The concept of religious ascetics and saints inflicting physical discomfort upon themselves to reach an ideal state of being is ancient14. They desecrate their bodies and use the pain they experience from this act in order to connect with the divine. The sacrifice of their material body is what allows them to reach a higher spiritual plane. Sacrifice in India dates back to Vedic traditions, in which a human offers a sacrifice to the gods in order to attain what one wants. This cycle of eating and being eaten is deep within the roots of Indian culture. Women and men in India have long used their bodies as sacrifice through fasting and self inflicted pain. In this way, these people can be seen as sacrificing their bodies in order to feed the gods.
Sati too can be seen as a sacrifice of the body in order to obtain what one needs from the gods. A woman who's husband has died before her is thought to have not sacrificed properly to the gods. Perhaps she did not fast at the proper times and has now "allowed" the gods to take her husband. Because she did not sacrifice her body correctly while her husband was alive(through fasting), sati is her final chance to remedy the inauspicious situation by offering the ultimate sacrifice. In Indian society a person is not believed to be truly dead until they have been cremated. By sacrificing her body to the flames of her husband's funeral pyre, a satimata is not allowing her husband to truly die before her. If she dies with him, in the fire, she can correct her previous wrongdoings that caused her husband to die. By sacrificing her body, she asks the gods to absolve her failures and to transport her husband into a higher spiritual path. This sacrifice does not come without a price, the pain a satimata feels is excruciating, and it is her pain that makes her sacrifice so fascinating and so powerful.