Among the foreign tribes who are near the outskirts of India are the
Mongolian races, among which a similar custom prevails even to day. In Japan and the
allied nations, the custom still prevails under the name of Hara-kiri, in which a
person commits suicide as a pledge of his devotion and faith fullness to his master. The
underlying motive of it is to join his master in the next world.
However barbarous it may seem, the sanctity of the custom cannot, be
doubted for a moment. The faith, the devotion and the spirit of self-sacrifice underlying
it are astounding. The Anumarana, as found in India in the 11th and 12th centuries, is a
variety of this custom.
The Hindu lawgivers, when they adopted it in society, sanctioned it at
first as an alternative course for a widow to follow. But gradually the virtue implied by
the custom seems to have appealed to their imagination, and we find them attaching to it
an additional value of unlimited bliss in. heaven. The verse of Parasara clearly indicates
this change in the outlook.
Later, however, the self immolation is thought to give a power of
redemption, i.e. a Sati or a woman who immolated herself could lift her husband up
from hell by virtue of her deed, and the eschatological notion that rendered imperative
the birth of sons, in the earliest literature, determined the lot of a widow now. It was
adopted in society as the safeguard of a man for his life after death and was finally
prescribed as the only path to be, followed by a widow.
We thus see that the end of the later law- period is marked by a
complete change in the outlook on life, especially on the life of a woman. The influence
of the reformatory movements, like Buddhism and Jainism, modified to a great extent the
standard of life. The extreme ascetic tendency set up by Buddhism bad its natural reaction
on society, and it restricted to no small extent the freedom of women.
The general cry was to shun and avoid them and their influence. This is
evident in the later Buddhist literature, especially the Jatakas. They are in themselves
interesting as specimens of Buddhist literature, but their foremost interest consists in
the light they throw on the society of their times through the folklore with which they
are imbued. So considered, they give us a vivid picture of the social life and customs of