SATI PRATHA or SIMPLY SATI: A Hindu philosophy of women-ness
INTRODUCTION: SATI PRATHA – AS KNOWN TO MODERN WORLD
As far the common understanding about ‘Sati’ goes, it goes as about burning of a widow. The hype of burning women goes with an explanation like this: if the husband dies in an unnatural manner, the widow is forced to be burnt in the funeral if she herself does not accept it. The reasons behind this act as known are also many. One view known is that the woman and man are two bodies but one soul and hence death of one should be result in death of another, which would bring fame to the women for her faithfulness. Another view is that the widow may induce notorious people to go wrong against her, and hence she gets ‘Sati’. And at many times, it is simply accepted as a part of Hinduism as a traditional practice. I believe that the variance in views exists and signifies that it has nothing to do with religion. And there is a sound reason why I believe so – No where in any authenticated Hindu literature did I find such a rule. I agree, that there had been few occasional instances of such event, but then how did it come on the whole Hindu community – is a questionable point. Such instances of burning widows alive in the name of ‘Sati’ had been sometimes under news coverage too. Though, authenticity of such news as a religious practice or criminal causes was never traced after trial from criminal courts.
It is for sure that such cases are not very prominent in this country. Else, we would have found hundreds of women getting burnt every day. Now, what reasons lied behind those occasional and rare burning cases are under legal investigation arena. The media, newspaper and political forces have always declared them as religious drawback of Hindus. Had that been a religious process, as we have separate Islamic law, criminal offense would not have got registered and trials and punishments would not have taken place. Unfortunately, far more brutal acts are committed in Islam in India, but no law and no politics interferes. No media highlights the religious brutalities, if they do not belong to Hinduism. Contrary to what is highlighted, acts like ‘Sati’ are actually not religious, as we will see in below sections; they are very rare and pure effect of enmity and individual differences. But, under the influence of Long Leaders, media highlights the events as a part of Hindu beliefs. If these events are not very occasional, if we do not find such events taking place in scriptures of Hindus, we will have to establish the core concept of ‘Sati’ in Hinduism in relation to such sarcastic events.
TRUTH OF ‘SATI’ AND THE ‘PRATHA’
The word ‘Sati’ started with the name of daughter of Raja Daksha, and wife of Lord Shiva. The myth goes like this – Once ‘Sati’ went to attend a ceremonial occasion planned by her father, though uninvited. Unaware of the fact that the occasion was kept for humiliating Sati’s husband Lord Shiva, she went there against the will of her husband, convincing him that going to her parents was her rights. But when she found that her husband was getting abused, she became so angry that she jumped into the flame of burning fire, making her father the guilty of her death. Lord Shiva got angry and destroyed Raja Daksha. I don’t understand, how is the above myth related to burning of a widow – ‘Sati’ was not a widow when she jumped in the funeral. Thus, such burnings in the name of ‘Sati’ is not at all justified in any way as per Hindu myths. In fact, the myth has manifold message to be analyzed. First, it shows that a ‘Sati’ should not have gone against her husband’s wish, as respecting him, particularly against people who goes to humiliate him, binds her stronger to him. Secondly, she delivered the blood relation a justice, but on the contrary she did not tolerate her husband’s humiliation.Whether such an even took place any time in history or not is a different question. What is more important are even we consider it a myth, the message conveyed to the society is deep. Modern literate groups would surely look aggressive to declare that these myths are baseless. But then these learned people should understand that when they undergo modern education like Business Management, they are told stories and puzzles related to Ant and Elephant (for example) that looks quite childish at one go, but conveys good management theories, actually practiced in Business world. Hindu myths are at least not based on animals and insects; they are similar metaphors based on humans, Gods, deities and include all creatures around them. The reason such metaphors are of higher standard is purely because it visions a highly cultured society togetherness. How can they be absurd?
In medieval India, during Mughal attacks, Kshatriya women used to commit ‘Jauhar’, something similar to ‘Sati’, out of pure fear of Molestation and Rapes committed by Muslims after victory. Now, if the current literates say that even ‘Jauhar’ was wrong and not the Muslim attitude of molestation, the story ends here. But if not, then ‘Jauhar’ and the ‘Sati Pratha’ hyped today are two different things, for sure.
In both the points above, ‘Sati’ and ‘Jauhar’, one myth and another hard reality, a picture of women in Hindu society is revealed, which is overlooked and the focus stills on women getting burnt. Both the points clearly reflect that Hindus have been a society where women were of utmost respect and molestation was as big a criminal offense as murder for the women. Dignity of a woman in Hindu society is directly related to her support to one and only one husband – unlike all other religious cultures where a woman marries one after another depending on her adjustments she or the husband can make with each other. Among Hindus, one-man relation builds so deep a binding between the partners that if one departs it is often hard for the other to resist – particularly for the woman. Kings though used to marry more than one wives, for political reasons mostly in order to either expand the territory through building relationships or provide the territory with more descendants, yet amazingly we find women dedicated to the King.
However, in modern times none of the above criteria exists. Thus, in one or two cases, woman by herself might have committed suicide at the untimely death of her husband. It is to be understood that such seldom events are either termed suicides or murders by Indian law – law that is made hard for around 75% of the population of India comprising of Hindus.
The above understanding of ‘Sati’ is what is known about it, in both positive and negative aspect. But in Hinduism, ‘Sati’ and ‘Pratha’ have a total different understanding than the above knowing. ‘Pratha’ is any practice that is coming from forefathers and is adopted by upcoming generation as well, for the known good-impact. ‘Sati’ actually is a very pure word in Hinduism; it represents the purest form of woman. This purity develops tremendous power in her. And the Hindus refer to this natural power of a woman which she develops by the virtue of her truthfulness towards her husband – ‘SATI’. This truthfulness relates to so many aspects of the women adding to her physical identity. One, her thinking do not go beyond her husband, for the reason she regards the Husband nearly as God. Second, she acts to make sure that her actions in no way cause any damage or insult to her husband in any manner. In case, the woman finds contradicting ideology, she discusses it out with her Husband and her suggestions are greeted, recognized and honored. This still happens in Hindu family, in most of the cases. Instead of understanding the natural realization of women power by Hindus, unnecessary and meaningless conclusions are made about its myth and related to criminal incidences.
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