Abolition of Sati by Lord William Bentinck
Practice of Sati was followed in India among several communities (generally higher classes among Hindus) since late ancient and medieval era. It was first banned in 1515 by Portuguese in Goa, and then was by Dutch in Chinsura and French in Pondicherry. However, this practice was not much prevalent in these areas. During British era, the Practice of Sati was most common in Bengal and Rajputana. The British permitted it initially; but formally banned the practice in 1798 only in Calcutta. However, it continued in the surrounding areas.
By the dawn of 19th century, the British had started collecting facts and figures on practice of Sati. The data showed that only in 1817, 700 widows had been burnt alive in Bengal alone.
Efforts of Raja Rammohan Roy
From 1812 onwards, reformers such as Raja Rammohan Roy started fierce campaign against the Sati practice. Raja Rammohan Roy was personally hurt by this practice as his own sister-in-law was forced to commit Sati. He used to visit the Calcutta cremation grounds to persuade widows not to so die. He also formed the watch groups. In Sambad Kaumudi he wrote articles and showed that it was not written in any Veda or epics to commit this crime.
Ban on Sati Practice by William Bentinck
Due to fierce campaign and lobbying of Raja Rammohan Roy and others,Sati practice was formally banned in all the lands under Bengal Presidency by Lord William Bentinck on 4 December 1829. By this regulation, the people who abetted sati were declared guilty of “culpable homicide.”
The ban was challenged in the courts. The matter went to the Privy Council in London. The Privy Council upheld the ban in 1832. After that other territories also started following banning, but it remained legal in princely states, particularly in the Rajputana where it was very common. Later, Jaipur banned the practice in 1846.