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suttee

suttee (sŭˌtēˈ, sŭˈtēˌ) [key] [Skt. sati = faithful wife], former Indian funeral practice in which the widow immolated herself on her husband's funeral pyre. The practice of killing a favorite wife on her husband's grave has been found in many parts of the world; it was followed by such peoples as the Thracians, the Scythians, the ancient Egyptians, the Scandinavians, the Chinese, and peoples of Oceania and Africa. Suttee was probably taken over by Hinduism from a more ancient source. Its stated purpose was to expiate the sins of both husband and wife and to ensure the couple's reunion beyond the grave, but it was encouraged by the low regard in which widows were held. The practice was not universal throughout Hindu history. It was abolished by law in British India in 1829, but isolated cases of voluntary suttee have occurred into the 20th cent. See also funeral customs and suicide.

See E. J. Thompson, Suttee (1928).

The Columbia Electronic Encyclopedia, 6th ed. Copyright © 2012, Columbia University Press. All rights reserved.

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