NEW DELHI (dpa) – A 65-year-old Indian woman died after allegedly throwing herself on to her dead husband’s funeral pyre, police said Monday.
Gahwa Devi reportedly waited until the pyre was unattended at the weekend before committing sati, a 700-year-old Hindu custom of a wife dying with a dead husband, banned under current law. Police said they were treating the case as suicide, which is not illegal.
The woman’s husband Ramchaitra Yadav died of cancer Saturday in Parmania village, Saharsa district, in the north-eastern state of Bihar, the area’s police chief Pankaj Sinha said.
His family noticed Devi was missing when they went home after the cremation, he said.
“A search for Devi revealed her charred body in the funeral pyre,” Sinha said. “There seem to be no witnesses,” Sinha said. “We are treating the case as one of voluntary suicide.”
The widow apparently jumped into the flames of her husband’s pyre when no one was around.
In mediaeval times, a woman who died on her husband’s pyre was glorified as a sati, or pure wife. Sati temples dedicated to such women are scattered around northern India.
The illegal rite is now rare but occasionally practised in northern and central India. Abetting and inciting sati are also illegal.