Sati, the Blessing and the Curse: The Burning of Wives in India

John Stratton Hawley
Oxford University Press, 8 sept. 1994 - 214 pages
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Several years ago in Rajasthan, an eighteen-year-old woman was burned on her husband's funeral pyre and thus became sati. Before ascending the pyre, she was expected to deliver both blessings and curses: blessings to guard her family and clan for many generations, and curses to prevent anyone from thwarting her desire to die. Sati also means blessing and curse in a broader sense. To those who revere it, sati symbolizes ultimate loyalty and self-sacrifice. It often figures near the core of a Hindu identity that feels embattled in a modern world. Yet to those who deplore it, sati is a curse, a violation of every woman's womanhood. It is murder mystified, and as such, the symbol of precisely what Hinduism should not be. In this volume a group of leading scholars consider the many meanings of sati: in India and the West; in literature, art, and opera; in religion, psychology, economics, and politics. With contributors who are both Indian and American, this is a genuinely binational, postcolonial discussion. Contributors include Karen Brown, Paul Courtright, Vidya Dehejia, Ainslie Embree, Dorothy Figueira, Lindsey Harlan, John Hawley, Robin Lewis, Ashis Nandy, and Veena Talwar Oldenburg.

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Table des matières

1 The Iconographies of Sati
Sati in European Culture
Sati Tradition in Rajasthan
Feminist Responses
The Public Debate on Roop Kanwars Death
The Mysteries and Communities of Sati
Select Glossary of Indic Terms
Notes on the Contributors
Droits d'auteur

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Expressions et termes fréquents

Fréquemment cités

Page 76 - In every age the ruling social or intellectual class tends to project its ideals in some form of romance, where the virtuous heroes and beautiful heroines represent the ideals and the villains the threats to their ascendancy.
Page 167 - The duties of woman are created in the rites of wedding, when in presence of the nuptial fire she becomes the associate of her Lord, for the performance of all righteous deeds. She should be beautiful and gentle, considering her husband as her god and serving him as such in fortune and misfortune, health and sickness, obedient even if commanded to an righteous deeds or acts that may lead to her own destruction.
Page 167 - She should be beautiful and gentle, considering her husband as her god and serving him as such in fortune and misfortune, health and sickness, obedient even if commanded to unrighteous deeds or acts that may lead to her own destruction. She should rise early, serving the gods, always keeping her house clean, tending to the domestic sacred fire, eating only after the needs of gods and guests and servants have been satisfied, devoted to her father and mother and the father and mother of her husband....
Page 124 - ... emphasizing her victimization. However, unless we include in this a complex sense of agency, we run the risk of producing a discourse which sets women up to be saved. This would situate women within feminist analysis in ways that are similar to their positioning within colonialist or nationalist discourse. The example of women's agency is a particularly good instance of the dilemmas confronted in simultaneously attempting to speak within different historical moments and to discrepant audiences....
Page 24 - Allan Bloom, The Closing of the American Mind (New York: Simon & Schuster, 1987), and ED Hirsch, Jr., Cultural Literacy (Boston: Houghton Mifflin, 1987).
Page 76 - Thousands surrounded his house, -and his court was filled with the principal men of the city, imploring him to surrender the woman ; and among the rest was the poor woman's father, who declared that he could not support his daughter ; and that she had, therefore, better be burned, as her husband's family would no longer receive her. The uproar was quite alarming to a young man, who felt all the responsibility upon himself in such a city...
Page 76 - ... the thought struck him suddenly, and he said, " That the sacrifice was manifestly unacceptable to their God — that the sacred river, as such, had rejected her ; she had, without being able to swim, floated down two miles upon its bosom, in the face of an immense multitude ; and it was clear that she had been rejected ! Had she been an acceptable sacrifice, after the fire had touched her, the river would have received her !" This satisfied the whole crowd.
Page 53 - This following another to death is most vain ! It is a path followed by the ignorant ! It is a mere freak of madness, a path of ignorance, an enterprise of recklessness, a view of baseness, a sign of utter thoughtlessness, and a blunder of folly, that one should resign life on the death of father, brother, friend, or husband. If life leaves us not of itself, we must not resign it. For this leaving of life, if we examine it, is merely for our own interest, because we cannot bear our own cureless pain.
Page 56 - Zum Flammentode gehn an Indusstranden Mit dem Gemahl, in Jugendherrlichkeit, Die Frauen, ohne Zagen, ohne Leid, Geschmücket festlich, wie in Brautgewanden. Die Sitte hat der Liebe Sinn verstanden, Sie von der Trennung harter Schmach befreit Zu ihrem Priester selbst den Tod geweiht, Unsterblichkeit gegeben ihren Banden.

À propos de l'auteur (1994)

John Stratton Hawley is Professor and Chair of the Department of Religion at Barnard College, and Director of the South Asian Institute at Columbia University. He is the editor of Songs of the Saints of India (Oxford, 1988) and Fundamentalism and Gender (Oxford, 1993), as well as numerous other books on Indian religion and literature.

Informations bibliographiques