Identify a religious practice that is similar to Sati.

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Ashley Kannan eNotes educator| Certified Educator

I think that some level of clarification is needed here.  The first would be that I am not entirely certain that Hinduism, as a religion, sanctions or encourages Sati.  The name of the practice comes from the Puranic discussion that depicts how the Goddess Dakshayani was such a devoted wife to Lord Shiva that she could not stand to see her father insult her husband and thus throws herself on the fire to stop him hurling abuses and insults at her husband who is a god.  There was never any such religious approval or edict that said other women must follow her example.  I don't think that there is any phrase, word, or statement from any of the deities that condones the practice.  It should be noted here the Lord Shiva himself mourned for so long as a result of Dakshayani's actions that the world, itself, suffered, causing the other deities to pray to Lord Vishnu for help.  If Sati was encouraged by the religion, then it seems unlikely that so much suffering would result from it.  It is a practice seen in India, though now outlawed, and it was linked by men to impose on women that such behavior is the socially accepted standard of how a wife should be behaved.  Yet, I am not certain that anywhere in the texts does it say that a woman must self- immolate at the death of her husband. It is important that we do not assign labels too hastily.  Therefore, I would probably take exception with the idea that this is a "Hindu practice," as much as I would take exception with the idea that the Crusades is something that is a Christian practice or how fundamentalism in the Islamic world is something that the Muslim religion advocates.  It is important to make distinctions between what followers tend to believe for their own benefit as opposed to what religious scriptures say.

In this light, I think that one can find many examples of how the practice of Sati shows the gap between religious theory and human practice.  More specifically, I think it is clear that the practice of Sati was something that men were able to use and manipulate in declaring the social expectations of what women were supposed to be, expectations that, for the most part, were conceived and constructed by men.  Accordingly, I think that we can see how religious theory that is complex and nuanced can be arbitrarily reduced to bolster those in the position of power at the cost of others.  One sees this in the Taliban treatment of women.  The Taliban are able to use small and intricate ideas in the Islamic faith and politicize them in order to demonstrate their own gain.  It is for this reason why, even though the Taliban are gone, the tribal leaders who might have helped the international coalition in over throwing the Taliban, actually still practice many of their ideas in relation to how women are treated.  The public executions or abuse, the repressive treatment on women's appearance, as well as the denial of education and opportunities as well as the ability to close off any sort of expression women might wish to pursue are similar to the practice of Sati because both are rooted in a misapplication of religious theory in order to consolidate control over another.

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