- Religion and Philosophy
Remembering Aurangzeb's Firman against the Practice of Sati
The Outlawing of Sati
Aurangzeb is much maligned as a temple breaker and also as a man who persecuted Hindus and imposed the Jizzia tax. Perhaps we cannot context these points, but we must remember that he was a man with a religious zeal and many of the commanders in his army were Hindus. Notable being Raja Man Singh, who won many victories for Aurangzeb.
For all his faults Aurangzeb’s stand against Sati cannot be faulted. Sati was a nefarious practice that had crept into Hindu society wher the widow was burnt alive on the pyre of her husband. How and when this practice crept into Hinduism is obscured in pages of History, but ancient Hindus did not believe in sati, which is a later day phenomena.
The Mogul emperors who ruled India did not interfere with the practice of sati and Akbar for all his title of the “the Great” thought it was good ‘fun’ to watch it. But Aurangzeb is the one ruler who realized that this practice needed to be stopped. In 1664 the Aurangzeb issued a Firman banning sati. This was a revolutionary step and orthodox Hindus were aghast at this firman. But there is no doubt that Aurangzeb issued this Firman (order) and it did benefit many Hindu women.
After the death of Aurangzeb the practice of sati re-exerted itself. Even during the Sikh rule this nefarious practice was in vogue as 11 queens of the Maharajah Ranjit Singh committed Sati with him. It was not till the entry of the Raj that the practice of sati was opposed headlong .
The British brought in legislation equating Sati with murder, but the credit for being the first crusader against Sati must go to Aurangzeb. I wonder how many Indians are aware about it.