“Sati” Memorials – III

Continuing the trail from last two posts on Sati Memorials, I want to note briefly the other forms of memorials from Kutch. “Sahagamana” or “Sahamarana” memorials for Sati record the death of the woman with her husband on the pyre. In other cases, it is hypothesized that the wife would immolate herself on hearing the news of her husband’s death on the warfield, etc.

However, in cases when the memorials are silent in terms of inscriptional record; it is difficult to assess the motive or the back-story of the commemorative memorial. Strictly from the iconographic standpoint, the memorials depicting both Sati and hero (husband or ruler/king) together in the central register of the stellae.

455aThis memorial from Jarpara in Kutch depicts the raised arm and horse-rider hero. Hero-stones or Paliya (locally known in Gujarat) are being studied for sculptural and inscriptional nuances. Decorated borders,well divided registers on the face of the memorial, sculpted in deep relief and an accompanying inscription (the traces of which are visible at the base of the memorial) may point at an imperial commission for this memorial.

Godhara342b (fig.5)-EFFECTSAnother memorial in the region exhibits something similar, with the variation in the iconography. A standing couple with water pots in their hand forms the central piece, capped by the sun and the moon, intricate borders and brackets, supplemented by an inscription. Water pot could be interpreted as an essential on pilgrimages or symbolizing death. The clear inscription in “nagari” script and Kutchi-Gujarati language styles the couple as ancestors. A resemblance with the ancestor stones (or memorials) in Norther Maharashtra makes the case more interesting. A convergence of ancestor, hero and Sati memorials is seen through some specimens in Kutch.

I am tempted to go on about the location of the Sati memorials in a village, how we might interpret the living tradition of worshiping the memorials and keeping them alive through oral narratives… but I will reserve it for sometime later! There are multiple horizons to explore and expand with this small germ of thought.

I will return to the discussion of Sati memorials again sometime…

D.