SATI ABOLISHED… December 5, 1829 , Calcutta, PTI. Yesterday after the debate of 11 years , The sati regulation Act which declared the practice of sati, or suttee, or of burning or burying alive the widows of Hindus, illegal and punishable by the criminal courts by Lord William Bentinck. , governor general of all of British-ruled India. In 1817, Mritunjaya Vidyalamkara, chief pundit of the Supreme Court in Calcutta announced that sati had no sanction in the ancient texts and, in 1818, Lord William Bentinck, the governor of Bengal, banned the practice.
The Prevention of Sati Act makes it illegal to abet, glorify or attempt to commit Sati. Abetment of Sati, including coercing or forcing someone to commit Sati can be punished by death sentence or life imprisonment, while glorifying Sati is punishable with 1–7 years in prison. Within the Indian culture, the highest ideal for a woman are virtue, purity, and allegiance to her husband. This custom in which a woman burns herself either on the funeral pyre of her deceased husband or by herself with a memento after his death is now referred to as sati or, in England, as suttee.
In the original meaning, “Sati” was defined as a woman who was “true to her ideals”. A pious and virtuous woman would receive the title of “Sati. ” In past few years things are changing in India especially in two provinces — Bengal and the Bombay Presidency. The changes that began from this period were to have a huge impact on past few decades. In 1815, a pamphlet written in Bengali caused quite a stir in Calcutta.
It was on the evil custom of sati and was written by Ram Mohan Roy had been speaking up for reforms in society, the need to improve the condition of women especially, and, equally important, to ensure that women received an education. Mr. Roy petitioned the government, published pamphlets, and travelled to England to appeal before the British Parliament to ensure the ban on sati. The more conservative groups in society were opposed to what they thought was an intrusion into the traditional customs and ways of people.
Mr. Roy attempted to beat these conservative elements at their own game; when they insisted that sati had the sanction of religion, he quoted the scriptures too, to emphasise that none of the ancient Hindu texts ever sanctioned sati. He underlined the fact that the occurrence of sati showed how much society had ‘degenerated’. In response to this, 128 pundits published a manifesto arguing that Roy’s opinion was only that of a minority, and that the government could not defy religion and ban sati.
He had gathered a lot of evidence, especially from the ancient Hindu scriptures and law books called the shastras, to show that sati was not obligatory and was in fact the least virtuous act a widow could perform. And that it had meaning only if it was done voluntarily. Mr. Roy later translated the 1815 pamphlet into English. While conservative, orthodox elements argued that sati allowed women who lacked virtuous knowledge to acquire such knowledge and gift it to their families Roy argued that women anyway possessed virtuous knowledge, for their lives showed that they were infinitely more self-sacrificing than men.
Attempts to limit or ban the practice had been made by few individual British officers few years back but without the backing of the British East India Company. The first formal British ban was imposed in 1798, in the city of Calcutta. The practice continued in surrounding regions. But finally yesterday i. e. on 4 December 1829, the practice was formally banned in the Bengal Presidency lands, by the governor, Lord William Bentinck.