December 4: Suppressing Suttee

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Written by Matthew Mendez, Journalist

December 4, 1829 CE. The British government outlaws the practice of suttee or “widow-burning” in India. Although not commonly practiced by the majority of the Hindu population before its abolishment, suttee was highly regarded by the Brahmans and other high castes, being seen as the highest form of female devotion to the gods. The first reference to the practice hails from the Sanskrit epic Mahabharata, dating from about 400 CE. Diodorus Siculus, a Greek author from the first century BCE, mentions the practice in regards to the Punjab region of India. A large quantity of memorials honoring the death of widows at the hands of the practice can also be found throughout the Indian subcontinent, with the oldest of such monuments dating back to 510 CE. Although initially tolerant of suttee in the early stages of colonialism, the British under the reign of George IV, eventually outlawed the practice.