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It is easy for the probing historian or experienced studious traveller to see how superstitious practices develop, to watch a beneficent, reasonable, or well-founded custom turned into a stupid, cruel, or absurd one. For a simple instance, take the practice of suttee, the burning of newly made widows on the deceased husband's funeral pyre. It was originally a gesture, symbolic, because never again could the widow marry: sexually and matrimonially she was a dead person. She lay down for a few moments beside the man's body and then got up and joined the onlookers, whereupon a burning torch was applied to the pyre.


-- Notebooks Category 15: The Orient > Chapter 2: India > # 140






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