Aurangzeb's Firman Against Sati in 1664
Aurangzeb is the Mughal emperor who ruled over the biggest empire in Asia. He is mostly castigated as a bigot and religious fanatic. Many accuse him to be a temple and idol breaker. but in all these accusations the good done by him is ignored or studiously avoided.
Was Aurangzeb all bad ? His firman against Sati in 1664, outlawing this heinous crime is conveniently forgotten. Sati, forcible or voluntary burning of the wife on the husband's funeral pyre is as old as Hinduism. Nobody knows how it originated but ancient Hindu writings point to the prevalence of Sati. This was also noted by Greek writers accompanying Alexander the Great in 325 BC.
Sati is one of the black marks on Hinduism and is one of the ills that has never been explained by Hindu leaders. We are told the the British outlawed Sati and equated it with murder, in the teeth of opposition from orthodox Hindus. But much earlier Aurangzeb in 1664 or 1666 issued a Royal Firman against Sati as he considered it un islamic and an insult to humanity.
Aurangzeb was the only Mughal emperor to ban sati. Even the great Akbar never banned sati. On the contrary in the Akbar Nama it is mentioned that he once took some friends to see the 'spectacle' of a widow being burnt alive. The Hindus at that time were dead set against this Firman and opposed it. Unfortunately for them Aurangzeb never relented and many Hindus were beheaded for performing sati.
After the death of Aurangzeb in 1707 this practice again reared its head and even the Sikhs adopted it. This is hard to explain as Guru Nanak was against sati and composed many verses against it. One of the saddest episodes of Sikh history is the burning of 6 wives of Maharajah Ranjit Singh, ruler of the Sikh empire on his funeral pyre at Lahore. The ashes of his queens who committed sati are there in the Samadhi of the Sikh ruler.
Aurangzeb's death led to a weakening of the Mughal empire and Hindu rulers came to the fore as the empire cracked. Sati again appeared and it required a stern law by the English to put an end to this nefarious practice, of which no Hindu can be proud off. All said and done if we can remember Aurangzeb as a temple and idol breaker, we can also give him credit for the Royal Firman against Sati. It required courage and he was the only Indian ruler in 4000 years of Indian history who struck against this evil practice,
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