SACRIFICE OF WIDOWS
side of the bamboo scaffold nearest the fire is protected
by a wall of wet Pisang (banana) stems. Upon the bridge
lies a plank smeared with oil, which is pushed out a little
over the fire as soon as the time for the leap draws near.
There is a door at the end of the bridge that is not removed
until the last minute. The victim sits in the house on the
bridge, accompanied by a female priest and by her relatives.
. . .
she makes her toilet; her hair especially is combed, the
mirror used, and her garments newly arranged; in short,
she arrays herself exactly as she would for a feast. Her
dress is white, her breasts are covered with a white Slendang
(scarf); she wears no ornaments, and after the preparations
to which she has been subjected, her hair at the last moment
hangs loose. When the corpse of the prince was almost consumed,
the three Belas got ready; they glanced one towards another
to convince themselves that all was prepared; but this was
not a glance of fear, but of impatience, and it seemed to
express a wish that they might cap at the same moment.
When the door opened and the plank smeared with oil was
pushed out, each took her place on the plank, made three
Sembahs (reverences) by joining her hands above her head,
and one of the bystanders placed a small dove upon her head.
When the dove flies away the soul is considered to escape.
They immediately leaped down. There was no cry in leaping,
no cry from the fire; they must have suffocated at once.
of the Europeans prescnt succeeded in pushing through the
crowd to the fire and in seeing the body some seconds after
the leap - it was dead and its movements were caused merely
by the combustion of the materials cast upon the flames.
On other occasions, how-ever, Europeans have heard cries
uttered in leaping and in the first moments afterwards.
. . .
During the whole time from the burning of the prince till
the leap of the victims, the air resounded with the clangour
of numerous bands of music; small cannon were discharged
and the soldiers had drawn up outside the fire and contributed
to the noise by firing off their muskets. There was not
one of the 50,00o Balincse present who did not show a merry
face; no one was filled with repagance and disgust except
a few Europeans whose only desire was to sec the end of
It was only the wives of princes that were thus sacrificed;
the Brahmanas did not consider it necessary for the redemption
of their wives, and the common people were not interested
in a practice that was foreign to them. There were two sorts
of widow-sacrifice: one reserved for noblewomen, the mesatia
(" truth," " fidelity ") , in which
the noble widows stabbed themselves as they jumped into
the same fire with their dead husbands; the other, for the
prince's low-caste wives and concubines, the mebela ("
to die together with the master ") , the one described
by Friederich, which consisted in jumping into another fire
apart to be burned alive. A woman who died in mesatia became
a Satiawati, " The True One," a deity.
From the time their decision was made, the widows were regarded
as already dead and deified. They lived a life of constant
pleasures, exempt from all duties and constantly attended
by the other wives. Their feet were not supposed to touch
the impure ground and, like goddesses, they were carried
everywhere, lavishly dressed and half-entranced. A Brahmanic
priestess was constantly at their side, encouraging them
to their sacrifice with flowery descriptions of the beauties
of life among the gods. Friederich tells that when the time
came, they were so thoroughly hypnotized that " they
jumped into the fire as if it were a bath."
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