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Friday, 6 September, 2002, 14:54 GMT 15:54 UK
Ruling fuels India wife burning row
A gathering of Indian women
Sati was widely practised in some Indian regions
Women's groups in the Indian state of Rajasthan are protesting against a court ruling allowing devotees to offer prayers at temples dedicated to women who were burnt alive on their husbands' funeral pyres.

The practice, known as sati, was banned in India in 1829.

Rights activists say the court order is glorifying the ancient Hindu custom.

Cases of sati are now rare in India, but temples commemorating the act still draw huge crowds of devotees in many rural areas.

Sati worship

Several of the women's rights groups said they plan to challenge the ruling in the country's Supreme Court.

"It is an effort to revive the practice in the name of worshipping", said Kavita Srivastava of the People's Union for Civil Liberties.

She said the temple managers wanted to see the prayer ban lifted so they could gain huge amount of money in offerings.

Sati worship was banned across India about 15 years ago.

But the state high court allowed devotees to offer prayers at two such temples in Rajasthan on Friday.

Outrage

The order came following petitions by temple managements.

One temple manager said they moved the court to protect the rights of the devotees.

Sati cases have sparked national and international outrage.

The latest incident was reported last month in the central Indian state of Madhya Pradesh where a 65-year-old woman burned to death on her husband's funeral pyre.

An investigation is on and 15 people have been arrested for abetting the act.

See also:

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