(Last Updated on : 11/09/2014)
Legend of Savitri forms a part of the Vana Parva of the great epic Mahabharata
. In the Hindu mythology the story of Savitri and Satyavan is very well-known. The legendary story of Savitri and Satyavan is elaborately told by Markandeya, the great sage, when Yudhisthir asked him whether there was ever a woman whose dedication and loyalty matched to that of the virtues of his queen Draupadi. As per the legend, there was a king by the name Aswapati or the Lord of Horses. He was the king of Madura. The king was childless and thus undertook a virtuous life of austerity for many years and offered many oblations to Goddess Savitri. At last, the Goddess Savitri appeared to him and blessed him with a daughter. The daughter of Aswapati was born and named Savitri in honor of the Goddess.
Savitri, the daughter of Aswapati, grew up to be a very beautiful princess. When she was of a marriageable age, no one dared to marry that lady of the lotus eyes, for the radiant splendour and the ardent spirit that were in her daunted every suitor. Thus, her father asked Savitri to choose a husband of her own choice. Then Savitri meekly bowed to feet of her father and went forth with her attendants. Mounting a royal car she visited the forest hermitages of the sages and worshipped the feet of the revered saints and roamed throughout the forests till she found her lord.
Marriage of Savitri and Satyavan
After finding the perfect person to marry, Savitri returned to the court of her father, and, seeing her father seated beside the great rishi Narada
, she bowed to his feet and greeted him. Then Aswapati asked Savitri if she had found someone to be her husband. Standing with folded hands before the king and sage, Savitri narrated the incident in the forest and told her father about a virtuous king of the Shalwas, Dyumatsena
by name. He became blind and then an ancient foe wrested the kingdom from his hands, and he, along with his wife and little son, went forth into the woods, where he practiced the austerities appropriate to the hermit life. His son grew up in that forest hermitage and he was worthy to be her husband and she had accepted him to be her husband.
Then Narada told the king that Savitri had done a great mistake by choosing Satyavan to marry. Even if he knew him well, and told the Satyavan excelled in all good qualities, still Savitri was wrong since Satyavan was fated to die within a year. Then the king asked his daughter to marry someone else other than the son of Dyumatsena, but Savitri told that she was not able to choose another lord for her since she had already given her heart and soul to Satyavan. Then Narada gave his approval for the marriage of Savitri with Satyavan and both got married and Savitri with her lord left her father's kingdom for the hermitage of Dyumatsena.
In the forest hermitage Savitri laid aside her jewels and garbed herself in bark and brown and delighted all by her gentleness and self-denial, her generosity and sweet speech. But the words of Narada never went away from her mind. As the hour appointed for the death of Satyavan approached and when it was only four days left for the death of Satyavan, Savitri fasted day and night, observing the penance of 'three nights'. By the third day Savitri became very weak and fainted, and she spent the last unhappy night in miserable reflections on the approaching death of her husband. In the morning she fulfilled the usual rites, and came to stand before the Brahmins
and her father and mother in laws, and they prayed that she would never be a widow.
Death of Satyavan
Satyavan went out into the woods with axe in hand to bring home wood for the sacrificial fire. Savitri prayed to go with him but Satyavan asked her to take the permission from his father and mother. Savitri prayed the father and mother of Satyavan to go with her husband to the forest and they permitted her. So Savitri departed with her lord, seeming to smile, but heavy-hearted, since she remembered the words of Narada and even pictured her husband as already dead. Both of them passed beside the sacred streams and goodly trees and after a while Satyavan selected a mighty tree and started to work. As he hewed at the branches of that tree he became sick and came to his wife complaining that his head was racked with darting pains and that he would sleep for a while. Savitri sat on the ground and laid his head upon her lap; that was the appointed time of the death of Satyavan.
Arrival of Yama, Lord of Death
At that time, while Satyavan was sleeping dead with his head on her lap, Savitri saw a shining ruddy deity, dark and red of eye and terrible to look upon and he had a noose in his hand. He stood and gazed at Satyavan. Then Savitri rose and humbly asked about the identity of the person and to Savitri, the person replied that he was Lord Yama
, the Lord of Death, and he came there for Satyavan, whose appointed span of life was over. By saying this to Savitri, Yama drew forth the soul from the body of Satyavan, bound in the noose, and departed toward the south, leaving the body of Satyavan with Savitri, cold and lifeless.
Savitri Follows Yama
When Yama took the soul of Satyavan and departed from that place, Savitri followed him. Yama requested Savitri to go back and perform the funeral rites of her husband and asked her not to pursue further. But Savitri replied that she would go there where her husband went and told that it was the lasting law that the wife would follow her husband. She then explained virtue
and friendship and truth. Yama was pleased with her words and told her to ask for a boon, except the life of her husband. Savitri prayed that Dyumatsena should regain his sight and health, and Yama granted it. Again she followed Yama and told that friendship with the virtuous must ever bear good fruit. Yama admitted the truth and granted her another boon. That time she asked that her father should regain his kingdom and Yama granted the same. Still Savitri followed Yama and spoke of the duty of the great and good to protect and aid all those who seek their help.
Yama Granted Life to Satyavan
Yama granted Savitri a third boon, that her father should have a hundred sons. Even after that Savitri did not stop following Yama and told him that men ever trust the righteous; for the goodness of heart inspires the confidence of every creature. When Yama granted another boon, Savitri prayed for a hundred sons born of herself and Satyavan. Yama granted the same and asked Savitri to return. Then she argued with Yama that if her husband was not granted life, then it would not be possible for her to be the mother of hundred sons as blessed by Yama. Thus Yama granted life to Satyavan, promising him prosperity and a life of four centuries. Then Savitri returned to Satyavan's body, and she lifted his head upon her lap; and then he came to life, like one returning home from sojourn in a strange land. Then those two returned, walking through heavy night along the forest paths.
In the hermitage, Dyumatsena and his wife and all the sages remained in grief. But the Brahmins were of good hope, for they deemed that the virtues of Savitri would avail even against fate, and they gave words of comfort to the king. Dyumatsena suddenly got back his eyesight, and all took it as an omen of good fortune. Then Savitri and Satyavan returned through the dark night, and found the Brahmins and the king seated beside the fire. Both of them were warmly welcomed and Savitri related all that had befallen, and all saluted her. The next day, at dawn, an ambassador came from the kingdom of the Shalwas to give the news that the usurper of Dyumatsena was killed, and the people invited Dyumatsena to return and be their king again. So, the old king returned to Shalwa and lived long; and he had a hundred sons. Savitri and Satyavan were also blessed with hundred sons. Thus, due to the goodness and virtues, Savitri was able to raise herself from a poor estate to the highest fortune for her, her parents, and her lord, and all those descended from them.