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‘Sati system was the manifestation of structural and cultural violence inflicted on women’

‘Sati system was the manifestation of structural and cultural violence inflicted on women’

Kathmandu: Sujit Mainali is a history critic. Since he began to write for Nepali media, he has made it a point to define the current events from the prism of history and vice-versa. It gives a new perspective, says Mainali. His first history research book Silanyas: Nepal Nirmanko Nalibeli ruffled some feathers in Kathmandu: it was a counter-narrative to those who have long been undermining, even denigrating, the role of King Prithvi Narayan Shah in Nepal’s state formation. His most recent book marks a sharp departure from political history and it delves into probably the worst and the cruelest conditions women were subjected to probably until 1920, when the Sati system was abolished by Rana Prime Minister Chandra Shamsher. Sati has found a wider readership, Mainali shared with Nepal Live Today.   Here is an excerpt from the conversation with Sujit Mainali.

The title of the book is self-explanatory. But can you tell us what exactly is your focus on this book?

The Sati system was probably the biggest blot in Nepal’s history.  Yet, there is little you get to learn about it in documented forms. Sati system was in practice in Nepal and India both. While one finds some literature and iconographic evidence on the Sati system in India, there is little in Nepal.  So the book is focused mainly on Nepal, while it also touches upon the practices of India and South Asia as a whole. Here I have tried to explore why a woman was forced to immolate herself on the funeral pyre of her dead husband? What was the politics behind it? What was the patriarchy that forced women into such barbarian practice like? And many other issues.

Lack of research on the Sati system shows how history writers and commentators have paid little attention to, or even ignored, the suffering of women in Nepali history.

In Nepal, most of what we learn about the Sati system is through oral anecdotes. Documented history is rare. How did you find the sources for your research for the book?

Yes, Sati stories have come down to us mostly through oral tra

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