Suttee’s in Colonial India

“These sacrifices do not occur in the larger portion of India,” replied Sir Francis; “but we have no power over these savage territories, and especially here in Bundelcund. The whole district north of the Vindhias is the theatre of incessant murders and pillage.”

– Jules Verne, Around the World in 80 Days

A suttee is an Indian custom of the wife immolating herself either on the funeral pyre of her dead husband or in some other fashion soon after his death.3 Although suttees were outlawed in 1829 by the British, there are still many accounts of them occurring after this time.  Therefore, the story Verne tells about Aouda’s situation could have very possibly been something that was happening at that time.  Territories such as Bundelcund were technically under British rule, but a chief was usually the one in charge and the British put their faith in the fact that they were enforcing British laws.  This however, was not always the case.  This still allowed traditions, like suttees to continue without too much backlash from the British Government. (195)2

“Suttee was sometimes committed voluntarily, but cases of compulsion, escape, and rescue are known. Scattered instances of it continue to occur, most notoriously in the case of Roop Kanwar, an 18-year-old widow who committed suttee in 1987.” This is just one account of a suttee occurring after they were outlawed, and it was almost 100 years after Verne wrote the book.  This shows that it is entirely possible for a suttee to be occurring in Around the World in 80 Days.