The Practice of Sati in Colonial Bengal with special references to Hooghly District in West Bengal

in Articles


Md Raju

Former Student
Department of History
The University of Burdwan
Rajbati, Burdwan,West Bengal

Abstract:Roop Kunwar’s Sati incident on 4 September 1987 shocked the entire country. This repetition of the practice of sati is a reminder of its prevalence during the colonial period. One of the damned practices that prevented social progress during the colonial era was sati-immolation. Hooghly district had the highest number of sati-immolations, as the law of inheritance was in force which stipulated the right of women to the property of their deceased husbands. Many Indians became vocal against this practice during the colonial period. In fact, the nineteenth century was a turning point. During this time, people became more rational by adopting western education and knowledge of modern science. So many people stood against the prevalent practice of Sati which is also a crime. Rammohan Roy went against it with the resolve not to allow any more widows to become Sati on the dead husband’s pyre. Trying to removing this practice with scriptural law, Rammohan translated the ancient scriptures to show that according to the scriptures it was a murder or a crime that deprived a woman of her right to live. In 1829, Bentinck, a believer in the Utilitarian philosophy, outlawed the practice of sati. As a result of government restrictions, the incidence of sati-burning began to decline. Yet the idea of sati and the myth of sati persisted in folk culture, despite the criticism of the Western educated middle class and the reformist zeal of the colonial ruling class. The concept of sati was materialized through epics, folktales and ballad even forty years after independence.

Key Words:Education, Folk Culture, Nineteenth Century, Practice of Sati, Regeneration etc.