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Bible Encyclopedias

Cyclopedia of Biblical, Theological and Ecclesiastical Literature

Burning of Widows

is a strange and horrible custom among the inhabitants of India, which has only been forbidden by the English law since 1827, but has never been entirely rooted out. It is contended that the custom was instituted upon the poisoning of a Brahmin by his wife, wherefore all wives must follow their husbands into the grave. It is not at all probable, however, that so small an affair should be the cause for so atrocious a practice. To sacrifice one's self is, in the religion of India, the highest attainable merit which a member, no longer of profit or advantage to men, can acquire. Now, the widow is such a disadvantageous person; inasmuch as for marriage, maidenhood of the bride is an essential condition; and as a widow is unable to marry again, she is unprofitable as far as the increase of the race goes, and she is, further, a burden to her family. Her sacrifice of herself, however, is not strictly required, provided any one is found willing to marry her. Time has made this custom sacred, so that a woman refusing to follow her husband to the grave is despised, cast out of society, and driven into the woods, where she may repent of her sin. by continually drinking out of the skull of her departed husband, and, further, by eating everything, even the most abominable food, which may be thrown to her. (See SUTTEE).

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Bibliography Information
McClintock, John. Strong, James. Entry for 'Burning of Widows'. Cyclopedia of Biblical, Theological and Ecclesiastical Literature. https://www.studylight.org/encyclopedias/eng/tce/b/burning-of-widows.html. Harper & Brothers. New York. 1870.

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