Are there any counter-arguments within Hinduism against the concept/practice of Satī?

I heard that some commentators/interpreters of scripture believe the widow actually goes to hell since self-immolation is tantamount to suicide.

Wikipedia has very little info. regarding this.

P.S. I couldn't find the answer under the more general 'What is the truth behind the practice of Sati? How is it related to Hinduism?' so asking it as a separate question.


2 Answers 2


There are two counter arguments that i found while reading the Yajnvalkya Smriti.

The commentator Vijnashwera in his famous commentary "Mitaksara" discusses and refutes these two arguments as follows (go to pp168 of the PDF):


An objection:—The rule of Sati does not apply to Brahmana widows.—But there are texts (says an objector) which prohibit (Anugamana) (satism) for a Brahmani woman, such as :—" There is no anugamana or self-immolation for Brahmani woman ; for this is the command of Brahma. But among the other castes this anugamana is said to be the highest austerity. (Their duty is) to do their husband's good, while he is living ; and to commit suicide when he is dead. But that woman of the Brahmana caste, who follows her dead husband (by anugamana) does not lead either herself or her husband to heaven because of the sin of her suicide.

to which the reply is:

Reply,—To this we reply that these and several other texts, relate to the ascending of a separate funeral pile, because of this special Smriti : —;" A Brahmana woman cannot follow her husband by ascending a separate funeral pile." From this it follows, that the women of the Ksatriyas and the rest are allowed to ascend a separate funeral pile.


Another objection, -Some, however assert :— ** Because suicide is as much prohibited for women as for men, therefore, this direction for Anugamana (satism), like Syena-sacrifice, is meant for those women (only) who through inordinate love of enjoying heaven, transgress a prohibitory rule of law (which forbids suicide), just as :— " By Syena-sacrifice let him kill his enemies," is a direction for Syena-sacrifice given to those, whose conscience has been overpowered by constant thinking (bhavana) over this doing of injury and by anger (revenge)."

and to which the reply is:

We say this is wrong. Because it has been described by some that Syena-sacrifice (hawk) is injurious on account of its fruits ; because the conception (bhavana) which is to be accomplished through the instrumentality of the Syena-sacrifice, and whose effect is injury of others, wants the sanction of law (because there is no Vidhi to the effect : —Thou must kill thy enemies :) but (on the contrary) there are prohibition (thou must not injure anybody, not even thy enemies). According to their opinion, because injury (to one's own self here) being a means to attain heaven, is commanded by the law relating scriptures (Sravana) pondering over their meaning (manana), and realizing their sense (nididhyasana) by meditation. Therefore, life should not be cut short, for the sake of obtaining *' heaven," which after all is but temporary, and whose joys are small. This is the meaning. Therefore, for the woman, who wishes not Moksa (emancipation) and is desirous of getting heaven, which is not permanent and of small happiness, Anugamana is proper ; like other Anusthanaa (religious performances) for the attainment of particular desires. Therefore, nothing is blamable : (both views are correct : suicide for heaven or living for others)

  • Does 'Objection 1' (Sati does not apply to Brahmana widows) apply to this question I asked earlier? Commented Mar 20, 2018 at 17:51
  • Yes.. it applies.. @sv.
    – Rickross
    Commented Mar 20, 2018 at 17:54
  • "There is no anugamana or self-immolation for Brahmani woman ; for this is the command of Brahma." - where is that command of Brahma written? Commented Mar 20, 2018 at 17:56
  • They are quoting some scripture not sure which one..@sv.
    – Rickross
    Commented Mar 20, 2018 at 17:57

Rig Veda does not support the practice of Sati.

7 Let these unwidowed dames with noble husbands adorn themselves with fragrant balm and unguent. Decked with fair jewels, tearless, free from sorrow, first let the dames go up to where he lieth. 8 Rise, come unto the world of life, O woman: come, he is lifeless by whose side thou liest. Wifehood with this thy husband was thy portion, who took thy hand and wooed thee as a lover.

Rig Veda 10.18.7-8

There are 2 Manu Smriti texts that clearly do not support the practice of sati.

At her pleasure let her emaciate her body by (living on) pure flowers, roots, and fruit; but she must never even mention the name of another man after her husband has died.

Manu Smriti 5.157

A virtuous wife who after the death of her husband constantly remains chaste, reaches heaven, though she have no son, just like those chaste men.

Manu Smriti 5.160


As in the case of men, so in that of women also suicide is forbidden. As for what Aṅgiras has said—‘they should die after their husband’,—this also is not an obligatory act, and so it is not that it must be done. Because in connection with it there is an eulogium bestowed upon the results proceeding from such suicide. Thus then, the performing of the act being possible only for one who is desirous of obtaining the said result, the act stands on the same footing as the Śyena sacrifice. That is, in connection with the Śyena sacrifice we have the Vedic text—‘one may kill living beings by means of the Śyena sacrifice,’—and this makes the performance of this sacrifice possible; but only for one who has become blinded by extreme hatred; so that when the man does perform the act, it does not become regarded as ‘Dharma,’ a ‘meritorious act’; exactly in the same manner, when the widow happens to have a very strong desire for the results accruing from the act of suicide, it is open to her to disobey the prohibition of it and kill herself; but in so doing she cannot be regarded as acting according to the scriptures. From this it is clear that the act of killing herself after her husband is clearly forbidden for the woman. Further, in view of the distinct Vedic text—‘one shall not die before the span of his life is run out’—being contradicted by the Smṛti-text of Aṅgiras, this latter is open to bring assumed to have some other meaning. Just as in the case of the Smṛti rule ‘one should take the final bath after having read the Veda’,—the injunction of the bath, as pertaining to one who has not yet studied the meaning of the Vedic texts, has been taken as having a different meaning.

Commentary of Medhatithi on Manu Smriti 5.157


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