Indian feminists are protesting a recent Rajasthan court ruling allowing devotees to pray at temples dedicated to women who have committed sati. The ancient Hindu practice, which requires a widow to throw herself onto her husband’s burning funeral pyre, was banned in major Indian cities under British rule in 1829, and was banned all across India 15 years ago. Women’s rights activists are accusing the court of exalting the ancient custom, and said that they will challenge the ruling in India’s Supreme Court.
Late last week the state high court permitted devotees to worship at two temples in Rajasthan after temple managements petitioned to protect the rights of the devotees. Kavita Srivastave of the People’s Union for Civil Liberties stated that the management’s petition was “an effort to revive the practice [of sati] in the name of worshipping.” Although sati cases are rare, temple tributes of the act in rural Rajasthan still attract crowds of devotees. The most recent case of sati occurred last month when a 65-year-old old woman burned herself to death on her husband’s pyre.