In Hinduism, Sati, also called as Dakshayani is one of the daughters of Prasuti and Daksha. She loved Shiva, but her father, Daksha, forbade her marriage to Shiva. She did so anyway, and Daksha got revenge by not inviting Shiva to a festival during his absence. Sati killed herself by self-immolation on a fire. After Shiva returned and found Sati's body, he killed and decapitated Daksha, later replacing his head with a goat's.
Sati was reborn as Parvati (Paarvati, the daughter of the mountain or Parvata), and reappears as Shiva's consort.
Another woman with the title of Sati is Savitri. Savitri was the wife of Satyavan, who begged Yama (the God of Death), to restore her husband to life. Her dogged persistence caused Yama to grant her one wish, on the condition that the wish should not be to restore Satyavan's life. Then Savitri asked to have children from Satyavan, after which Yama had no choice but to restore his life.
By extension from the mythic Sati, the term is also used for the death, voluntary or involuntary, of widows on the funeral pyres of their husbands in India. The term is also extended to refer to the widow herself. For this usage, the term is often written using the old English spelling of suttee. Though supposed to be voluntary, it is believed to have been often enforced by various social pressures, as well as the use of mind altering chemicals, on the widow.
Although the practice may have occurred in ancient times, the extent of it then is not certain. It has generally been restricted to certain castes and communities. Some accounts indicate that it may have been introduced from central Asia by Scythians, from whom Rajputs of Rajasthan are believed to be descended. Sati is known to have been practised in many different regions of India from medieval times, though the prevalence varied. Many rulers made efforts to ban or limit it, including the Mughal emperors. The practice was moderately common in Rajasthan and in parts of the Gangetic plain till the early 19th century, and a few hundred deaths were recorded each year then. At this time it was rather uncommon or even unknown in other parts of India.
It was banned in the Bengal Presidency on December 4, 1829, other East India Company lands shortly after, and in the last princely state to permit it, Jaipur in 1846. Instances however continue to occur occasionally to the present day. Various measures against it now include efforts to stop the 'glorification' of the dead women. This glorification often includes the erection of shrines to the dead, encouragement of pilgrimages to the site of the pyre, and an income to nearby villagers.
A man and his wife, buried in a cemetry at the Indus Valley site at Lothal, are possibly the earliest known example of Sati.