“Sati” (pronounced “Satee”) is an ancient Sanskrit word, meaning/indicating a chaste woman who thinks of no other man than her own husband.
Sati pratha (pronounced as Satee Prathaa – forcible widow burning, practice of voluntary self-immolation, etc.) involved the woman burning herself alive on the funeral pyre of her husband. The purpose of this blog is not to reflect on the history of Sati pratha.
According to the traditional belief, upon marriage, the husband becomes protector of the woman after she leaves her parents home. He provides her food, shelter, clothing, respect, comforts, etc. Because of selfishness, it so happened that, after the death of her husband, the widow was viewed as burden to the household and was best got rid of by burning her on the funeral pyre of her husband. This Satee Prathaa was glorified by attributing great virtue to the woman who had become widow, having brainwashed her enough so that she herself would decide to jump into the burning funeral pyre of her husband and become what was known as a Satee. In reality, Satee Prathaa still continues in remote villages in India!
Clearly, the Gurbani repudiates this practice: Sati pratha, and those who promotes it.
Who is the true Satee ? The Gurbani defines a true Satee as follows: “Do not call them “Satee”, who burn themselves along with their husbands’ corpses. O Nanak, they alone are known as “Satee”, who die from the shock of separation (from their Husband Lord). They are also to be considered as “Satee” who abide in modesty and contentment. And cherish the Lord ever and call on Him (sggs 787)”. In other words, she is alone is the true Satee who has Realized the Supreme Truth within.
- ਬਿਨੁ ਸਤ ਸਤੀ ਹੋਇ ਕੈਸੇ ਨਾਰਿ ॥ ਪੰਡਿਤ ਦੇਖਹੁ ਰਿਦੈ ਬੀਚਾਰਿ ॥੧॥: Bin sat satee kaiase hoi naar. Pandit dekho ridai beechaar ||1||: Without the Truth, how can the woman be a true Satee (Satee: a widow who burns herself on her husband’s funeral pyre)? O Pandit, O religious scholar, see this and contemplate it within your heart ||1|| (sggs 328).
Notice that – in the foregoing verse – the Gurbani addressees the “Pandit”. Because, Pandits and Brahmins (among other forces) likely promoted this horrific practice of Satee Prathaa.