The child sati
This is perhaps one of the most poignant descriptions by Bernier :
At Lahore, I saw a most beautiful young widow sacrificed, who could not, I think, have been more than twelve years of age. The poor little creature appeared more dead than alive when she approached the dreadful pit : the agony of her mind cannot be described; she trembled and wept bitterly; but three or four of the Brahmanas, assisted by an old woman who held her under the arm, forced the unwilling victim toward the fatal spot, seated her on the wood, tied her hands and feet, lest she should run away, and in that situation the innocent creature was burnt alive. I found it difficult to repress my feelings and to prevent their bursting forth into clamorous and unavailing rage.
- Why did Bernier consider this treatment as a crucial marker of the difference between western and eastern societies?
- What role did the Indian patriarchal society play towards this social evil?
- Compare the condition of the women of the era mentioned above to that of today.
- Bernier considered this inhuman treatment as a crucial marker of the difference between Western and Eastern societies. According to him, Western society was free from this social evil. On the other hand, Eastern/Oriental society was marred by this shameful social evil.
- The Indian patriarchal society had no compassion for widows. Widows were forcibly burned along the pyre of their husbands.
- The condition of women has considerably improved today. The sati system has been legally banned, and widows are allowed to remarry. Girls are being educated, and the number of working women is steadily rising in society. This is in sharp contrast to the conditions which existed about three to four centuries ago.