Satee Defined

Sati‘ (pronounced ‘Satee‘) is an ancient Sanskrit word, meaning/indicating a chaste woman who thinks of no other man than her own husband.

  • ਕੰਤਾ ਨਾਲਿ ਮਹੇਲੀਆ ਸੇਤੀ ਅਗਿ ਜਲਾਹਿ ॥ ਜੇ ਜਾਣਹਿ ਪਿਰੁ ਆਪਣਾ ਤਾ ਤਨਿ ਦੁਖ ਸਹਾਹਿ ॥ ਨਾਨਕ ਕੰਤ ਨ ਜਾਣਨੀ ਸੇ ਕਿਉ ਅਗਿ ਜਲਾਹਿ ॥ ਭਾਵੈ ਜੀਵਉ ਕੈ ਮਰਉ ਦੂਰਹੁ ਹੀ ਭਜਿ ਜਾਹਿ ॥੩॥ : Wives struggle and face hardships in life along with their husbands. They endure physical pain because they love their husbands. Nanak, if the husband does not care for his wife and is unconcerned whether she is happy or miserable then why should she suffers for him?. ||3|| (sggs 787).

Sati Prathaa — forcible widow burning, practice of voluntary self-immolation etc. — involved the woman burning herself alive on the funeral pyre of her husband.

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!

Throughout his life, Baabaa Nanak stood by those who were oppressed, exploited, discriminated against, injusticed, neglected or discarded by the society (casteism-Jaat Paat). All Gurus were champions of human rights, social justice, and were great social reformers. All Gurus were busy bringing social revolution throughout their lives.

Baabaa Naanak also stood by WOMEN who were treated as a second class citizen. The society had robbed WOMEN of their basic rights, because a woman was considered inferior to man and an hurdle to man’s spiritual realization etc. This is more than half of humanity, denigrated! Baabaa Nanak challenged this evil practice:

  • ਭੰਡਿ ਜੰਮੀਐ ਭੰਡਿ ਨਿੰਮੀਐ ਭੰਡਿ ਮੰਗਣੁ ਵੀਆਹੁ ॥ ਭੰਡਹੁ ਹੋਵੈ ਦੋਸਤੀ ਭੰਡਹੁ ਚਲੈ ਰਾਹੁ ॥ ਭੰਡੁ ਮੁਆ ਭੰਡੁ ਭਾਲੀਐ ਭੰਡਿ ਹੋਵੈ ਬੰਧਾਨੁ ॥ ਸੋ ਕਿਉ ਮੰਦਾ ਆਖੀਐ ਜਿਤੁ ਜੰਮਹਿ ਰਾਜਾਨ ॥ ਭੰਡਹੁ ਹੀ ਭੰਡੁ ਊਪਜੈ ਭੰਡੈ ਬਾਝੁ ਨ ਕੋਇ ॥ ਨਾਨਕ ਭੰਡੈ ਬਾਹਰਾ ਏਕੋ ਸਚਾ ਸੋਇ ॥ ਭੰਡੁ ਮੁਆ ਭੰਡੁ ਭਾਲੀਐ ਭੰਡਿ ਹੋਵੈ ਬੰਧਾਨੁ ॥ : Women birth men, within women men are conceived and to women they are wed. Women become their friends and through women arise their future generations. When their women die, men seek another and to women they are bound. Then why is she vilified from whom every great and accomplished human being is born? Women are born from women and without women none can be born. Nanak, if anything then only the true Creator is without women. (sggs 473).
  • ਠਾਕੁਰੁ ਏਕੁ ਸਬਾਈ ਨਾਰਿ ॥ : There is One divine Lord and all are His brides. (sggs 933).

has been refuted again and again

Fittingly, the Satee Prathaa has been refuted again and again in the Sri Guru Granth Sahib (SGGS), and those who eulogize it.

Who is the true Satee?

The Gurbani defines a true Satee as follows:

  • ਸਤੀਆ ਏਹਿ ਨ ਆਖੀਅਨਿ ਜੋ ਮੜਿਆ ਲਗਿ ਜਲੰਨ੍ਹ੍ਹਿ ॥ ਨਾਨਕ ਸਤੀਆ ਜਾਣੀਅਨ੍ਹ੍ਹਿ ਜਿ ਬਿਰਹੇ ਚੋਟ ਮਰੰਨ੍ਹ੍ਹਿ ॥੧॥ : Do not call them ‘Satee‘, who burn themselves along with their husbands’ corpses. Nanak, they alone are known as ‘Satee‘, who die from the shock of separation (from their Husband Lord). ||1|| (sggs 787).

They are also to be considered as ‘Satee‘ who abide in modesty and contentment.

  • ਭੀ ਸੋ ਸਤੀਆ ਜਾਣੀਅਨਿ ਸੀਲ ਸੰਤੋਖਿ ਰਹੰਨ੍ਹ੍ਹਿ ॥ ਸੇਵਨਿ ਸਾਈ ਆਪਣਾ ਨਿਤ ਉਠਿ ਸੰਮ੍ਹ੍ਹਾਲੰਨ੍ਹ੍ਹਿ ॥੨॥ : They are also known as ‘Satee‘, who abide in modesty and Godly contentment. They remember their Creator, and live daily live of divine Virtues. ||2|| (sggs 787).

In other words, that living being alone is a true Satee who has Realized the Creator within.

Thus, Baabaa Nanak challenges the self-serving Pujaaree (clergy) for promoting and sanctifying this barbaric practice in the society:

  • ਬਿਨੁ ਸਤ ਸਤੀ ਹੋਇ ਕੈਸੇ ਨਾਰਿ ॥ ਪੰਡਿਤ ਦੇਖਹੁ ਰਿਦੈ ਬੀਚਾਰਿ ॥੧॥ ਪ੍ਰੀਤਿ ਬਿਨਾ ਕੈਸੇ ਬਧੈ ਸਨੇਹੁ॥ ਜਬ ਲਗੁ ਰਸੁ, ਤਬ ਲਗੁ ਨਹੀ ਨੇਹੁ॥ ੧ ॥ ਰਹਾਉ॥ ਸਾਹਨਿ ਸਤੁ ਕਰੈ ਜੀਅ ਅਪਨੈ॥ ਸੋ ਰਮਯੇ ਕਉ ਮਿਲੈ ਨ ਸੁਪਨੈ॥ ੨ ॥ ਤਨੁ ਮਨੁ ਧਨੁ ਗ੍ਰਿਹੁ ਸਉਪਿ ਸਰੀਰੁ॥ ਸੋਈ ਸੁਹਾਗਨਿ ਕਹੈ ਕਬੀਰੁ॥ ੩ ॥ : O Pandit (self-serving clergy who eulogizes the practice of Satee), reflect in your mind that without realizing the Creator, how can a woman be a true Satee – it does not happen by her entering the funeral pyre of the deceased husband. ||1|| One cannot be bonded in love without affection in the mind. As long as the mind looks at marriage for physical pleasures until then there is no love. One who in his/her mind considers comforts of the world-play as permanent, that person cannot realize the Omnipresent Creator, even in a dream. ||2|| The wife who dedicates actions, thoughts, wealth and total being to the husband remains in company of the husband (i.e. one who so dedicates the self to the Creator, realizes the Creator within). (sggs 328).

In the foregoing verse, notice the Gurbani addressing the ‘Pandit‘ (self-serving clergy). Because the self-serving Pandits / Brahmins (among other forces) promotes and sanctifies this horrific practice of Satee Prathaa in the society.

In a nutshell, as the Gurmat Wisdom of the SGGS teaches us, it is necessary for every living being (ਜੀਵ-ਇਸਤ੍ਰੀ), to live his/her life in accordance with the Shabad Guru and, instead of wasting human birth, pass away from the world after successfully living his/her human birth.

  • ਸਬਦਿ ਸਵਾਰੀ ਸਾਚਿ ਪਿਆਰੀ ॥ ਸਾਈ ਸੋੁਹਾਗਣਿ ਠਾਕੁਰਿ ਧਾਰੀ ॥੨੯॥ : By internalizing the Message embedded in the Shabad, (living being) realizes the Creator. That living being (ਜੀਵ-ਇਸਤ੍ਰੀ) becomes Virtuous / Blessed by realizing the Creator. (sggs 933).
  • ਸਤਿਗੁਰ ਕੀ ਬਾਣੀ ਸਤਿ ਸਰੂਪੁ ਹੈ ਗੁਰਬਾਣੀ ਬਣੀਐ ॥ : The Satgur’s Bani (the God-Connecting Shabad-Guru) is the embodiment of the Creator; (therefore) BECOME THE GURBANI (to Realize the Creator). (sggs 304).

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