In this post i am sharing an incident, which was quite unusual to be done, especially by a monarch, who happened to be the Emperor of Hindustan. This incident pertains to the practice of "Sati" which was stopped by personal intervention of Mughal Emperor Akbar.
In simple terms, Sati is a practice, according to which, a wife committed herself to the funeral pyre of her husband at the latter's death, willingly or unwillingly. This practice is NOT restricted to a single community or a place. Incidents of Sati have been found across Indian subcontinent in Rajasthan, Madhya Pradesh, Punjab, Bengal, Odisha, Coromandel Coast area, Nepal, etc. etc.
In the beginning, i said, this event was unusual as this was a rare case for an Emperor to personally intervene in order to save the life of a lady. First, it was against the well-established customs of those times. Second, the Emperor traveled long on his horse to stop this practice.
Let's start the post.
The lady whom Akbar saved in 1583, from getting immolated in the funeral pyre of her deceased husband was Rani Damyenti. Later, she died a natural death in 1627.
Mother - Rani Jaswant Ji, daughter of Rao Durzan of the principality of Varsingot. She died in 1601.
Father - Mota Raja Udai Singh of Jodhpur(don't confuse him with Rana Udai Singh of Mewar). Jagat Gosain(Jodh Bai), who got married to Salim 4 years after this incident, was also his daughter from a different wife. Mota Raja died in 1595.
Issue - She had 2 sons. One of her sons' name was also Udai Singh.
Her husband was the Thakur of Mertha. His name was Jai Mal. He died at Chausa in Bengal, in 1583.
Historian Smith has described this incident as a romantic* adventure, characteristic of "Akbar at his best", which shows that even when he was past 40 he retained the activity and chivalrous spirit of his youth. JaiMal of Deosa was a close cousin of Raja Bhagwan Das of Amer who had been assigned to Imperial Office on an urgent task in the area of Chausa in Bengal. He rode hard to comply with urgent orders, and died near Chausa from the effects of the heat and over-exertion. His widow, a daughter of Udai Singh, did not want to commit herself to the funeral pyre, as was the prevalent "custom". But her son, also named Udai Singh, and some other relatives insisted that, she must burn. Abu'l Fazl records in Akbarnama that - Akbar came to know of this news while he was in his Female Apartments / harem , and it was early morning. Getting the news, at once, he resolved to prevent the sacrifice. He jumped on a horse and rode to the spot, unattended and unescorted by the royal guards, although some of his personal guards galloped after him as soon as they learned of his disappearance. He was in time, and his unexpected arrival stopped the proceedings. At first he was very eager to execute the guilty parties who forced the lady, but on consideration he granted them their lives and merely imprisoned them for a short period.
* Romantic does not means that Akbar was in Love with that widow..! :-P
This is more about praise and to render a sense of chivalry to this remarkable act at the age past 40. :)
The words from an abridged translation/extract of Akbarnama are as follows -
" In the interior of Hindustan it is the custom, when a husband dies, for his widow willingly and cheerfully to cast herself into the flames (of the funeral pile), although she may not have lived happily with him. Occasionally love of life holds her back, and then the husband's relations assemble, light the pile, and place her upon it, thinking that they thereby preserve the honour and character of the family. But since the country had come under the rule of his gracious Majesty, inspectors had been appointed in every city and district, who were to watch carefully over these two cases, to discriminate between them, and to prevent any woman being forcibly burnt. About this time, Jai Mal, who had been sent with his forces to join the amírs in Bengal, died of sunstroke in the vicinity of Chausa. His wife, the daughter of Mota Raja, was unwilling to burn; but her son Udai Singh, with a party of his bigoted friends, resolved upon the sacrifice. The matter came to the Emperor's knowledge, and his feeling of justice and humanity made him fear that if he sent messengers to stop the proceedings, some delay might occur, so he mounted his horse, and rode with all speed to the place. As the facts were not fully known, some of these men, in their thoughtlessness, were disposed to resist and make disturbances. But when His Majesty arrived, Jagganath and Rai Sal came forward to meet him, and brought the leader of these foolish men to him. He accepted their assurance of repentance, and only placed them in confinement."
Complete Translation of Akbarnama, gives more details of this incident. Akbarnama, Vol-3, Pg-595, states:
" One of the occurrences was that the grand-daughter of Rao Maldeo obtained a new life. In the wide country of India, on account of truth-choosing, and jealous honour, when the husband dies, his wife, though she have spent her days in distress, gives herself to the fire with an expanded heart and an open brow. And if from wickedness and love of life she refrain from doing this, her husband's relatives assemble and light the flame, whether she be willing or unwilling. They regard this as preserving their honour and reputation. From the time that this ever-vernal country has been kept verdant and fresh by the justice of the world's lord, vigilant and truthful men have been appointed in every city and district in order that the two classes of cases may be continually kept distinct, and that forcible burning may not be permitted.
At this time H.M. had sent Jaimal by relays of horses to the Bengal officers. On account of immoderate expedition, and the excessive heat, the torch of his existence was extinguished in the neighbourhood of Chausa. His wife, the daughter of the Mota Raja Udai Singh, had not the courage to burn herself. Udai Singh, her son and some bold and foolish persons set themselves to work this injustice (to make her burn). It was high dawn when the news came to H.M.'s female apartments. The just sovereign fearing that if he sent others there would be delay, mounted a swift horse and went off to the spot. As the circumstances were not known there was confusion for some time. Foolish talkers, and imaginative simpletons, made up wonderful stories of a fight. The loyal and devoted, and the happy warriors, got agitated and assembled in troops. There was a time of confusion and they set about putting on their armour and making ready for battle.
The loyal but feeble-minded were at a loss, while the strong and well-disposed galloped off. The two-faced and wicked misunderstood matters and talked unintelligently. The crooked in their ways and the inwardly dark raised a song of triumph. Such had been the rapidity that even the guards had not been able to come up, but some of the personal attendants arrived near the spot. The faction gave up their proceedings in presence of the Shahinshah's majesty. When that cavalier of fortune's arena had come near the spot, Jagannath(son of Raja BharMal) and Rai Sal went ahead and seized the ringleader of the ignorant and turbulent ones and brought him to His Majesty. The appreciative sovereign read the writing of repentance on the foreheads of the crew, and in all this ebullition of anger gave them their lives, but imprisoned them. In a short time the prudent prince made use of justice, graciousness, and courage, and brought things into tranquillity. The dust of turbulence was laid and the pean of joy rose high. "
Following points will help you all to understand the above info in a better manner:
1. There is another person named Jai Mal who died in the Battle of Chittor in 1568. Do not confuse him with the JaiMal mentioned in this post.
2. Serving in Bengal was tough. The toughness of the climate and extreme situation of Bengal can be ascertained from the fact that, the Mughal soldiers who served in Bengal were to be given DOUBLE the pay compared to the soldiers serving in REST of the Sultanate.This was an order of Akbar somewhere after 1575, during the time when Shah Mansoor was handling financial affairs. More can be read about that incident here. Click Here -> LINK
3. Abu'l Fazl has not given the details of the place where Akbar travelled to save the concerned lady. It would seem from reading Jarett, II, Pg-288, that he travelled as far as Loni, which is in Ranthambore, in the Sarkar of Revari ; because this was the current residence of that royal family. But, the place itself is not explicitly mentioned in Akbarnama, as we saw above.
4. Ain-i-Akbari, II, Pg-42, Jarett ; states that "Akbar insisted on the principle that no widow should be forced to burn against her will." So, Akbar was against FORCED Sati practice.
5. Abul Fazl tells us that it was Early Morning when Akbar got this news, while he was in his harem.
6. The husband of the lady, JaiMal was a nephew of Raja BharMal. I had mentioned earlier, in my post on Marriage of Akbar and MUZ, that JaiMal was the FIRST person who met Akbar in January 1562, as a representative of Amer Family for negotiations before the marriage. After JaiMal, his father Rupsi met Akbar. And, at last it was Raja Bharmal himself who met Akbar.
You can read more at this post: 453rd Marriage Anniversary of Akbar-MUZ - Part 2
7. JaiMal, son of Rupsi, had his estate in Deosa, in Jaipur. Rupsi was brother of Raja Bharmal of Amer. Jai Mal was the cousin of Raja Bhagwan Das, Raja Jagannath Das, Harka Bai(MUZ) , as their fathers were REAL brothers.
So, this was the story where Akbar stopped a forced Sati practice. In medieval ages, when there were NO women or human rights organizations, in those days, such an act by Akbar, itself speaks volumes about the thought process of this remarkable man - whom we still remember.
There is one more LESSER known incident where Akbar forbade a lady from committing Sati, which i will cover in separate post. It seems, Akbar was "really" concerned about this practice.
Last Post : Farman of Wali Nimat Mariam-Uz-Zamani Begum with Persian Scan
This article has been posted under the Mughals section of history_geek's blog.