Ashes of Immortality: Widow-Burning in India

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University of Chicago Press, 1999 - History - 322 pages
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"At last, she arrives at the fatal end of the plank . . . and, with her hands crossed over her chest, falls straight downward, suspended for a moment in the air before being devoured by the burning pit that awaits her. . . ." This grisly 1829 account by Pierre Dubois demonstrates the usual European response to the Hindu custom of satis sacrificing themselves on the funeral pyres of their husbands—horror and revulsion. Yet to those of the Hindu faith, not least the satis themselves, this act signals the sati's sacredness and spiritual power.

Ashes of Immortality attempts to see the satis through Hindu eyes, providing an extensive experiential and psychoanalytic account of ritual self-sacrifice and self-mutilation in South Asia. Based on fifteen years of fieldwork in northern India, where the state-banned practice of sati reemerged in the 1970s, as well as extensive textual analysis, Weinberger-Thomas constructs a radically new interpretation of satis. She shows that their self-immolation transcends gender, caste and class, region and history, representing for the Hindus a path to immortality.
  

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Ashes of immortality: widow-burning in India

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The spectacular phenomenon of Indian women committing suicide by entering their dead husbands' funeral pyres strains the limits of cross-cultural understanding. In an effort to unravel the complex ... Read full review

Contents

A Question of Words
11
Sexual Colorings
24
Fire and the Fault of Karma
45
The Rhetoric of Protest Suicide
58
The Fruits of Ones Acts
77
DEATH IN THE TELLING
85
A Satl in Surat Durlabh Ram
100
Love in the Extreme
119
The Goddesss Body
155
Cult and Apotheosis
169
True and False Traditions
186
A Satl in Poona
202
A FOREWORD IN RETROSPECT
215
Glossary
275
Index
311
Copyright

UNDERTHESPELLOFSACRIFICE
134

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References to this book

Hinduism and Modernity
David Smith
No preview available - 2003
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About the author (1999)

Jeffrey Mehlman is University Professor at Boston University and the author, most recently, of Walter Benjamin for Children: An Essay on His Radio Years and Genealogies of the Text: Literature, Psychoanalysis, and Politics in Modern France.

David Gordon White is the J. F. Rowny Professor of Comparative Religion at the University of California, Santa Barbara. His books include "Sinister Yogis" and "Tantra in Practice" (Princeton).

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