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Cultural Relativism - Essay Example

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Cultural Relativism

Suttee is a Hindu funeral custom in which the widow becomes a sacrifice and immolated alive with her husband on the latter's funeral pyre. This act is said to be voluntarily done by the widow as an act of utmost devoutness. However, suttee is believed to have been often forced on the widow by prevailing social pressures, sometimes to the extent of using drugs. It should be noted that many Indian communities, which includes the Sikhs, Jains and Buddhists, explicitly prohibit the practice of suttee. Even the Tantras strictly condemn the act. In some Hindu societies, specifically the Rajputs and other geographic regions such as Rajasthan, Bengal and parts of the Gangetic plain in India, it is believed that performing suttee cleansed a couple of all sins, warranted salvation and ensured their reunion in the afterlife.

Continuing incidence of suttee was rumored to have still existed in rural areas even in the 20th century. In one reported incident in 1988, Roop Kanwar, a childless 19-year old housewife, was immolated on her husband's pyre in Deorala, a Rajasthans village. This event became highly controversial and set modern Indian ideology against the traditional one. A much-publicized investigation led to the arrest of several people from Deorala who participated in the ceremony with 11 people charged with the crime. In 2004, a special court in Jaipur acquitted those accused in the case. The court held that the prosecution had failed to prove charges that they glorified the said act. (Wikipedia. 2005. "Suttee." http://en.wikipedia.com)
Task 2: Is it really so strange What is common between the strange cultural practice and our own culture
Initially, it would seem that suttee is such horrible and strange practice if perceived under the context of our modern culture. However, the essence of this act bears such a close resemblance to our own values, particularly those pertaining to the level of love and piety of husbands and wives. Both cultures acknowledge the sacred union and celebrate the special bonding of couples. As mentioned, those people believe that suttee purged the couple of all accumulated sins, warranted salvation and guaranteed an afterlife reunion. In our modern culture, people believe that husbands and wives should work together to achieve their familial goals as well as enrich their spirituality. It is in this way that values of the modern and archaic cultures converge.
It is in the "Til-Death-Do-Us-Part" concept that the two cultures differ. We believe that couples, those who enter into marriage at least, should stay together in sickness and in health, for richer or poorer. However, in the event that one of them dies, the marriage ties are severed. This means the church and the state grant the other the freedom to marry again. On the contrary, selected Hindu cultures practicing suttee deem that the union of a husband and a wife does not end in death (of the man) and goes beyond the present life. This stems from the Hindu belief of the after-life.
Task 3: How much of a cultural relativist are you On a scale of 1-10 (Relativist-Absolutist) where do you fall and why Which of our principles are good enough to the rest of ...Show more

Summary

This paper discusses the attitude towards the cultural practice of one society that is far different from one’s own. Moreover, this paper points out the universality of cultural principles, i.e. how some sound practices of one society can be adopted by others…
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Cultural Relativism Essay essay example
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