Definitions

suttee

suttee

[suh-tee, suht-ee]
suttee [Skt. sati=faithful wife], former Indian funeral practice in which the widow immolated herself on her husband's funeral pyre. The practice of killing a favorite wife on her husband's grave has been found in many parts of the world; it was followed by such peoples as the Thracians, the Scythians, the ancient Egyptians, the Scandinavians, the Chinese, and peoples of Oceania and Africa. Suttee was probably taken over by Hinduism from a more ancient source. Its stated purpose was to expiate the sins of both husband and wife and to ensure the couple's reunion beyond the grave, but it was encouraged by the low regard in which widows were held. The practice was not universal throughout Hindu history. It was abolished by law in British India in 1829, but isolated cases of voluntary suttee have occurred into the 20th cent. See also funeral customs and suicide.

See E. J. Thompson, Suttee (1928).

or sati

Indian practice whereby a widow burns herself to death either on the funeral pyre of her husband or soon after his death. The custom may be rooted in ancient beliefs that a husband needed his companions in the afterlife, though opponents point to it as an indication of a value system deeply hostile to women. Developed by the 4th century BC, it became widespread in the 17th–18th centuries but was banned in British India in 1829. Frequent instances of suttee continued to occur for many years thereafter, and occasional instances in remote areas are still reported today.

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