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The first point to be ascertained is, whether or not the practice of burning widows alive on the pile and with the corpse of their husbands, is imperatively enjoined by the Hindoo religion. To this question, even the staunch advocates for Concremation must reluctantly give a negative reply, and unavoidably concede the practice to the option of widows. This admission on their part is owing to two principal considerations, which it is now too late for them to feign to overlook. First, because Munoo in plain terms enjoins a widow to continue till death forgiving all injuries, performing

austere duties, avoiding every sensual pleasure, and “ cheerfully practising the incomparable rules of virtue 66 which have been followed by such women as were “ devoted to one only husband;" (ch. v. ver. 158.) So Yagnuvulkyu inculcates the same doctrine: “A widow 66 shall live under care of her father, mother, son, bro" ther, mother-in-law, father-in-law, or uncle; since, “ on the contrary, she shall be liable to reproach.” (Vide Mitakshura, ch. i.) Secondly, because an attempt on the part of the advocates for Concremation to hold out the act as an incumbent duty on widows, would necessarily bring a stigma upon the character of the living widows, who have preferred a virtuous life to Concremation, as charging them with a violation of the duty said to be indispensable. These advocates, therefore, feel deterred from giving undue praise to a few widows choosing death on the pile, to the disgrace of a vast majority of that class preferring a virtuous life. And in consideration of these obvious circumstances, the celebrated Smarttu Rughoonundun, the latest commentator on Hindoo law in Bengal, found himself compelled to expound the following passage of Unggira : “ there is no other course for a widow beside Concre“mation;" as “conveying exaggerated praise of the “ adoption of that course."

The second point is, that in case the alternative be admitted, that a widow may either live a virtuous life, or burn herself on the pile of her husband; it should next be determined, whether both practices are esteemed equally meritorious, or one be declared preferable to the other. To satisfy ourselves on this question, we should first refer to the Veds, whose authority is considered paramount; and we find in them a passage most pointed and decisive against Concremation, declaring that “from a desire during life, of future frui« tion, life ought not to be destroyed.” (Vide Mitakshura, ch. i.) While the advocates of Concremation quote a passage from the Veds, of a very abstruse nature, in support of their position, which is as follows: “ O fire, let these women, with bodies anointed with “ clarified butter, eyes coloured with collyrium and “ void of tears, enter thee, the parent of water,* that “ they may not be separated from their husbands, 6 themselves sinless, and jewels amongst women.” This passage (if genuine) does not, in the first place, enjoin widows to offer themselves as sacrifices. Secondly, no allusion whatever is made in it to voluntary death by a widow with the corpse of her husband. Thirdly, the phrase “ these women" in the passage, literally implies women then present. Fourthly. Some commentators consider the passage as conveying an allegorical allusion to the constellations of the moon's path, which are invariably spoken of in Sungskrit in the feminine gender :-butter implying the milky path; collyrium meaning unoccupied space between one star and another; husbands signifying the more splendid of the heavenly bodies; and entering the fire, or, properly speaking, ascending it, indicating the rise of the constellations through the south-east horizon, considered as the abode of fire. Whatever may be the real purport of this passage, no one ever ventured to give it an interpretation as commanding widows to burn themselves on the pile and with the corpse of their husbands.

* In Sungskrit writings, water is represented as originating in fire.

We next direct attention to the Smrittee, as next in authority to the Veds. Munoo, whose authority supersedes that of other lawgivers, enjoins widows to live a virtuous life, as already quoted. Yagnuvulkyu and some others have adopted the same mode of exhortation. On the other hand, Unggira recommends the practice of Concremation, saying: “ That a woman “ who, on the death of her husband, ascends the burning

pile with him, is exalted to heaven as equal to Uroon“ dhooti.” So Vyas says, “a pigeon devoted to her “ husband, after his death, entered the flames, and, as

cending to heaven, she there found her husband." “ She who follows her husband to another world, shall “ dwell in a region of glory for so many years as there

are hairs in the human body, or thirty-five millions.” Vishnoo, the saint, lays down this rule: “ After the “ death of her husband, a wife should live as an ascetic “ or ascend his pile.” Hareet and others have followed Unggira in recommending Concremation.

The above quoted passages from Unggira and others,

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recommend Concremation on the part of widows, as means to obtain future carnal fruition; and, accordingly, previous to their ascent on the pile, all widows invariably and solemnly declare future fruition as their object in Concremation. But the Bhugvudgeeta, whose authority is considered the most sacred by Hindoos of all persuasions, repeatedly condemns rites performed for fruition. I here quote a few passages of that book. “ All those ignorant persons who attach themselves to “ the words of the Shastrus that convey promises of “ fruition, consider those extravagant and alluring

passages, as leading to real happiness; and say, be6 sides them there is no other reality. Agitated in “ their minds by these desires, they believe the abodes “ of the celestial gods to be the chief object, and they 66 devote themselves to those texts which treat of cere“monies and their fruits, and entice by promises of

enjoyment. Such people can have no real confidence “ in the Supreme Being.” “ Observers of rites, after “ the completion of their rewards, return to earth. “ Therefore they, for the sake of rewards, repeatedly 6 ascend to heaven and return to the world, and cannot " obtain eternal bliss." Munoo repeats the same:

" Whatever act is per“ formed for the sake of gratification in this world or “ the next, is called Pruvurtuk, as leading to the tem

porary enjoyment of the mansions of gods; and those “ which are performed according to the knowledge

respecting God are called Nivurtuk, as means to procure release from the five elements of this body; that is, they obtain eternal bliss." The author of the Mitakshura, a work which is con

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sidered as a standard of Hindoo Law throughout Hindoostan, referring on one hand to the authority of Munoo, Yagnuvulkyu, the Bhugvudgeeta, and similar sacred writings, and to the passages of Unggira, Hareet, and Vyas on the other hand, and after having weighed both sides of the question, declares that “the widow “ who is not desirous of eternal beatitude, but who “ wishes only for a perishable and small degree of “ future fruition, is authorized to accompany her hus" band.” So that the Smartu Rughoonundun, the modern expounder of law in Bengal, classes Concremation among the rites holding out promises of fruition; and this author thus inculcates : “ Learned men «should not endeavour to persuade the ignorant to

perform rites holding out promises of fruition.” Hence Concremation, in their opinion, is the least virtuous act that a widow can perform.*


* Hindoos are persuaded to believe that Vyas, considered as an inspired writer among the ancients, composed and left behind him numerous and voluminous works under different titles, as Muha Poorans, Itihashes, Sunghitas, Smriti, &c. &c., to an extent that no man, during the ordinary course of life, could prepare. These, however, with a few exceptions, exist merely in name, and those that are genuine bear the commentaries of celebrated authors. So the Tuntrus, or works ascribed to Shivu as their author, are esteemed as consisting of innumerable millions of volumes, though only a very few, comparatively, are to be found. Debased characters among this unhappy people, taking advantage of this circumstance, have secretly composed forged works and passages, and published them as if they were genuine, with the view of introducing new doctrines, new rites, or new prescripts of secular law. Although they have frequently succeeded by these means in working on the minds of the ignorant, yet the learned have never admitted the authority of any passage or work alleged to be sacred,


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