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Sati Worship and Marwari Public Identity in India

  • Anne Hardgrove

The legal debate in india over the worship and glorification of sati (widow burning, previously spelled “suttee”) stands unresolved at present. After several years of controversy, the practice of worshipping sati was made illegal in 1987 after the death of a young Rajput woman named Roop Kanwar. At that time the Indian government revised the colonial legislation banning widow immolation to include sati glorification and thereby outlawed ceremonies, processions, or functions that eulogize any historical person who has committed sati. The law furthermore prohibited the creation of trusts or fundraising to preserve the memory of such persons. This legal debate over sati worship provides the context in which this essay examines the cultural politics of how Calcutta Marwaris, a wealthy business community, have been among the most vehement defenders of sati worship in the last several decades.

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