“From time immemorial, the Brahmans have had in their possession secrets quite as valuable. The widow, bent on the self-sacrifice of concremation, called Sahamaranya, has no dread of suffering the least pain, for the fiercest flames will consume her, without one pang of agony being experienced by her.
The holy plants which crown her brow, as she is conducted in ceremony to the funeral pile; the sacred root culled at the midnight hour on the spot where the Ganges and the Yumna mingle their waters; and the process of anointing the body of the self-appointed victim with ghee and sacred oils, after she has bathed in all her clothes and finery, are so many magical anaesthetics.
Supported by those she is going to part with, in body, she walks thrice around her fiery couch, and, after bidding them farewell, is cast on the dead body of her husband, and leaves this world without a single moment of suffering. “The semi-fluid”, says a missionary writer, an eyewitness of several such ceremonies, “the ghee, is poured upon the pile; it is instantly inflamed, and the drugged widow dies quickly of suffocation before the fire reaches her body.”
No such thing, if the sacred ceremony is only conducted strictly after the prescribed rites. The widows are never drugged in the sense we are accustomed to understand the word. Only precautionary measures are taken against a useless physical martydom, the atrocious agony of burning. Her mind is as free and clear as ever, and even more so.
Firmly believing in the promises of a future life, her whole mind is absorbed in the contemplation of the approaching bliss, the beatitude of “freedom”, which she is about to attain. She generally dies with the smile of heavenly rapture on her countenance; and if someone is to suffer at the hour of retribution, it is not the earnest devotee of her faith, but the crafty Brahmans who know well enough that no such ferocious rite was ever prescribed. As to the victim, after having been consumed, she becomes a sati, transcendent purity, and is canonized after death.”
H. P. Blavatsky