Saturday, November 17, 2007

DD Kosambi on Sati

Farid Muttaquin writing on the Sati tradition among the Hindus in India quotes Kosambi:

Local castes of Indian Hindu communities have used the politics of sati to support their political goals. Narrayan describes the ruling caste of Kshatriya Rajput, the priestly caste of Brahmins and the wealthy mercantile caste of Banias as the three castes in Rajasthan that were involved in the politics of sati. The Brahmins, one of the most crucial of Hindu fundamentalist groups in India, used sati incidents “to reorganize religious events to commemorate and celebrate sati”. The Rajput used these events “to reinforce their status as a martial race who are historic defenders of ‘Hindu dharma’, at a time when their power and status is declining.” Furthermore, Rajput presumed this tradition as a privilege of this caste as a way to maintain nobility and courage befitting the “mother of a martial race.” Meanwhile, the Banias were seemingly the main financial source of the establishment of the ostentatious sati temples, faith and profit reinforcing each other (Narrayan, 71). For instance, according to Kosambi, Upreti mentions that the Rani Sati temple had 105 branches in different towns and cities and this provided great financial profits for the caste. Furthermore, Upreti (1991: 108-110) interestingly describes this phenomenon of using the sati tradition for economic interests as “the industry of sati” or “commercialization of widow burning.” In this regard, Narrayan finally concludes that the sati tradition in contemporary local Indian Hindu communities provides economic, political and cultural power for these local castes.

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