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of devotion, earnest in all she did, quite calm and composed as if nothing important was to happen. In short, she was then at her matins, anxiously watching the hour when this mortal coil should be put off. My uncle was lying a corpse in the adjoining room. It appeared to me that all the women assembled were admiring the virtues and fortitude of my aunt. Some licking the betel out of her mouth, some touching her forehead in order to have a little of the sidoor or vermillion, while not a few falling before her feet, expressed a fond hope that they might possess a small particle of her virtue. Amidst all these surroundings, what surprised me most was my aunt's stretching out one of her hands at the bidding of an old Brahmin woman and holding a finger right over the wick of the burning lamp for a few seconds until it was scorched and forcibly withdrawn by the old lady who bade her do so, in order to have a foretaste of the unshaken firmness of her mind. The perfect composure with which she underwent this fiery ordeal fully convinced all that she was a real Suttee, fit to abide with her husband in Boykonto, paradise. Nobody could notice any change in her countenance or resolution after she had gone through this painful trial.
It was about eleven o'clock when preparations were made for the removal of the corpse of my uncle to the Ghaut. It was a small mourning procession, nearly thirty persons, all of respectable families, volunteered to carry the dead body alternately on their shoulders. The body was laid on a charpoy, my aunt followed it, not in a closed but an open Palkee. She was unveiled and regardless of the consequences of a public exposure; she was, in a manner, dead to the external world. The delicate sense of shame so characteristic of Hindoo females was entirely suppressed in her bosom. In truth, she was evidently longing for the hour when her spirit and that of her husband should meet together and dwell in heaven. She had a toolsee mala (string of basil
beads) in her right hand which she was telling, and she seemed to enjoy the shouts of "Hurree, Hurree bole" with perfect serenity of mind. How can we account for the strange phenomenon wherein a sentient being in a state of full consciousness was ready to surrender at the feet of “Hurree” the last vital spark of life for ever, without a murmur, a sigh, or a tear? A deep, sincere religious faith, which serves as a sheet-anchor to the soul amidst the storms of life, can only unriddle the enigma and disarm death of its terrors. We reached Nimtollah Ghaut about twelve, and after staying ten or fifteen minutes, sprinkling the holy water on the dead body, and all proceeded slowly to Kooltollah Ghaut, about three miles north of Nimtollah. On arriving at the destination which was the dreary abode of Hindoo undertakers, solitary and lonesome, the Police Darogah, (who was also a Hindoo) came to the spot and closely examined my aunt, in various ways attempting if possible, to induce her to change her mind, but she, like “Joan of Arc,” was resolute and determined, she gave an unequivocal reply, to the purport that “such was her predestination, and that Hurree had summoned her and her husband into the Boykonto.” The Darogah, amazed at the firmness of her mind, staid at the Ghaut to watch the proceedings, while preparations were being made for a funeral pile, which consisted of dry firewood, faggots, pitch with a lot of sandalwood, ghee, &c. in it to impart a fragrant odour to the air. Half a dozen Bamboos or sticks were procured also, the use of which we afterwards understood and saw. We little boys were ordered to stand aloof. The Brahmin undertaker came and read a few mantras or incantations. The dead body wrapped in new clothes being placed on the pyre, my aunt was desired to turn seven times round it, which she did while strewing a lot of flowers, cowries (shells) and parched rice on the ground. It struck me at the time that at every successive circumambulation, her "
strength and presence of mind failed, whereupon the Darogah stepped forward once more and endeavoured even at the last moment to deter her from her fatal determination, but she, at the very threshold of ghastly death, in the last hour of expiring life, the fatal torch of Yama (Pluto) before her, calmly ascended the funeral pile and lying by the side of her husband with one hand under his head and another on his breast, was heard to call, in voice half suppressed, on “Hurree, Hurrec,”—a sign of firm belief in the reality of eternal beatitude. When she had thus laid herself on the funeral pyre, she was instantly covered or rather choked with dry wood, while some stout men held and pressed down the pyre which was by this time burning fiercely on all sides, with the Bamboos. A great shout of exultation then arose from the surrounding spectators, till both the dead and living bodies were converted into a handful of dust and ashes. When the tragic scene was brought to a close and the excitement of the moment subsided, men and women wept and sobbed, while cries and groans of sympathy filled the air.
If all religions be not regarded as “splendid failures,' that outlook into the future, which sustains us amid the manifold griefs and agonies of a troublous life, holds out the sure hope of a blessed existence hereafter. My aunt, Bhuggobutty Dassee, though a victim of superstition, had nevertheless a firm, unalterable faith in the merciful dispensations of Hurree which prompted her to renounce her life for the salvation of her own and her husband's souls, giving no heed whatever to the importunity of her friends or the admonition of the world. The sincerity of her religious conviction immeasurably outweighed every other worldly consideration, and no fear or temptation could deter her from her resolute purpose, despite its singularly shocking character. It was the depth of a similar religious conviction and earnestness of purpose that led Joan of Arc to suffer martyrdom on a funeral pile. When asked by the executioner if she believed in the reality of her mission, “Yes,” she firmly replied, while the flames were ascending around her. “My voices were of God. All that I have done was by the command of God. No, my voices did not deceive me. My revelations were of God." "Nothing more was heard from her but invocations to God, interrupted by her long drawn agony. So dense were the clouds of smoke that at one time, she could not be seen. A sudden gust of wind turned the current of the whirlwind and Jeanne was seen for a few moments. She gave one terrific
cry, pronounced the name of Jesus, bowed her head, and the spirit returned to God who gave it. Thus perished Jeanne, the maid of Orleans," and thus perished Bhuggobutty Dassee, my aunt.
About the year 1813, Rammohun Roy published a pamphlet in which he very clearly exposed the barbarous character of the rite of burning widows alive. He was unfortunately backed by few friends. The orthodox party was then very strong, and included the most influential and wealthy portion of the Hindoo community. Maharajah Tejchunder Bahadoor of Burdwan, Rajahs Gopeemohun and Radhakanto Bahadoors, Promothnath Dey, Boystubchunder Mullick, , Rammohun Mullick and, in fact, the entire aristocracy of Calcutta were enlisted on the side of opposition. The “Sumachar Chandrika," the recognised organ of the Dhurmo Shabha, edited by Bhowbany Churn Bonerjea, vilified Rammohun Roy, as an outcast and infidel and persecuted those who were bold enough to avow their sentiments in favour of the abolition of this inhuman practice. Rammohun Roy almost single-handed encountered this formidable opposition, he fought for a just and righteous but not a popular cause, regardless alike of the consequences of social persecution and the threats and scoffs of his orthodox countrymen. Patiently but steadily and consistently he worked his way, until at last his appeal finding a responsive echo in a Christian heart, that noble minded Governor General-Lord William Bentinck-gradually put a stop to the practice. That eminent statesman had many a conference with Rammohun Roy on the propriety or otherwise of abolishing this shocking practice. The anti-abolitionists presented a memorial to Government, urging therein its unjustifiable interference with the religious usages of the country. That wise Governor General, who was very anxious to preserve in full integrity the solemn pledge of government about a neutral policy in matters of religion, consulted the distinguished Orientalist, Mr. H. H. Wilson, on the subject, and finally came to the resolution of abolishing this inhuman institution throughout the British dominion in the East. But before giving effect to the resolution, he recorded in a Minute that the authoritative abolition of the practice would be an outrageous violation of the engagement of the Supreme Government. Accordingly his Lordship observed: “I must acknowledge that a similar opinion, as to the probable excitation of a deep distrust of our future intentions, was mentioned to me in conversation by that enlightend Native, Rammohun Roy, a warm advocate for the abolition of Suttees, and of all other superstitions and corruptions engrafted on the Hindu religion, which he considers originally to have been a pure deism. It was his opinion that the practice might be suppressed quietly and unobservedly by increasing the difficulties, and by the indirect agency of the Police. He apprehended that any public enactment would give rise to general apprehension, that the reasoning would be, while the English were contending for power, they deemed it politic to allow universal toleration and to respect our religion; but having obtained the supremacy, their first act is a violation of their professions and the next will probably be, like Mahomedan conquerors to force upon us their own religion.”