"Ceremony of Burning a Hindu Widow with the Body of her Late Husband", from Pictorial History of China and India, 1851.
Satī (Devanagari: सती, the feminine of sat "true"; also called suttee) is a religious funeral practice among some Hindu communities in which a recentlywidowed Hindu woman either voluntarily or by use of force and coercion immolates herself on her husband’s funeral pyre. The practice is rare and has been outlawed in India since 1829. The term is derived from the original name of the goddess Sati, also known as Dakshayani, who self-immolated because she was unable to bear her fatherDaksha's humiliation of her (living) husband Shiva. The term may also be used to refer to the widow herself. The term sati is now sometimes interpreted as "chaste woman." Origin
Few reliable records exist of the practice before the time of the Gupta empire, approximately 400 AD. After about this time, instances of sati began to be marked by inscribed memorial stones. The earliest of these are found in Sagar, Madhya Pradesh, though the largest collections date from several centuries later, and are found in Rajasthan. These stones, called devli, or sati-stones, became shrines to the dead woman, who was treated as an object of reverence and worship. They are most common in western India. By about the 10th century sati, as understood today, was known across much of the subcontinent. It continued to occur, usually at a low frequency and with regional variations, until the early 19th century. Some instances of voluntary self-immolation by both women and men that may be regarded as at least partly historical accounts are included in theMahabharata and other works. However, large portions of these works are relatively late interpolations into an original story, rendering difficult their use for reliable dating. Also, neither immolation nor the desire for self-immolation are regarded as a custom in the Mahabharata. Use of the term 'sati' to describe the custom of self-immolation never occurs in the Mahabarata, unlike other customs such as the Rajasuya yagna. Rather, the self-immolations are viewed as an expression of extreme grief at the loss of a beloved one. The ritual has prehistoric roots, and many parallels from other cultures are known. Compare for example the ship burial of the Rus' described by Ibn Fadlan, where a female slave is burned with her master. Aristobulus of Cassandreia, a Greek historian who traveled to India with the expedition of Alexander the Great, recorded the practice of sati at the city ofTaxila. A later instance of voluntary co-cremation appears in an account of an Indian soldier in the army of Eumenes of Cardia, whose two wives vied to die on his funeral pyre, in 316 BC. The Greeks believed that the practice had been instituted to discourage wives from poisoning their old husbands. Voluntary death at funerals has been described in northern India before the Gupta empire. The original practices were called anumarana, and were uncommon. Anumarana was not comparable to later understandings of sati, since the practices were 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, and bear a slight resemblance to the later tradition of seppuku in Japan. It is theorized that Sati, enforced widowhood, and girl marriage are customs that were primarily intended to solve the problem of surplus women and surplus men in a caste and to maintain its endogamy. Practice
"A Hindu Suttee"
The Commission of Sati (Prevention) Act of 1987 Part I, Section 2(c) defines Sati as: The burning or burying alive of – (i) any widow along with the body of her deceased husband or any other relative or with any article,...