There's a YouTube channel called FMF, which makes videos on Indian culture and Hinduism. Recently one of its videos focused on the Sati practice.

here's the link to that video. It will also be beneficial if read the comments to that video. The video is narrated in hindi.

The narrator of the video argued that the "wife burning" practice actually was never practiced in India and was made up the british rulers. And real sati did not involve wife burning and was something else.

His arguments are as follows:

  1. If the wife burning practice actually existed, how come it was completely abolished as soon as a law was passed to illigalize it. Laws were passed to abolish child marriage but it continues to exist. How come this one practice of wife burning got abolished as soon as a legal ban was implemented on it.
  2. Some of the the Europeans practiced a "witch burning" ritual, in which a woman who was believed to be a witch was burnt in full public view and the britishers inserted this practice into the real sati and came up with a non-existant practice.
  3. Sati was actually a practice that did not involve burning a woman or hurt her in anyway, but it was...( i didn't understand properly from there).

Now what I don't understand is if the "wife burning" practice never existed in India, then why was Raja Ram Mohan Roy so much against the practice?

Now what I want to know is:

  1. Is there any evidence that can prove the existence of the wife burning practice?
  2. If sati wasn't a wife burning practice what was it?
  3. If sati did not exist, what was Raja Ram Mohan Roy against?
  4. Are there any hindu texts that advocate or support the wife burning practice?

2 Answers 2


There is absolutely no truth to it.

It has become routine to deny any aspects of the ancient Indian culture which seem embarassing from the current perspective by attributing malevolence or ignorance to the so-called "Western" scholars and translators while all that they have done is a meticulous work just as they did with Egyptian hieroglyphics or Sumerian cuneiforms whose records and languages are much more ancient than even the Rig Veda and Vedic Sanskrit but were never preserved like Sanskrit was.

Instead of addressing that here, let us directly and simply cite an ancient Tamil poem that records a satī by a widowed Pandyan queen. Poems like these, isnpite of their antiquity, are pretty transparent to even modern Tamils due to astonishingly unbroken continuity of the language.

Voluntary satī is attested easily in ancient Classical Tamil poems, specifically the anthology Puranānūru with the various 400 poems dated from 200 B.C- 150 A.D and in medieval epigrahy (inscriptions).


Here the widowed queen is resolved to enter the funeral pyre of her husband in spite the attempts by wise elders. What follows is excerpted from that site and is a translation by Vaidehi Herbert a native of Tuticorin,, Tamil Nadu.

Puranānūru 246, Queen Perunkōpendu, wife of Ollaiyūr Thantha Pāndiyan PoothaPāndiyan sang this after the death of her husband, Thinai: Pothuviyal, Thurai: Ānantha Paiyul

You noble men! You noble men! You don’t let me go, you don’t let me die, you scheming noble men! I am not a woman who desires to eat old rice with water squeezed out and placed on leaves, without fragrant ghee as pale as the seeds of a curved cucumber striped like a squirrel and split open with a sword, along with vēlai leaves cooked with tamarind, and white sesame seed thuvaiyal. I am not one who wants to sleep on a bed of gravel, without a mat.

The funeral pyre of black twigs might be fearful to you. It is not fearful to me who has lost my broad-shouldered husband. A pond with thick-petaled, blooming lotus blossoms and a fire are both same to me!

Notes: This queen, the wife of Ollaiyūr Thantha Pāndiyan PoothaPāndiyan did not desire widowhood, even though she was requested by elders to rule the country. She came from an ancient clan and was politically astute. She decided that the funeral pyre was better than living as a widow. Her husband, Ollaiyūr Thantha Pāndiyan PoothaPāndiyan, wrote Puranānūru 71. This king acquired the name Ollaiyūr Thantha Poothapāndiyan since he got back the Pāndiyan town Ollaiyūr from the Chōlas who had seized it.

Meanings: பல் சான்றீரே – O you wise me, பல் சான்றீரே – O you wise men, செல்கெனச் சொல்லாது – not telling me to go, not letting me go, ஒழிகென விலக்கும் – not letting me die, பொல்லாச் சூழ்ச்சி – cunning and scheming, பல் சான்றீரே – O you wise men, அணில் – squirrel, வரி – stripes, கொடுங்காய் – curved vegetable, cucumber, வாள் – sword, knife, போழ்ந்து – split, இட்ட – placed, காழ் போல் – like the seeds, நல் விளர் – fine white, நறு நெய் – fragrant ghee, தீண்டாது – without touching, அடை இடை கிடந்த – placed on leaves, கை பிழி பிண்டம் – rice squeezed with the hand, வெள் எள் சாந்தொடு – with white sesame seed thuvaiyal, புளிப் பெய்து – poured tamarind, அட்ட – cooked, வேளை வெந்தை – boiled velai greens, Sida rhombifolia, Rhomb-leaved morning mallow, வல்சி ஆக – as food, பரல் பெய் பள்ளி – bed of pebbles, பாயின்று வதியும் – living without a sleeping mat, உயவல் – sad, பெண்டிரேம் அல்லேம் – I am not like those women, மாதோ – an asai, an expletive, பெருங்காட்டு பண்ணிய கருங்கோட்டு ஈமம் – funeral pyre with black sticks in the big forest, நுமக்கு அரிது ஆகுக – might be difficult for you, தில்ல – அசை, an expletive, எமக்கு – for me, எம் பெருந்தோள் கணவன் மாய்ந்தென – since my wide-shouldered husband died, அரும்பு அற வள் இதழ் அவிழ்ந்த தாமரை – fresh lotus flowers with open petals, நள் இரும் பொய்கையும் – water filled pond, தீயும் ஓரற்றே – and fire are same

  • 3
    so, how does this incident prove that sati practise was sanctioned by vedas? Are you saying that just because murder was also happening during reign of hindu kings, hence murder is part of hinduism? By that logic,as today also murder is happening, so does that mean that Indian constitution and India allows/supports murder?
    – zaxebo1
    Commented Oct 1, 2018 at 1:33
  • 1
    @zaxebo1: The question was simply "Didn't the Sati practice exist in India?". That is all. Also it is very naive to blindly connect Vedas with every aspect of ancient Indian culture of every era and every nationality. Many Indians do not even know what precisely Vedas are, let alone be able to read them directly or even know accurate scholarly translations. Anyways, Vedas proper were just a poriton of the Indian subcontinent's cultural milieu which had diverse traditions independent of the Vedic religion. Vedic religion itself was changing and most of the Gods were abandoned by 300 BC-200 AD.
    – PCH
    Commented Oct 1, 2018 at 2:03
  • 1
    One thing I agree. Demolition of India's culture and create false impression on people's mind on ancient India practice so that they come out of Vedic education. This has been happening yuga yuga. What a illusion world we're living :( Commented Oct 1, 2018 at 2:06
  • @zaxebo1, it is not 'murder'. sati, when done voluntarily, is not against shastras. many chaste women of yore did so. it is silly to expect such purity in women in kali yuga (or in men, for that matter), hence the 'forced' sati was abolished. there is nothing wrong if it is done voluntarily, as it is the greatest display of chastity a woman can show.
    – ram
    Commented Oct 2, 2018 at 17:02
  • 1
    @zaxebo1, men and women are equal, but they are not the same. your argument is childish.. it's like saying 'men and women should be treated equally, so let women go bare-bodied just like men. or let men raise a child'. many things are neither biologically, physically, or mentally same for men and women. men are allowed to have multiple wives according to shastras. men and women are equal in terms of ATMA, karma, and neither has any extra advantage over other for moksha (though the rules are actually easier for women). They are not same in every aspect of worldly affairs.
    – ram
    Commented Oct 3, 2018 at 4:08

Is there any evidence of wife widow burning practice?

Though Satī was not widely practiced in ancient India, there's enough evidence in Hindu scripture to suggest it wasn't a British propaganda.

  1. In Vālmīki Rāmāyaṇa (Uttara-kāṇḍa), we find Vedavatī's mother ascend the funeral pyre of her dead father, Kuśadhvaja.

    Chapter 7 [Uttara-kāṇḍa] – Sarga 17

    O king! After this, the mighty-armed one wandered around on earth. Ravana reached a forest in the Himalayas and roamed around there. There, he saw a maiden with matted hair, clad in black antelope skin. Like a goddess, she was observing noble rituals and performing austerities. He saw the beautiful maiden who was observing that extremely great vow. His soul was confused because of desire. He smiled and asked her, "O fortunate one! Acting against your youth, why are you behaving in this way? This kind of reaction is not right for someone who possesses your beauty. O fortunate one! Whose daughter are you? O unblemished one! Who is your husband? I am asking you. Tell me. Why are you performing austerities in this secluded place?" The maiden was thus asked by the ignoble rakshasa. The store of austerities followed the due rituals of hospitality and said, "A brahmana rishi who follows dharma is my father and his name is Kushadhvaja. The prosperous one is Brihaspati's son and he is like Brihaspati in intelligence. The great-souled one always practises the Vedas. I have been born as his eloquent daughter. I am known by the name of Vedavati. Desiring to accept me as a bride, gods, gandharvas, yakshas, rakshasas and serpents have gone to my father. O lord of the rakshasas! However, my father did not bestow me on them. O mighty-armed one! I will tell you the reason. Listen. My father intended that Vishnu, supreme among the gods and the lord of the three worlds, should be his son-in-law. My father did not want anyone else. There was a king of the daityas, named Shambhu, and he was insolent because of his strength. On hearing that the one with dharma in his soul wished to bestow me in this way, he was filled with rage. While my father was asleep during the night, the evil one killed him. My distressed mother embraced my father's head. With him, the immensely fortunate one entered the funeral pyre. My desire is to make my father's wish about Narayana come true. That is the virtuous intention in my heart. Even if I have to die, I will accomplish my father's wish. I have taken that pledge and am therefore undertaking these pervasive austerities. O bull among rakshasas! I have thus told you everything. Know that I have resorted to this dharma because I desire Narayana as my husband. O king! O Poulastya's descendant! I know about you. Because of my austerities, I can know everything that goes on in the three worlds." At this, Ravana spoke to the maiden who was observing this extremely great vow.


    (The Valmiki Ramayana: Volume 3 by Bibek Debroy)

  2. In Mahābhārata, we see Mādrī doing the same at the funeral of her husband, Pāṇḍu.

    Adi Parva (Sambhava Parva) – Chapter 90


    'Pandu had two gems among women as his wives – Kunti and Madri. One day, Pandu went out for a hunt and saw a rishi, in the form of a stag, uniting with a doe. He shot him with an arrow while he was still mounted on the doe, in a state of lust, but without his desire having been satiated. Wounded by the arrow, he told Pandu, "You follow dharma and you know the pleasure that comes from satisfaction of desire. But you have killed me before my desire was satiated. Therefore, you will also be united with the five elements in a similar state, before your desire is satiated." Pandu paled on hearing this curse and from that time, stayed away from uniting with his wives. He told them, "This is the result of my own folly. But I have heard that in the hereafter there are no worlds for those who are childless." Therefore, he asked Kunti to bear children for him and accordingly Kunti bore children. Through Dharma, Yudhishthira. Through Marut, Bhima. Through Shakra, Arjuna. Pandu was pleased and said, "Your co-wife doesn't have children either. Let the right offspring also be fathered on her." Kunti agreed and Nakula and Sahadeva were then fathered on Madri through the Ashvins. One day, Pandu saw Madri dressed in her ornaments and his desire was stirred. But he died as soon as he touched her. Then Madri ascended the funeral pyre with him, requesting Kunti to affectionately rear the twins.

    'Later, ascetics took the five Pandavas and Kunti to Hastinapura and introduced them to Bhishma and Vidura. An attempt was made to burn them in the house of lac, but this failed, because of Vidura's counsel. After this, Hidimba was killed and they went to a place named Ekachakra. In Ekachakra, they killed a rakshasa named Baka and then went to the capital of Panchala. Thereafter, ...

    (The Mahabharata: Volume 1 by Bibek Debroy)

Check Wikipedia for more references.

  • Here is the original MAhabharatha text attesting to Madri joining Pandu in the funeral pyre: "01090074A sa tāṁ spr̥ṣṭvaiva videhatvaṁ prāptaḥ 01090075A tatrainaṁ citāsthaṁ mādrī samanvāruroha" (source: bombay.indology.info/mahabharata/text/UR/MBh01.txt)
    – PCH
    Commented Oct 2, 2018 at 5:26

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