15. Some Indian Widows Are Still Expected to Die From Grief
In an era of feminism and unparalleled pushes for equal rights for women, there is much concern over the ancient practice of sati. In many parts of India, bodies are cremated on a funeral pyre according to local Hindu traditions. Sati is the practice of the widow throwing herself onto the flames so that she, too, dies with her husband.
The practice originated around the 1300s when Rajput women would commit suicide on a funeral pyre after their husbands were killed in battle. The method had a practical purpose: the women would rather die than be enslaved by their enemies. Over time, it evolved into a test of the wife’s devotion; she was expected to throw herself onto the pyre and burn to death in order to prove that she had been a good wife.
Fortunately, the practice of sati has been outlawed in India, and women are not even allowed to throw themselves onto their husbands’ funeral pyres voluntarily. However, reported cases still happen and sometimes receive high-profile attention. In remote villages that are more bound to local traditions than the central authorities, though, the practice may be much more prominent than believed.