This book is a collection of papers on suicide and self-immolation, reprinted from the almost forgotten Journal of the Anthropological Society of Bombay, published in 1886–1936. The book carries a Foreword by Professor Ashis Nandy on death and self in culture.
Part I includes nineteen papers, analysing statistics of suicides committed in Bombay (now Mumbai) from 1886 to 1907, classified by religion, gender, age, month, date, cause and means of suicide, etc. The data is presented in a number of tables, often with remarks on individual cases. Launched by Edward Rehatsek, a Hungarian scholar who had made Bombay his home, the papers were continued after his death by the Parsee scholar, Bomanjee Byramjee Patell.
Part II includes seven general essays: one is on suicide and old age in a comparative perspective and another on suicide in ancient India. The question of self-immolation of Hindu widows, commonly referred to as sati, is discussed in three of the essays. Of special interest is the essay on the Sati of Ramabai, widow of Madhavrao Peshwa. Two essays deal with the issue of self-immolation of persons in religious contexts.