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.


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? Mar 20 '18 at 17:51
  • Yes.. it applies.. @sv.
    – Rickross
    Mar 20 '18 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? Mar 20 '18 at 17:56
  • They are quoting some scripture not sure which one..@sv.
    – Rickross
    Mar 20 '18 at 17:57

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


Medhatithi (c 9th century) in his commentary on Manu Smriti 5.157 has criticized the practice of Sati on the ground that it is as bad as suicide and is forbidden. He has clearly stated that it violates scriptural edict. He has also stated that sati violates the Vedic teaching that 'one should not die before one's natural death'.

Introductory remarks in Bengali in Manu Smriti translated into Bengali by Sri Sureshchandra Banerjee. I have translated the Bengali text.


You must log in to answer this question.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged .