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Friday, 9 August, 2002, 18:22 GMT 19:22 UK
Indians worship would-be sacrifice
Temple in Triveni Dham, Rajasthan
Jaswant Kanwar has lived in the temple for 16 years

Jaswant Kanwat Chandrawat is a "living sati", or even a "great sati", say her followers in the north Indian state of Rajasthan.

It is persistent efforts by women's movement and human rights groups which has kept the situation under control

Jaswin Ahaluwalia,
Only the timely intervention by police prevented her from sacrificing herself on her husband's funeral pyre in 1985, since when she has been revered.

Sati, or the ancient Hindu practice of a woman immolating herself on her husband's pyre, is believed to have originated some 700 years ago among the ruling warrior community of Rajasthan.

It has long been banned in India, and those found abetting it face the death penalty.


Following Jaswant Kanwar's unsuccesful attempt to commit sati, worshippers constructed a temple in the name of Lord Shiva at Triveni Dham, 70 kilometres from the state capital, Jaipur, where she is now presiding deity.

Jaswant Kanwar Chandrawat
Police intervention stopped Jaswant Kanwar from suicide
The temple is only a few kilometres from Deorala, a village in Sikar district where another Rajput woman, Roop Kanwar, was burnt alive on 4 September 1987 on her husband's funeral pyre.

The incident sparked national and international outrage.

Dressed in white, Jaswant Kanwar, a fragile 60-year-old, has been living and praying in the temple for the last 16 years.

Locals in the area refer to it as the "sati temple", one of three in the area.

"Yes, devotees come to the temple - sometimes in small numbers or occasionaly in larger numbers," she told the BBC, speaking in local dialect.

But she evades all questions about her past, confirming only that woman and children come to worship, that it is a question of faith and that she has visited Deorala.


In 1986 statues of different Hindu deities were erected in Rajasthan.

Numbers of visiting devotees have remained low, however.

Jaswin Ahaluwalia, a member of the People's Union for Civil Liberties, says only persistent efforts by the women's movement and human rights groups have kept the situation under control.

"The women's movement groups have over a period of time continuously raised the issue at different platforms for awareness and debate.

"This also put pressure on the government to act strictly, which resulted in less devotees and prevented glorification of 'sati'," she said.

Large turnout

Rampal Kumawat from Triveni Dham was a boy in his teens at the time of Jaswant Kanwar's unsuccessful attempt to commit sati.

He remembers the events of 12 March 1985 clearly.

"There was a large turnout and people coming with coconuts to offer at the pyre," he recalls.

"She was brought here in bridal attire, but large numbers of police arrived and prevented Jaswant Kanwar from becoming a sati.

"She was taken by the police before her husband's funeral."

Rampal Kumawat explained that people collect money to maintain the temple, and there is no annual fair or glorification of sati.

He thinks this is certainly a result of the Sati Prevention Act.

See also:

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