An attempt has been made in this paper to analyse the different aspects of sati as a social institution in medieval India and to make a critical analysis of the attitude of the medieval Indian society and state towards this social practice. A long-established custom as sati was, neither the Hindus nor the Muslims found any particular cause to discuss it in details except for occasional reference to it – and that too mostly in admiration of it. The most detailed account of the social custom is, however, to be found in the accounts of the foreign travellers. From these accounts, supplemented by information from indigenous sources, it has been attempted here to identify the main ‘homes’ of the sati, to give a detailed description of the process of widow-burning, to expose the role of the Brahmins in the execution of sati, to explain the main factors – emphasizing their relative importance – behind this social practice, and finally to evaluate the attitude of the medieval state and measures taken by it in suppressing the social abuse. It is significant that the Muslim rulers never approved of the inhuman practice though they hardly attempted prohibiting it altogether by legislation. Even when a law was promulgated, though rather very rarely, to ban the social custom, it remained mostly in paper, hardly translated into practice. Nevertheless it

must be said in all fairness that it was due to the vigilance of the medieval state that the practice of sati abated to a great extent, especially during the Mughal period.