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Sthree Dharma

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Sthree Dharma
#48
http://groups.yahoo.com/group/TheHeathenIn...ss/message/2115

<!--QuoteBegin-->QUOTE<!--QuoteEBegin-->Dear Rani,


1. The search for a scriptural foundation for sati must have started
as soon as the British toleration policy was in place. This started in
the last decade of the 18th century. The first documents in English by
Hindu authors addressing this issue date from the first decades of the
nineteenth century (as far as I am aware). The debate whether or not
sati was part of the Hindu religion had started a few decades earlier
between the orientalists Holwell, Dow and Halhed. John Zephaniah
Holwell had claimed in the 1760s that the Brahmins had given sati "the
stamp of religion," "foisted it" into the Vedas and "established it as
a religious tenet throughout Indostan." Alexander Dow, on the
contrary, had argued that the "extraordinary custom of the women
burning themselves with their deceased husbands" was never "reckoned a
religious duty, as has been very erroneously supposed in the West."
In response to Dow's claim, Halhed had ridiculed it and stated that
Suttee was most certainly a religious duty of Hindu widows.

2. Whence this fixation on attesting that sati was sanctioned by the
`sacred laws of the Hindu religion'? This was not directly related to
the problem of the secular state. To make sense of it, we have to turn
back to certain assumptions of the Reformation. All human souls,
according to Christianity, had been imparted with a sense of God's
eternal Law. They lived on earth to obey this Law. But this sense had
everywhere been corrupted by the devil and his priests, who now
imposed their own fabrications as divinely revealed commandments on
innocent believers. To these believers, the British assumed, such
fabricated laws consistuted the core of sacred religion and one's
everyday duty towards the Creator and Sovereign of the universe.
Therefore, in order to understand such people and go about with them,
one first had to find out what they believed to be God's Law. Which
specific set of laws did the Hindus mistake for God's revelation of
his eternal Law? And was sati part of that set of laws? *This* was the
obsession of the early colonial scholars.

3. When the Hindus adopted this obsession to establish that sati was
indeed sanctioned by their scriptures in the early nineteenth century,
they transformed their traditions into a religious doctrine. They
unwittingly accepted the Christian stance towards traditional
practices: these embodied beliefs, which were fixed in the sacred
texts. No, this did not require from them an understanding of what
religion was. As I said, the colonial state compelled them to adopt
the stance of Christianity: in order to survive, they had to defend
their traditions as sacred doctrines.

4. It is funny that you should ask this question about the way the
Indians imitated the British colonials. In fact, our claims are very
different from Homi Bhabha's story about mimicry as resistance. How
they are so will be explained in the near future by Balu in a note
about colonial consciousness, which will be uploaded in the
files-section of the yahoo-group.

Yours,


Jakob
<!--QuoteEnd--><!--QuoteEEnd-->
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