(NEWS) Sati worship a reality in Bundelkhand

Sati worship a reality in Bundelkhand

<i>Sati</I> worship a reality in BundelkhandRubina Khan Shapoo
Sunday, August 27, 2006 (Sati Mohalla):

In Bundelkhand, the list of villages whose names are inspired by sati is endless.

These include Satpara, Sataurha, Satrayee, Sataree, Satuniya, Satipura and Satariya.

The region encloses within its boundaries eight districts in Madhya Pradesh - Sagar, Chattarpur, Panna, Damoh, Khajuraho, Datia, Bhind, Tikamgarh - and the districts of Jhansi, Lalitpur, Banda, Chitakoot, Hamirpur, Jalaun and Mahoba in Uttar Pradesh.

The Sati Mohalla in Uttar Mahoba district of Uttar Pradesh was once a cremation ground. But ever since Rajrani threw herself onto her husband's funeral pyre amidst great fanfare in 1919, people here found a new goddess in her.

"When she committed sati, it came to be known as the place of sati and soon a locality developed around it. And when the municipal elections were held, it was declared as a separate locality and is now known everywhere as Sati Mohalla," said Sandhya Tewary, sati temple caretaker.

Sati is not seen as a violation of any law in Bundelkhand. In fact, the sati is worshipped here as a supernatural power. Sati temples and platforms where women committed themselves to the flames of their husbands' funeral pyres are common.

Like the one in Panchapra village where you can still hear the strains of an ode to sati - "With a coconut in her hand and paan in her mouth, with sindoor in her hair, she is immolating herself with her husband."

A group of women have gathered to take the blessings of the sati mata.

Silent spectators

According to the Indian Constitution, it is the government's duty to promote scientific temper in the country. But the governments of Uttar Pradesh and Madhya Pradesh have been silent spectators to the glorification of sati.

"If one is unhappy or has a problem, we take a vow saying Goddess Sati will fix it and she does," said Madho Singh, Panchapara village.

However, Bundelkhand will shock you. There has been a sati here every decade. As NDTV found out, sati here is not an exception, but a rule.

  • In 1979, an Aahirwar woman from Tathera village in Mahoba district, UP, committed sati.
  • Then another followed in 1984 in Jari village of Banda district of Uttar Pradesh.

  • In 1994, Pawan Devi tried to commit sati in Chodhry Mohalla in Banda (Uttar Pradesh). She was rescued by the police after she jumped onto her husband's funeral pyre.

  • In 1999, Charan in Satpura village of Mahoba district committed sati.

  • In 2002, Kattubayee from the Nayee community committed sati in Patna Tamoli, Panna district. The district already has five sati temples.

  • In 2005, Ramkumari, a Brahmin woman from Banudarhi village in Banda district of UP, reportedly committed sati. However, the administration preferred to call it a case of suicide.

  • In 2006, Janakrani from Tulsipur is believed to be the latest example in Madhya Pradesh of this controversial tradition.
Madhya Pradesh Chief Minister Shivraj Singh Chauhan soon enough ordered a magisterial inquiry. But even before the inquiry is over, in public, the verdict has been delivered.

The chief minister says it's a suicide and the State Women's Commission and the villagers also speak in one voice.

"This is actually a suicide. She did it of her own will," claimed Relam Cholamm, State Women's Commission.

Part of culture

Sati is today seen as part of the Bundelkhand's culture and the reasons for this are not that difficult to fathom. A failure on the part of the government to spread literacy and create social awareness are two of the main reasons.

Tuslipaar village has no graduates. Sixty years after independence, NDTV was told there were only two girls from the village who have passed the Xth class.

There are hundreds of Tuslipaars in Bundelkhand. The school dropout rate of girls here is 50 per cent - one of the country's highest.

And it's clear just how much a sati is looked upon here with a feeling that borders on envy.

"If God gives me strength, then even I would commit sati. Everyone worships you and reveres you," said Kusum, Panchapara village.

There was no procession and no provocation. Hence, the administration believes that Janakrani did not commit sati.

But what about the motivation to commit sati? Isn't that enough?

Such determination to suppress the incident will only further encourage the belief and the frequent sati incidents in Bundelkhand reveal a chilling fact - that sati here is not a myth but a hard reality.