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Sunday, 10 November 2013





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Government Gazette

Human sacrifices in history

Certain elements of barbarism largely remained uncancelled even with the dawn of human civilisation. The barbaric practices of human sacrifice and self-sacrifice on religious and social grounds were encouraged by powerful authorities of most communities in history.

It appears almost fair to say that some strange religious beliefs noticeably disguised brutality and violence. There was a hidden practice among ancient Japanese people to commit suicide as a penance for violating (intentionally or inadvertently) the general rules in the battlefield. Japanese militants called Bushido were compelled to commit partial suicide if ever the particular militant failed to keep up honourable fighting in the battlefield. Here, someone had to complete his suicide.

The Samyrai, compelled thus to commit suicide first cleaned himself, enjoyed his favourite meal for the final time and wrote his ultimate death poem. Within this practice called Sepuku, the condemned militant was given a sharp tool to open his belly and a person appointed by him to complete his sacrifice beheaded him.

This practice shows that the honour ability and dignity in the battle field were held as important as the life of the fighter in the early Japanese civilisation.

The Mayans, another developed people, pinned a strong faith on invisible natural powers and natural phenomena. They produced the world's first calendar and incorrectly predicted the world's end in the year 2012.

Mayans fervently believed in invisible divine powers which were considered to be in operation within deep cavities of the earth. They believed that the deep pits or cavities were an entrance to the "other world" or heaven and made certain individuals leap into them to live a blissful life in the other world. Those selected to leap into them were individuals who had achieved certain victories and honours in the battles. This too is an inhuman human sacrifice in history.


A team of religious extremists in India who were fervent devotees of Goddess Kali, engaged in secret slaughter that accompanied a total sense of devotion to the goddess. For centuries these "killer devotees" wandered through multiple regions of India and pleased their goddess (Kali) by secretly killing people. They did this by tactfully winning the confidence of pilgrims and traveller groups and spending nights with them. Interestingly enough, the religious group built a close rapport with pilgrims and selected the "Sacrifices" to be strangled to death at night.

Julius Caesar, the Roman emperor ordered that all slaves and attendants be burnt alive once their master died. The practices of human sacrifice carried out by Celtic priests were absolutely in-human and lives of thousands of people were sacrificed in multiple forms.

There were strange ceremonies that involved human sacrifice. For instance, certain individuals were ceremonially drowned to death in the name of the god Mutachus and some were hanged as a tribute to the god Zeus. Sometimes slaves were packed into a structure resembling a human figure and the entire structure was set on fire while the people stayed trapped inside it.

Another form of human sacrifice - rather a self-sacrifice-is the famous" Sathi Pooja in India where Indian women displayed their faith and devotion to their husbands by leaping on to the blazing funeral pyre of their husbands. This practice of self-sacrifice was in operation in India and some Asian countries until it was officially banned. The woman burning in the blazing fire of her husband's funeral pyre was posthumously called Sathi Bharya (faithful wife) and was awarded the best status that a living woman could not have reached during her lifetime.


The Indian women appeared to believe that joining their husbands in death would assuredly bring peace to him and the woman would have a better, peaceful life at the next birth. Therefore, the ancient Asian woman aspired to burn herself in the fire of the husband's funeral pyre and it became a widespread practice specially in India until it was banned by the Indian government.

The women are compelled to commit suicide within the framework of concepts and attitudes of traditional Asian society. This itself was a social tragedy because widows were viewed with certain amount of contempt within Asian Society. The people directly related to the dead person would consider it a substantial bad luck when the widow still lived in the house of the deceased and would expel the widow.

The trend for self sacrifice was common in Fiji island where widows were killed by their own brothers. This practice bears resemblance to the Sathi Pooja in India in all respects but the difference is that the widow had to be killed by her own brother living with them in the same house (within the format of extended family system).

The tragedy surrounding Sathi Pooja is that the widow had to leap into the blazing fire even against her will and if she avoided this custom, her relatives stayed prepared to hurl her into the fire.

The practice which reigned supreme particularly upto 17th Century, accounted for the loss of millions of lives of 'innocent' people.

The Indian communities specially the women were of the conviction that Sathi Pooja was god's will and doing anything to reverse the ritual meant opposing the god.

During the twentieth century, the Indian woman was entitled to the privileges of free education and the customs related to self sacrifice decreased considerably. But uneducated women in remote recesses continued to practice self sacrifice because they coveted the title of honour which they received after death.

The concept of self sacrifice once again became a topic for wider discussion when a girl named Roop Kanwar leapt into the funeral pyre of her husband in 1987. A large crowd expecting to witness the self sacrifice had thronged around the funeral pyre and the eighteen year old widow suddenly covered herself with rising flames.

The Indian government appointed a commission to track down those responsible for this event and took measures to punish her relations for allowing her to commit suicide.

LANKAPUVATH - National News Agency of Sri Lanka
Telecommunications Regulatory Commission of Sri Lanka (TRCSL)
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