Sati is a word referred to ancient Hindu practise, prevalent during the time of Guru Nanak Dev Ji, when the widow/s of a deceased Hindu would throw themselves, voluntarily or forcibly, on to their husband's funeral pyre. Along with force, social pressure and drugs were also used to assure the continuance of the practice as a Hindu widow's life in old India. A widow who survived had to do all the worst tasks in the household. Cloths of color and participation in festivities were not allowed. Remarriage was banned and the widows 'karma', evil done by her in a past life, was used as the excuse of her husband dying. This excuse was used by the rest of the family.
The practise was outlawed by the British in 1829. As late as the 20th century a resurgence caused the Indian government to outlaw the practise in 1956. In 1981 another revival of the practice saw a preventive ordinance passed in 1987 called the Commission of Sati (Prevention) Act. The practice of Sati is justified by the ancient Hindu belief that women had worth only in relation to men. This belief was one of the beliefs which caused the young Nanak, on the day he was to receive his Hindu sacred string the Janeu, to reject the string. The family Purohit had explained why his mother, his sister and all women in India did not also receive 'sacred strings'.
Long before the British came to India, Guru Nanak seeing the absurdity of men receiving a second string for their wife in the Hindu marriage ceremony, became one of the first in history to teach and argue for the equality of women with his famous words.
|From woman, man is born; |
within woman, man is conceived; to woman he is engaged and married.
|Guru Nanak, Raag Aasaa Mehal 1, Page 473|
The term has also come to be used to refer to the widow herself and is often written in the old English spelling - suttee.
ABOLITION OF SATI: The status of women in Hindu society at that time was very low. When the husband died, the wife either voluntarily burnt herself on the pyre of her husband or was thrown into the fire without her consent. In popular term the woman who did perform this act was called Sati (truthful). Guru Amar Das carried out a vigorous campaign against the practice of Sati. He gave special attention to the improvement of the status of women and thus prohibited this practice. G.B. Scott acclaims the Guru as the first reformer who condemned the prevailing Hindu practice of Sati. The Guru advocated the following: "Satis are not those who are burnt with husbands, O Nanak, true Satis are whom pangs of separation can finish. Those are considered Satis who live contented, embellish themselves with good conduct; And cherish the Lord ever and call on Him." (Var Suhi ki- Slok Mohalla 3, p-787) The Guru lifted the status of women as equal to men. He prohibited the practice of Sati and preached in favor of widow marriage.
Sikh Gurus continued to Preach against this practise
The Sikh religion explicitly prohibited the practice, by about 1500 AD. The Sikh faith was founded by Guru Nanak who was born in 1469 AD. The Ten Sikh Gurus introduced many new and radical practises, some of which we take for granted today. One of these was the equality of women. (see article Women in Sikhism) The third Sikh Guru, Guru Amar Das targeted the evil and degrading practise of Sati which was prevalent at the time. Yhe following hymns (Shabads) from the Sikh Scripture, Guru Granth Sahib outline further teachings in this respect:
|By burning oneself, the Beloved Lord is not obtained. |
Only by the actions of destiny does she rise up and burn herself, as a 'satee'. ((1)(Pause))
|SGGS Page 185|
|Do not call them 'satee', who burn themselves along with their husbands' corpses. |
O Nanak, they alone are known as 'satee', who die from the shock of separation (from the Lord). ((1))
|SGGS Page 787|
- Guru Nanak and the Sacred Thread
- The Hindu Sacred Thread, Janeu
- Guru Nanak
- Sikhism and Ritualism
- Raksha Bandhan
- Guardian of human rights
- Why did Guru Nanak reject the Janoy
- Evaluating Dayanand's Views on Guru Nanak & the Sikhs
- Var Haqiqat Rai