Similarly, if Angirasa allowed Anumarana, he allowed it only in the case
of non-Brahmana women. This text of Angirasa, also quoted by Madhavacharya, may be
rendered as follows : - 'A woman of the Brahmana. Caste who follows her dead husband does
not on account of suicide lead either herself or her husband to heaven.'
Madhavacharya has adduced many other texts in this connection; but the
two texts referred to above have also been quoted by VijfjAn4vara. Both these commentators
explain them by remarking that the prohibition in this case relates to the ascending of
a separate pile, that is to say, a Brahmana woman shall not immolate herself on a separate
funeral pyre, implying that she can burn herself with her dead husband on the same pile.
And in support of their position they quote a text from Usanas: "A
Brahman woman should not die by ascending a separate pile. "It seems that from the 11thcentury
onwards this practice became so largely prevalent, that even Brahmana widows, were not
spared, although they were originally excluded.
It may now be asked, when and how this custom of the self-annihilation
of widows of the funeral pyre of their husbands, technically called by the name of
Anumarana then, and later the 'Sati rite', came to be introduced and enforced in India? The
available evidence shows that the custom was entirely non-existent in early Hindu society.
The Vedic practice was for a widow to marry her dead husband's
younger brother. In the Sutra period she was allowed to marry any near kinsman; in the
earliest Dharma sutras (Gautama) without enjoining any restriction an (I in the later
(Baudhayana and Vasishtha) enjoining ascetic practices for a short period only. Later on,
however, this asceticism alone remained and became life-long.
This was the characteristic of the period rang in between the 2nd
century B.C. and the 4th century A.D., when the Smriti of Manu and Yajnavalkya were
compiled. But there is absolutely no mention of widow burning. Later on, however, we find
Anumarana prescribed for a widow as an alternative to life-long asceticism.