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Thursday, 28 November, 2002, 13:02 GMT
Sacrifice prayers at India temple
Funeral pyre at village of Tamoli Patna in Panna district, Madhya Pradesh
Burning widows is outlawed but rare cases still occur

A religious ceremony has gone ahead in the Indian state of Rajasthan at a temple dedicated to the ancient Hindu practice of "sati".

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


The sudden spurt of worshipping at Sati temples is part of the resurgence of [Hindu nationalist] forces

Kavita Srivastava, People's Union of Civil Liberties
Prayers were offered on Thursday at the Rani Sati temple in the town of Jhunjhunu, about 200 kilometres (125 miles) from the state capital, Jaipur, following a court order permitting worship to proceed.

The decision to allow the ceremony was opposed by women's groups who argued that it could glorify the practice of sati, which is now forbidden under Indian law.

Devendra Jhunjhunwala, a trustee of the Rani Sati temple, disagreed.

He said: "We performed routine prayers and it has no connection with any glorification."

A case of sati in the central Indian state of Madhya Pradesh sparked national controversy earlier this year.

Nationalism

The High Court permitted worship at several sati temples in September.

In response to a petition by women's groups, it said that only simple prayers would be allowed at Thursday's ceremony, and there should be no attempt to glorify the practice of sati.

Kavita Srivastava of the People's Union of Civil Liberties, who led women's protests, linked the ceremonies to a resurgence of Hindu nationalism.

"The sudden spurt of worshipping at sati temples is part of the resurgence of [Hindu nationalist] forces," she said.

But Acharya Dharmendra, a priest, rejected any such link.

"There is no tradition of sati in Hindu religion, but there are examples of sacrifices where women died along with their husbands," he said.

A senior police officer from Jhunjhunu said local officials were deployed at the temple to make sure the function took place in accordance with the law.

Since Indian independence in 1947, there have been 26 incidents of sati in Rajasthan.

See also:

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