspelt as Agneh and so it did not speak about ‘Sati’ at all.

Sati or Widow burning is a custom where out of extreme affection and love, a woman who lost her husband, climbs the funeral pyre and burns herself. Two women in Tamil literature described the fire in the funeral pyre as a cool Lotus Tank.

During the Ithiihasa/ epic period Sati was optional. In the Ramayana, none of his wives died after Dasaratha’s death. But Mandothari died along with Ravana. In the Mahabharata Kunti did not die but Madri died by Sati when Pandu died. It was not compulsory. Moreover those who had the responsibility of raising their children did not opt for Sati and the society also showed sympathy for them.

In fact, ancient Tamil literature has more references to widows dying in the funeral pyre of their husbands.

Purananuru, the ancient part of 2000 year old Sangam literature, has many references to Sati. K V Ramakrishna Rao has dealt with it in great detail, in his 1991 research paper. A Pandya queen was very keen about it and rejected all the requests  not to commit Sati (see Pura Nauru verse 246, 247)

Tamils practised both cremation and burials like the Rig Vedic people. In one of the poems (Verse 256), a woman asked the potter to make a big urn so that she can also be buried along with her husband. In ancient Egypt hundreds of queens, ministers and workers were buried alive with the king. Scholars are of the opinion that it came to India from outside.

Another verse (No. 78 in Purananuru) showed that all the wives of the seven enemies died because of shame after the defeat of their husbands in a battle. If all the seven or more wives die at the same time it must be by Sati only. Poet also did not mention any other type of suicide.

Other verses show the wives of Karikal Choza, Neduncheralathan and Ay Andiran burning themselves in the funeral pyre of their husbands. (Full details are available in K V Ramakrishna Rao’s article  ‘Sati in Tamil Literature’ in the website)

Even a monkey commits suicide after its male partner died according to Kuruntokai verse 69.

Tamil epics Silappadikaram and Manimegalai also show evidence to Sati or widow burning. Wives of Neduncheralathan and a Choza king died in funeral pyre when both died in a battle. Senguttuvan, son of Neduncheralathan, went all the way to Holy Himalayas to bring stone to erect in her memory.

In Manimegalai, Athirai  (aathirai) tried to commit Sati but the fire refused to burn her because her husband, who she thought died in a ship wreck, was actually alive. But we know the custom was followed even by the Buddhists.

xxx

In Nepal

An inscription in Nepal shows that Sati was practised in 464 CE. Lichaavis ruled Nepal from (300 to 880 CE.)

The inscription is in the Changu Narayana Temple in Kathamandu valley. When King Dharmadeva died, his wife Queen Rajyavati wanted to commit Sati. But others prevented her from doing Sati. So she lived a pious life and was a chaste woman like Arundhati. The inscription can be compared with Sangam Tamil Literature, which is only a few hundred years older than the inscription. In Tamil Purananuru (verses 246, 247) we see Pandya Queen Mahadevi (in Tamil Perum Ko Pendu) committed Sati after rejecting all the appeals from ministers and Brahmin priests. Other verses show the miserable life of widows who followed strict Vrata. Rajyadevi of Nepal preferred the second option, that is vrata.

But yet another inscription in the near by Himachala Pradesh shows practice of Sati in that area even in 11th century. Kamalalanchana , Guru of Nagapala (naaga paala) composed the Devi-ri-Kothi fountain inscription in 1159 CE. The inscription consists of 17 verses and the last part is preserved. It described all the good and pious work done by Balha, the queen of Nagapala after his death. She also , like Rajyavati of Nepal, tried to commit Sati, but was prevented by the near and dear ones.

The poet who composed the verses in the inscription described the instability of the world in a beautiful verse:-

Javanapavanavelllolla kallollamaalaa

Paratimitasasilekhaachanchalam jeevalokam

Paratipadamavabuddhayaacheekaratsaatha balhaa

Nijapati sukruthaartam pushkaraadhaarametam

–subham–

tags- Sati, Widow burning, Nepal, Rajyavati, Balha, Tamil literature, Madri, Mandothari, Purananuru, Verses 245, 246

“Aryan SATI” in Sangam Tamil Literature!

https://tamilandvedas.com › 2014/06/14 › aryan-sati-in-…

14 Jun 2014 — Tamil and Vedas. A blog exploring themes in Tamil and vedic literature. “Aryan SATI” in Sangam Tamil Literature …

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