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Almost 200 years after being outlawed, the practice of Sati still looms large over every academic discourse about Hindu philosophy and customs. It remains a potent symbol of deep-rooted patriarchy and cultural misogyny of pre-modern India. Time and again the banning of Sati has been invoked to argue that British colonialism helped bring a regressive Indian society out of the dark ages. Even for contemporary Indians, who are proud of their heritage and culture, Sati Partha poses a strange predicament. How did a civilisation so advanced in science and philosophy, that produced great thinkers through the ages such as Mahavira, Gautam Buddha, Kabir Das, Adi Shankara, and many more oddly remained comfortable with a practice so barbarous? With so many glorious periods under numerous Indian dynasties from Guptas to Vijayanagara, Mughals to Marathas, why did India need a foreign mercantilist power to ultimately put an end to this cruel and inhuman custom? It is important to address these questions as they play a key role in how we Indians see ourselves as a people. Were our ancestors really as backward and superstitious as we are told? And did India really need the enlightened Victorians to free her from its social evils?

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