The Story of Savitri and Satyavan Episode 1
Long, long ago heroic kings and queens ruled in India and wise sages roamed the land performing great sacrifices to the Gods and Goddesses. At this time, brave King Ashvapati sat on the throne of the Kingdom of Madura. He and his beautiful Queen Malavi ruled wisely and well and the people of Madura were loyal and happy. The king was tall, handsome, and astute and his queen was serene, intelligent and wise.
The palace of Madura was large and picturesque with rose pink walls and latticed windows. Elephants and peacocks strolled through vast pleasure gardens, and the sound of water splashing in ornate fountains filled the palace. Laughter and conversation could be heard everywhere as servant girls and important Ministers of State hurried here and there to do the bidding of their beloved King and Queen.
But the happiness of Ashvapati and Queen Malavi was not complete because they had no child who would grow up and, in turn, rule the kingdom wisely and well.
So the King and Queen prayed to Savitra the Sun God, for a child. Pleased with their prayers and sacrifices Savitra, the Sun God, granted their request and soon a beautiful baby girl was born to them. A princess for Madura! The King and Queen were overjoyed, and all the people of Madura rejoiced as well. The streets were filled with the sound of jubilation as everyone hurried to dress in their finest clothes. And they rushed into the city to celebrate the birth of their princess.
“What shall we call our new daughter?” Queen Malavi asked her husband, King 30 Ashvapati.
“We shall show our gratitude to Savitra, the Sun God, who heard our prayers and gave her to us. Let us call her Savitri.”
And so it was that Savitri grew into a beautiful and loyal daughter to her doting parents.
She was instructed in all the arts and sciences and proved a willing and clever student, absorbing easily all the lessons of her teachers. She could read, write, sing and dance. She could discuss learned questions with the wise sages, and all Madura looked forward to the day when she would marry a great prince, who would join her in ruling Madura.
Finally the day came when Savitri was grown up and of the age when, her thoughts and those of her loving parents, turned to who would be a suitable husband; a partner for life.
So her parents, King Ashvapati and Queen Malavi said to Savitri: “Savitri, you are the apple of our eyes, you are like sunshine on a dark day. The people of Madura love you, we love you. The time has come to consider that important question for any young person. To whom will you promise yourself for life? Whom shall you marry? One hundred and one great princes from noble families, who are suitable matches for you, have sent messages asking for your hand in marriage. We have invited them to come to meet you to see who is suitable to become your husband.”
And so from that day, princes came from far and wide to seek the hand of the beautiful Savitri. But none was found who could satisfy Savitri. One prince was lazy, another arrogant, a third rough, a fourth weak, a fifth selfish and so on, and on, and on.
King Ashvapati and Queen Malavi began to despair. Would no suitable prince ever be found?
“Oh Father, dear Mother,” said Savitri, “put your minds at rest, have no fear. This very day I will depart the palace and seek through all the lands for a man who is kind, brave and intelligent who will be a suitable husband for me.”
Without another word Savitri, with a retinue of followers set out, guided by the Gods themselves to find a husband for Savitri. Little did she know, that she was fated to find her love, but she was also to face the hardest test of all. She was to lose him to the God of Death one year after their wedding day!
One day, after many weeks of journeying through many kingdoms, Savitri and her followers were travelling through a dark and forbidding jungle. Birds screeched, and monkeys chattered as they passed and snakes slithered from their path.
At last they came to a clearing and saw to their great amazement a small hut built of wood and roofed with broad banyan leaves. Sitting quietly outside the hut, wearing simple clothes was an old man and his wife.
“Greetings to you sainted Father, and holy Mother”, said Savitri politely, bowing low to the old man and woman. “My name is Savitri, Princess of Madura. Why do you live here, far from civilisation, alone in the jungle, threatened by dangerous beasts?”
“Oh Princess Savitri, welcome to our humble dwelling. You are welcome, as are all your followers. Please accept our hospitality, small though it may be. Please sit, and drink some cool water. Eat some of our simple food. And I will tell you our story.”
“Thank you kind sir and madam,” said Savitri, “You are very generous to us, who have travelled from a distant land.”
Savitri and her followers seated themselves comfortably on the ground and took a little water and some of the old man and woman’s simple food. When they were satisfied, Savitri again politely asked them how they had come to live in the jungle.
“Our story is a sad one. My name is Dyumatsena and I am the rightful Ruler of the Kingdom of Shalwa. This beautiful lady is my Queen Lakshmibai. Unfortunately while ruling my kingdom, one day I was afflicted with blindness. Seeing his opportunity, one of my enemies from a neighbouring kingdom, swooped down and surprised my palace. My Queen and I barely escaped with our lives, and we fled to this jungle carrying our newborn son, Satyavan. Since that day we have dwelt here in the jungle, watching Satyavan grow into a fine young man. And weeping at the fate, that our handsome, strong and intelligent son will never rule the kingdom he was born to.”
On hearing the name of Satyavan, Savitri’s heart leapt. It leapt even more when Satyavan, handsome, strong and calm, emerged from the jungle carrying an axe over one shoulder and a heavy bundle of firewood easily under the other.
He too stopped at the sight of Savitri, and their eyes locked on each other. Each knew they were destined for each other.
Savitri had found her husband. They received the blessing of King Dyumatsena and his Queen Lakshmibai and Savitri hurried home to tell her parents, while Satyavan stayed in the forest continuing to care for his aged parents.
Imagine the mixture of joy and sadness in the palace of the king of Madura. For Savitri had found a husband, but he was a poor dweller in the jungle; she had found herself a prince! But his blind father had lost his kingdom. And worse news was to come!
The whole Kingdom of Madura could talk of nothing but the story of Savitri and Satyavan, when one day Narada the Holy Dweller in Heaven, chief devotee of Lord Vishnu, came to earth for one of his regular journeys to see how the world was faring.
King Ashvapati welcomed Holy Narada and offered him a seat, some water and some fruits. When the Holy One was at his ease he enquired about the state of the kingdom. King Ashvapati told him the news of Savitri’s search for a husband and the eventual outcome, the discovery of Satyavan.
“Oh Great King’” said Narada, shaking his head sadly, “I have terrible news for you. This match is perfect in every way but one. Savitri and Satyavan are perfectly suited to each other and, except for one thing, would be destined for a life of happiness and prosperity.”
“Oh Great Sage,” said King Ashvapati, “What is the one thing which will prevent their happiness? What great enemy stands in their way? What dreadful fate awaits them? What can be done?”
“By my holy vision, I can foresee the future, and I tell you this. Without a doubt, exactly one year to the day, from the time Savitri and Satyavan celebrate their wedding, Yama, the God of Death, will claim Satyavan’s soul. No force on earth can prevent this from happening.”
With great sadness in his heart King Ashvapati summoned the beautiful and modest Savitri into the great hall of the palace to hear the dreadful news directly from Narada.
When Savitri had listened carefully to Narada’s words, King Ashvapati tried to persuade his daughter to change her mind, to choose someone other than Satyavan as her husband. But Savitri remained firm.
“Dearest Father, Holy Narada, my love for Satyavan is wider than the sky and deeper than the ocean. His love for me is the same. I can choose no other husband. Our love will conquer even death.”
King Ashvapati then spoke again: “But, Dearest Daughter, you know the traditional laws of marriage of our land. If you are betrothed to a man and go through the wedding ceremony with him, and he afterwards dies, the law states that you must remain single for the rest of your life. Without children in the first year of your marriage the kingdom will have no heir to the throne.”
But Savitri remained immovable. She insisted that she would marry Satyavan.
At this Narada asked permission to speak. “Noble King, Illustrious Princess, I know things seem impossible. But again, through my divine sight I can see that Savitri and Satyavan will marry. It is written in the stars and in the destiny of these two children of royal households. I give this match my blessing.”
With this, King Ashvapati and Queen Malavi agreed, and the eager Savitri left her parents’ palace and took her journey to the jungle to marry Satyavan and to try to defeat Death himself!
The Story of Savitri and Satyavan is continued in Episode 2.