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Anumarana or Anugamana[1] refers to ancient Indian practice of Voluntary death by self-immolation by widowed Hindu women, some time after death of her husband.[2][3] Anumarana was practiced usually by the widowed wives, when learnt of husband's death at battlefield or elsewhere and he had been already cremated. The widow then resolves to take away her life and immolated herself with husband's ashes or padukas or other such memento.[1][2][3] The practice of Anumarana is mentioned in Kamasutra.[4] In Mahabharata, we find mention of Anumarana practiced by widows of Kshatriyas on rare occasions.[5] The practice has been described to be prevalent northern India and had existed before the Gupta empire.[6] Interestingly, as per customs prevalent the Brahmin women were only permitted to die by Sahamarana and were not allowed the right of anumarana; however, non-Brahmin women could decide to immolate herself both by sahamarana or anumarana[7][8][9] Anumarana was not comparable to later understandings of the practice of sati, as in this widows did not self-immolate herself in funeral pyre of her husband.[2][3] When a widow immolated herself with the husband's dead body, it was called Sahamarana or Sahagamana[1]

The Commission of Sati (Prevention) Act, 1987 Part I, Section 2(c) defines Sati as the act or rite itself, including both sahamarana and anumarana.[10] The practice of anumarana was generally banned by British authorities already in 1826 (with a prior ban for Brahmin widows in 1817[11]), three years prior to the general ban on sati.[12] At least 3 cases of anumarana were recorded in 1826.[13] Nor had such cases been particularly exceptional; Anand Yang documents several cases where the widow immolated herself many years after her husband's death. Just in the Ghazipur district in 1822, for example, 4 widows were reported to commit anumarana 16–40 years after the deaths of their husbands, one of them throwing herself on the funeral pyre of her son.[14]

Also the practice of anumarana was, in earlier times, not restricted to widows — rather, anyone, male or female, with personal loyalty to the deceased could commit suicide at a loved one's funeral. These included the deceased's relatives, servants, followers, or friends. Sometimes these deaths stemmed from vows of loyalty,[15] and is said to have been prevalent in the 11th century CE in north/northwestern India, cases recorded in the 13th century CE as well.[16] At the death in 1839 of the founder of the Sikh Empire, Ranjit Singh, Ranjit Singh's premier minister, Dhyan Singh, declared his commitment to perish in the flames as well. He had to be physically prevented from doing so by the other courtiers, since they felt the Sikh Empire could not manage without Dhyan Singh at this point of crisis in history.[17]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b c Loops and Roots: The Conflict Between Official and Traditional Family ... By Purnima Chattopadhayay-Dutt. 1995. pp. 554–555. 
  2. ^ a b c The Journal of Oriental Research, Madras, Volumes 19-22. Madras Law Journal, Indo-Aryan. 1951. p. 1,4,57. 
  3. ^ a b c History of Dharmaśāstra: (ancient and Mediæval Religious and Civil Law in India). Pāṇḍuraṅga Vāmana Kāṇe, Bhandarkar Oriental Research Institute. 1974. p. xviii, 628, 632. 
  4. ^ Encyclopaedic Dictionary of the Dharmaśāstra, Volume 1 By Swami Parmeshwaranand. 2003. p. 210. 
  5. ^ Memoirs of the Archaeological Survey of India - Issue 41 - 1929 - Page 21
  6. ^ Women in the Sacred Laws by Shakuntala Rao Shastri Bharatiya Vidya Bhavan, 1990 - Women (Hindu law) 1990: pp:130: Before the Gupta period the Anumarana was co-extensive with the later Sati rite.
  7. ^ Rammohun Roy: A Critical Biography By Amiya P. Sen. 
  8. ^ Women and Social Reform in Modern India: A Reader edited by Sumit Sarkar, Tanika Sarkar. 2008. p. 50. 
  9. ^ Burning women: a global history of widow sacrifice from ancient times to the present by Jörg Fisch. Seagull. 2006. p. 253,375,401. 
  10. ^ Commission of Sati (Prevention) Act, 1987. Official text of the Act on Government of India's National Resource Centre for Women (NCRW) Website
  11. ^ Calcutta Historical Society (1957). Bengal: Past and Present. 76,1. Calcutta Historical Society. p. 103. 
  12. ^ Long, George (ed.) (1842). "Suttee". The Penny Cyclopædia of the Society for the Diffusion of Useful Knowledge,. 23. London: C. Knight. p. 359. 
  13. ^ Sarma, Bina K.; Mukherjee, Soma (2004). Folk deities and Matrika cult of South West Bengal. 2. R.N. Bhattacharya. p. 120. 
  14. ^ For these statistics and in-depth treatment, see Yang, Anand A.; Sarkar, Sumit (ed.); Sarkar, Tanika (ed.) (2008). "Whose Sati?Widow-Burning in early Nineteenth Century India". Women and Social Reform in Modern India: A Reader. Bloomington, Indiana: Indiana University Press. pp. 29–31. ISBN 9780253352699. 
  15. ^ Encyclopaedia of Indian Women Through the Ages: Ancient India By Simmi Jain. 2003. pp. 522–23. 
  16. ^ Shakuntala Rao Shastri, Women in the Sacred Laws -- The later law books (1960), also reproduced online at [1]. Web page 23-26, original pages, 65-76
  17. ^ Fisch, Jörg (1998). Tödliche Rituale: die indische Witwenverbrennung und andere Formen der Totenfolge. Frankfurt am Main/New York: Campus Verlag. p. 262. ISBN 9783593360966.  Fisch's source is Johann Martin Honigberger who was royal physician for Ranjit Singh. At Ranjit Singh's funeral, 11 of his wives did commit sati.Honigberger, Johann M. (1851). Fruchte aus dem morgenlande. Vienna: Carl Gerold und Sohn. pp. 109–110.