Your RDA of Irony

If Only We Could Have Persuaded Courtney Love and Anna Nicole Smith That They Were Hindus

In the good old days, one of the few pleasures of being in an airport was being accosted by Hare Krishnas. If I had the spare time–and the airlines always guaranteed that I did–I would ever so innocently ask my would-be missionary about the practice of “suttee.”

Western literature has its macabre romance of a widow dying of a broken heart. In India, suttee ensured it. The widow was expected to hurl herself on her late husband’s funeral pyre. Although this practice is now being espoused by University of Chicago economists as a way to “reform” social security, the British were appalled by it. Using Imperialism in a rare instance of benevolence, the British outlawed suttee on this day in 1829.

Even today there are still reports of suttee in India, but it is no longer officially sanctioned or included in tourist itineraries.

p.s. Of course, widowers were never expected to throw themselves on a funeral pyre. They were free to remarry a future piece of kindling.

p.p.s. The Taj Mahal was built by a Moslem.

  1. david traini says:

    So important was the practice of suttee that Hindu wisemen wrote down the precise procedures to be followed when implementing it. Their result is the Kama Suttee, which desribes over 800 ways the widow could position herself over the pyre. My personal favorite is the missionary position, where the hapless widow lies on here back while a red hot tree trunk is placed on top of her.

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