The Story of Savitri and Satyavan Episode 2
In episode One we heard how Savitri, a beautiful Princess found her one true love, Satyavan living in a forest. She returned to her parents, King Ashvapati and Queen Malavi of Madura, who were overjoyed.
But their joy turned to sorrow when Narada, the holy dweller in heaven, told them all that Satyavan was fated to die on the first anniversary of their wedding. And worse, if he did so Savitri was forbidden by law to marry again.
Her parents tried to talk her out of marrying Satyavan but her heart was his already, and she departed for the jungle vowing to marry Satyavan and to defeat Death himself.
And now the story continues …
When Savitri reached the jungle she found her way to the simple hut of Satyavan and his parents. Straightaway they were united as husband and wife.
She joined her husband and her parents-in-law, she gave up her fine dresses for simple clothing and exchanged all her beautiful jewellery for a few bangles on her wrists, which clinked and rang out as she busied herself with the ordinary work around the simple hut in the jungle.
She kept Narada’s fearful prophecy a deep secret in her heart. She had limitless faith in her love for Satyavan, and his for her. So she spent the year working with her husband in devoted service in the jungle to her new family, and she prayed daily to all the gods, but she saved her special prayers for Yama, the God of Death, who, according to Narada, was going to come on the anniversary of their wedding to claim her husband’s soul.
Nearly a year went by in this manner until, three days before their wedding anniversary, three days before the fateful day upon which Yama the God of Death was to come for Satyavan, Savitri announced that she would stop eating and drinking . King Dyumatsena and his queen and Satyavan tried to talk her out of it.
“Oh Savitri, you are a wonderful daughter-in-law, you have served us devotedly for nearly a year. You are a delicate and gentle princess, please don’t put yourself through this hardship.”
But Savitri told them that she had taken a vow to fast before her wedding anniversary.
Two more days went by and then, on the fateful morning, Satyavan hefted his axe onto his shoulder, ready to go out into the jungle to cut wood for their fire. Savitri, seeing him about to set off, asked to accompany him.
Again, Dyumatsena and Lakshmibai tried to talk her out of it. Satyavan too tried to dissuade her.
“Savitri, you are a royal princess,” he said, “the dangerous jungle is no place for you. Stay here and I shall return at sunset with firewood.”
“Where on earth should I rather be than at the side of my strong and faithful husband? What danger can threaten me in the jungle when you are there to protect me? On this day of all days, the anniversary of our wedding where else should I be?”
Satyavan finally agreed, and so he and Savitri set off together into the jungle.
All morning Satyavan worked hard without a break chopping wood. Savitri sat quietly praying to Yama the God of Death. As the sun rose high in the sky Satyavan’s axe strokes began to slow down. He wiped the sweat from his forehead.
“I am feeling tired,” he said, “Perhaps I’ll lie down and rest for a while.”
So saying, he lay down and put his head in Savitri’s lap. Savitri sat perfectly still, listening to her husband’s gentle breathing as he fell into a deep sleep.
Then she heard another deeper sound. The rhythmic thump, thump, thump, thump of an approaching beast. The noise grew louder and the ground began to shake. Soon the leaves of the jungle parted and Yama the God of Death appeared riding on an enormous black bull.
As prophesied by Narada, Yama the God of Death had come in person for the soul of Satyavan.
Savitri greeted him politely and, without disturbing her beloved husband bowed low to the God of Death. Then, Yama took a noose of rope and with it he caught the soul of Satyavan and pulled it from his body. Satyavan breathed his last.
Then Yama turned the bull and headed back towards the jungle path from which he had come.
As Yama, riding his great black bull and holding the soul of Satyavan, made his way along the jungle path he became aware of a gentle sound behind him: Clink, clink, clink, clink.
He stopped and turned the bull around and there was Savitri, whose bangles were gently ringing as she followed Yama down the path. When Yama stopped she bowed low to him.
“Savitri, why are you here? I journey to the Kingdom of Death where you cannot follow.”
“Oh Great God of Dharma, you are the ruler of Life and Death. All come to meet you in the end to have their good deeds and their bad deeds weighed in the balance. You are the King of Justice. I follow you from intense feelings of devotion.”
And Savitri again bowed low to the God of Death.
Yama was pleased with her words, and he gave her his blessing. Then he turned the bull around and headed, once again down the jungle path towards his kingdom, taking the soul of Satyavan with him. After a while he again became aware of a gentle sound: Clink, clink, clink, clink.
Once again he stopped and turned around and found Savitri standing on the path.
“Oh Princess your faithfulness is truly wonderful, why now do you follow me?”
“Oh Great Lord of the Underworld, I follow my husband as far as I can. What wife would not do such a thing if she could, to have as many precious minutes as possible with the one she loves.”
“Your love has impressed me deeply. I grant you a wish. Ask for anything in the whole Universe, but do not ask for the soul of your husband, this I will not return to you.”
Savitri bowed low and thanked the Lord of Death and asked that her father-in-law receive back his sight.
“Done!” said Yama, “Ask for something else. Anything your heart desires. Only do not ask for your husband’s soul, for this I will not return to you.”
Again Savitri bowed low and asked that her father-in-law receive his kingdom back.
“Done!” said Yama the God of Death. “Now ask for your final gift. And ask for something for yourself. But do not ask for the soul of your husband, this I cannot give.”
“Oh Lord, if you would be so gracious, I ask to be the mother of one hundred sons.”
“Done!” said Lord Yama with a wave of his mighty arm.
“Oh Lord,” said Savitri, bowing low and speaking in a respectful voice, “how can this be. You are the Lord of Law, and one of your laws is that a woman cannot remarry after the death of her husband. Without a husband how can I fulfil your blessing that I be the mother of one hundred sons?”
At this, Yama laughed a mighty laugh – Ha Ha Ha Ha! -which shook the whole world. “Oh Princess, you have defeated me! For thousands of years people will tell the story of your love and your devotion to your husband Satyavan. And they will also tell how you overcame the God of Death to win back your husband from him, even at the very threshold of his kingdom.”
And with that Yama, the Great Lord of Righteousness, carefully handed the soul of Satyavan to Savitri, who again bowed down low. And then each turned and went their way, Yama to the underworld, and Savitri back to the forest clearing where the body of her husband lay peacefully.
She knelt down beside him and gently placed his soul down upon him. As his soul re-entered his body, Satyavan stretched and yawned.
“How long have I slept, my dear, we must return to my parents or they will worry.”
Together they returned to the hut where Dyumatsena and his Queen Lakshmibai were marvelling at the return of his sight. Just as Savitri and Satyavan approached, a messenger came riding through the jungle with startling news. The evil ruler of Shalwa had died suddenly and the people were clamouring for Dyumatsena and Lakshmibai’s return as their King and Queen.
At this point Savitri sat and closed her eyes and offered up a silent prayer of thanks to the Lord Yama. When her husband and parents-in-law asked what she was doing Savitri explained the whole sequence of events to them.
They were amazed and bowed down to her and worshipped her as the perfect example of devotion, intelligence and courage. They returned to Madura and King Ashvapati and Queen Malavi and all the people of Madura rejoiced at the return of their beloved Princess and her handsome husband.
Together they ruled for many a long year and, as foretold by Yama, the God of Death, the story of Savitri and Satyavan is told and retold even to this very day!