Sāvitrī and Satyavān

“Exactly one year from now, Satyavān will meet his end. This is tragically his only flaw.” said Narada Devarshi to Raja Asvapati, king of Madradesh about Sāvitrī’s decision to marry Satyavān, son of Dyumatsena.


Sāvitrī knew the words of a Rishi can never be untrue. But she remained firm on her decision to marry Satyavān as one who decides in the mind first will say it aloud and then go through with the act. Narada Devarshi observed her resolute vow to marry Satyavān even though his life would end very soon.


With the intention of providing some comfort to the sorrowful Raja Asvapati and Sāvitrī, Narada Devarshi said, “Your daughter Sāvitrī cannot be removed from the path of righteousness and truth. What goodness and virtue is found in Satyavān cannot be found in any other man So, I think it is best to proceed with this marriage.”


After the marriage was conducted in accordance with the traditional rites and rituals, Sāvitrī entered the humble ashram of her husband, father-in-law and mother-in-law in the forest. She devoted her time to serving them and attending to their every need.


However, she was forever anxious constantly remembering the words of Narada Devarshi. Sāvitrī made a mental note as the days passed. When there were just four days to his impending demise, Sāvitrī made a vow to stand day and night without food.


When the day approached, Sāvitrī decided to accompany Satyavān to the forest to pluck fruits, flowers and wood. Steeped in sorrow, Sāvitrī put on a brave face not wanting to cause her husband even the slightest sorrow. They both carefully plucked fruits and wood for the sacrificial fires.


As Satyavān was chopping the wood, he began to perspire and suddenly got a headache because of the physical exertion. Overcome with agony, he went towards his wife, “For some reason, I am extremely fatigued after cutting wood, My whole body is in pain  and there is some discomfort in my heart. I am seeing myself as ill. It appears as if something sharp has pierced my head. I want to sleep. I do not have the energy to stand.”


Sāvitrī rushed to Satyavān placing his head on her lap and sat on the ground. As she stared at him intently, she began to recall the words of Narada Devarshi.


After a few minutes, a radiant man dressed in red appeared. He stood near Satyavān and watched him silently. Sāvitrī placed her husband’s head on the ground and stood up to offer salutations to the heavenly being. “May I know who you are?”


“I see that you are a tapasvini and pativratā, so I will tell you everything. Know me to be Yamaraja. Your husband, Satyavān’s life has come to an end. As he is pious, truthful, handsome and virtuous, I have come personally to take him. I will tie him up now.”


Yamaraja used his noose to forcibly take the jeeva that is of angusta matra. Satyavān’s body became lifeless with the departure of the jeeva. Yamaraja then headed south with Sāvitrī following him.


“Sāvitrī! Return and perform the last rites. You are now free from all the debt of your husband. You have come as far as you can with your husband.”


“Yamaraja! I beg you to listen to what I have to say. Only a resolute person who is in control of his sensory organs can undergo the hardships of the forest and strictly observe dharma and gurukulavāsa. Every wise person gives dharma the most exalted position. If even one wise person observes dharma assiduously, many others will follow his path and reach the goal. Hence, sages have spoken highly of following dharma.”


Yamaraja smiled on hearing her soft words, “Go back. I am pleased with your words. I offer you a boon. Ask me anything other than the life of Satyavān.”


Sāvitrī bowed to Yamaraja and said, “Bhagawan! Be pleased to return the eyesight of my father-in-law who has lost his kingdom and is now living in the forest and pray that he will become strong again and become radiant like the sun.”


“I give you what you have asked. You look tired after walking for so long. Go back now.”


“O Yamaraja! Please hear what I have to say. It is extremely rare to have coitus with a satpurusha even once. It is even rarer to have friendship with them. Association with satpurushas can never be without good and therefore, one must always remain close to them.”


“I am pleased with you O Sāvitrī! You have spoken what is in the best interest of one and all. Ask me something other than the life of this Satyavān.”


Sāvitrī respectfully said, “I pray that you will bestow the former kingdom of my father-in-law to him and I pray that he will never swerve from the path of dharma.”


Yamaraja nodded, “It will be as you have asked. Now, return home.”


Sāvitrī said, “Please listen to what I have to say. It is the sanatana dharma of sages and pious people never to hurt anyone through mind, speech and action and to be merciful towards all and be charitable.”


Yamaraja smilingly said, “I am extremely happy with your words that are like water for a thirsty man. Ask me anything other than the life of Satyavān.”


“Bhagawan! My father is bereft of a son. Pray that he will be bestowed with hundred sons who will be virtuous and extend the lineage. This is my third request.”


Yamaraja replied, “It will happen accordingly. Now, you must be tired. Go back.”


“You are known as the brilliant son of Surya by the name of Vivasvān and that is why wise men call you Vaivasvata. You look upon everyone with equanimity and hence, are called Dharmaraja. Men do not have faith in themselves as much as they have in sages. Hence, everyone loves saintly persons. As saintly persons are warm, there is greater faith in them.”


“I have never heard the words spoken by you said by anyone else. You make me happy. I give you the fourth boon. Ask me anything other than the life of Satyavān.”


“I pray that the union of Satyavān and me will bear hundred sons who will continue our lineage.”


Yamaraja said, “It shall be. You will have hundred sons who will be powerful and gallant. Now, it is getting late. Return.”


Sāvitrī said, “Satpurushas are forever engaged in acts of dharma. An exalted person can never be sad or tired. The association with satpurushas and sages will always be fruitful and therefore, exalted persons never fear sages and saintly persons.


An exalted person can even go around the sun on the strength of truth. Saintly persons take possession of this earth on the strength of their tapasSatpurusha is the refuge of the past, present and future. An exalted person will never be sad while in the company of sages.


This dharmic conduct is practised by satpurushas and even exalted persons observe this and therefore, they view each other with equanimity and are free from selfishness. The prasad of a satpurusha will never be in vain. The prasadartha and integrity are inherent in sages and this is how they protect the universe.”


“I am pleased with you O Sāvitrī! Ask me something special.”


Sāvitrī folded her hands, “You have blessed me with hundred sons which is possible only through coitus with my spouse. The last boon offered is unlike the previous ones. Therefore, I beg you again to please revive Satyavān. You have promised me hundred sons and yet are taking away my husband. I ask you again to return Satyavān so that your word will come true.”


Yamaraja said, “Yes I will do so.” and released the noose returning the jeeva to the lifeless body of Satyavān. “Satyavān will be healthy, will rule wisely and have hundred sons. He will perform many yagnas which will make him famous. He will forever be known in this universe by your name and will be called Sāvitr.”


Saying thus, Yamaraja returned to his heavenly world and Sāvitrī returned to her husband who woke up like one does from a deep sleep.


[Excerpt: Pativrātmāhātmayaparva, Vanaparva, Mahabharat]

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