Bernier, François, Travels in the Mogul Empire A.D. 1656-1668

(Westminster, Eng. :  Constable,  1891.)



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310                          THE GENTILES

of pain or even uneasiness in the victim, and it was said
that she pronounced with emphasis the words_^«e, two, to
signify that this being the fifth time she had burned her¬
self with the same husband, there were wanted only two
more similar sacrifices to render her perfect, according to
the doctrine of the transmigration of souls : as if a certain
reminiscence, or prophetic spirit, had been imparted to her
at that moment of her dissolution.

But this was only the commencement of the infernal
tragedy. I thought that the singing and dancing of the
five women were nothing more than some unmeaning
ceremony; great therefore was my astonishment when I
saw that the flames having ignited the clothes of one of
these females, she cast herself head-foremost into the pit.
The horrid example was followed by another woman, as
soon as the flames caught her person: the three women
who remained then took hold of each other by the hand,
resuming the dance with perfect composure; and after a
short lapse of time, they also precipitated themselves, one
after the other, into the fire.

I soon learnt the meaning of these multiplied sactifices.
The five women were slaves, and having witnessed the
deep affliction of their mistress in consequence of the ill¬
ness of her husband, whom she promised not to survive,
they were so moved with eonapassion that they entered
into an engagement to perish by the same flames that con¬
sumed their beloved mistress.

Many persons whom I then consulted on the subject
would fain have persuaded me that an excess of affection
was the cause why these women burn themselves with
their deceased husbands; but I soon found that this
abominable practice is the effect of early and deeply rooted
prejudices. Every girl is taught by her mother that it is
virtuous and laudable in a wife to mingle her ashes with
those of her husband, and that no woman of honour will
refuse compliance with the established custom. These
opinions men have always inculcated as an easy mode of
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