ॐ Hindu Of Universe ॐ

“God’s light is within you, It never leaves you.”


Lord Savitur – Hasta Nakshatra
“Hasta in sanskrit means “hands”, “assistance”, “giving a hand”, “help” another meaning is “laugh” or “smile”. The deity associated with this nakshatra is Hiranya Hasta, and that is a reference to “Savitur” – who is another solar deity. While chanting the gayatri mantra we invoke Savitur.

Shakti associated with this nakshatra – Hasta Sthapaniyaagame shakti – Those born under this nakshatra have the ability to manifest an object of desire in their hands.
Savitur has the ability to manifest what we are seeking and place it in our hands.
Category – Light and Swift
Hasta people when influenced by benefics can become prolific writers and speakers.
General characteristics
Brings Business success, charming, associated with “hasya” so a lot of comedians with wits have prominent planets in this nakshatra.
They are highly intelligent and industrious. They are good at agreements – handshake signifies agreement.
Hasta natives can also be involved with trickery and gambling.
The solar deity of inspiration Savitar has the power to give life so Hasta can be associated with childbirth and establishing a family.
Hasta is a fortunate star and have an amazing capability to “create”.
Savitur has the ability to use hands in a skilled, crafty and cunning manner. So it can also be associated with trickery, gambling, card games, poker etc.
Typically, they are especially good with anything to do with hands – drawing, calligraphy, maths, instruments, music, painting, carving, scultping, magicians(rahu association), handcrafts, craftsmanship, art, reki, palmistry, mysticism, occult etc.
It is very important for hasta natives to focus on spiritual path that will help them progress in life. They have an innate desire to be of help and serve.
witty, pleasant, attractive, creative, charming, influential, cordial, avoid expressing anger, in control of their self, industrious, take advantage of opportunities in foreign lands, persuasive, serveral relationships
restless, changeable, selfish, low self esteem, critical, mistrustful, addiction related to drugs, over indulgent
Favorable activities
pottery, jewelry design, laughter, translators, holistic healing, learning, skill of hand, dealing with kids, changing homes, domestic or playing games, yoga, meditation, gardening.
Unfavorable activities
planning long term objectives, not a good day for inactivity, not a day of relaxation, night time activity.”


Savitr is also considered the sun lord like Surya. But unlike Surya who represents the blazing sun, Savitr represents the hidden sun- it’s the sun before the sun rise and after the sunset. He is described as having golden eyes, golden hands and golden tongue.

Savitr is a solar deity and off-spring of Vedic deity Aditi. Savitr has been mentioned in eleven hymns of Rig Veda.
belongs to a class of Vedic gods. According to the Vedas Savitr is pre-eminently a golden deity. It is described that his eyes, hands, tongue are golden. He is yellow-haired and puts on a yellow garment. His vehicle is a golden car with a golden pole, which is omni-form and is drawn by two radiant steeds. He has been described as a beneficent deity.

According to some scholars Savitr is the god of the Sun at Sunrise and Sunset. He is the lord that moves as well as stationary. Savitr acts as a protector of all beings who are visionary as well as guard the world of spirits. He is prayed in order to convey the departed spirit to where the virtuous dwell. He confers immortality on the gods as well as length of life on man. He is also a supporter of the sky. Savitr is also considered as an agent God. He also has a major role in creation.

There are several Epithets of Savitr. Apam napat is one of them that means born of the Waters. Savitr is also known as God of the Middle Region. As Savitr is attributed with causing rain he is considered to belong to atmosphere. At times Savitr is also known as Prajapati. For instance in the Satapatha Brahmana he has been identified with Prajapati. In the Taittiriya Brahmana it has been stated that Prajapati became Savitr and created living beings. In Rig Veda Savitr has been twice spoken of as Damunas. In many Rig Vedic hymns he has also been considered as Asura. As he is the lord of animating power and due to his movements he becomes Pusan. Pusan and Savitr are considered to be connected in two consecutive verses. By reason of laws Savitr becomes Mitra. Savitr becomes Bhaga as he is known to have bestowing benefits. In Rig Veda the epithet “surya-rashmi” has been applied to Savitr.

Savitr is considered as the Lord who removes evil dreams as well as make men sinless. Fixed laws are observed by him. Fixed laws are observed by him. Waters and wind are under his authority. He is praised by the Vasus, Aditi, Varuna, Mitra and Aryaman.


belongs to a class of Vedic gods. According to the Vedas Savitr is pre-eminently a golden deity. It is described that his eyes, hands, tongue are golden. He is yellow-haired and puts on a yellow garment. His vehicle is a golden car with a golden pole, which is omni-form and is drawn by two radiant steeds. He has been described as a beneficent deity.

According to some scholars Savitr is the god of the Sun at Sunrise and Sunset. He is the lord that moves as well as stationary. Savitr acts as a protector of all beings who are visionary as well as guard the world of spirits. He is prayed in order to convey the departed spirit to where the virtuous dwell. He confers immortality on the gods as well as length of life on man. He is also a supporter of the sky. Savitr is also considered as an agent God. He also has a major role in creation.

There are several Epithets of Savitr. Apam napat is one of them that means born of the Waters. Savitr is also known as God of the Middle Region. As Savitr is attributed with causing rain he is considered to belong to atmosphere. At times Savitr is also known as Prajapati. For instance in the Satapatha Brahmana he has been identified with Prajapati. In the Taittiriya Brahmana it has been stated that Prajapati became Savitr and created living beings. In Rig Veda Savitr has been twice spoken of as Damunas. In many Rig Vedic hymns he has also been considered as Asura. As he is the lord of animating power and due to his movements he becomes Pusan. Pusan and Savitr are considered to be connected in two consecutive verses. By reason of laws Savitr becomes Mitra. Savitr becomes Bhaga as he is known to have bestowing benefits. In Rig Veda the epithet “surya-rashmi” has been applied to Savitr.

Savitr is considered as the Lord who removes evil dreams as well as make men sinless. Fixed laws are observed by him. Fixed laws are observed by him. Waters and wind are under his authority. He is praised by the Vasus, Aditi, Varuna, Mitra and Aryaman.


Sāvitrī. Hindu Goddess, daughter of the Sun (Savitar). She is known as the mother of the Vedas, and is often identified with Gāyatrī (thus seen as a personification of Ṛg Veda 3. 62. 10, the Gāyatrī mantra, addressed to Savitar). A lengthy poetic reworking of the Sāvitrī legend by Sri Aurobindo Ghose follows the careers of the various characters in the story as an allegory of the divinization of human life, a concept central to Aurobindo’s philosophy. In the West, the composer Gustav Holst (1874–1934), having learnt Sanskrit in order to write Choral Hymns from the Rig Veda (1908–12), composed the chamber opera Savitri (1908, first staged 1916).

Savitri is the name of several figures in Hindu mythology. According to tradition, Savitri is a god of the sun who rides through the sky each day granting long life to humans and immortality to the gods. Savitri is also the wife of the god Brahma*; together she and Brahma gave birth to the human race.

immortality ability to live forever

Another Hindu legend tells the story of a princess named Savitri. She fell in love with Prince Satyavan, the son of a blind, exiled king. Although a holy man told Savitri that the prince would die within a year, she married him anyway. After a year, Satyavan went into the forest to cut wood, followed by his wife. There they met Yama, the god of death, who began to take the prince away. Touched by Savitri’s devotion to her husband, Yama told her that he would grant her anything she wished. First she asked that Satyavan’s father recover his sight and his kingdom. Then she asked that she might become the mother of 1,000 children. After Yama agreed, Savitri argued that she could not have children if her husband was dead. Impressed by the way Savitri had tricked him, Yama restored Satyavan to life.


Savitr is a god from the times of Rig Veda and is worshipped Hindus, as part of the daily sandhya puja. ‘Savitr’ is a word meaning to stimulate, derived from the root ‘su’(twilight), which is constantly and almost exclusively used with it in such a way. By description, Savitr is pre-eminently a golden deity, golden eyed, golden handed, golden, tongued, and moving in a gold chariot.

Savitr is drawn by two or more brown, white-footed horses. He is the destroyer of sins, demons and sorcerers. In Rig Veda (III.62.100), he is praised as the bestower of riches and stimulator of the intellect of the worshipers. This is what is stated in the Gayatri mantra recited all over India as the sandhya prayer, morning and evening, for thousands of years. As per mythology, he is one of the twelve sons of Kashyapa and Aditi. The twelve Adityas are Dhatr, Mitra, Aryaman, Sakra, Varuna, Amsa, Bhaga, Vivasvan, Pusan, Savitr, Tvastr,and Vishnu.

Savitr is generally distinguished from Surya.

In the techniques offered for meditation, the supreme deity is supposed to be meditated upon inside the ‘golden orb’ of Savitr.

The female deity associated with him is Savitri, considered the Mother Goddess of Vedas. In astrology, Savitr is considered the king and controller of all the planets.


Savitri Tells Yama

सन्तो हि सत्येन नयन्ति सूर्यं ।
सन्तो भूमिं तपसा धारयन्ति ॥
सन्तो गतिर्भूतभव्यस्य राजन् ।
सतां मध्येनावसीदन्ति सन्तः ॥


By the Truth the saints lead the sun; by askesis the saints uphold the earth; the past, present and future find their refuge in the saints. Noble persons in the midst of the saints have never any grief.

[Savitri UpākhyānaVana Parva Mahabharata]



The story of Savitri is told in the Mahabharata to illustrate the power of woman’s chastity and devotion to her husband, and is called pativratā māhātmya. It appears as a minor episode, upākhyāna, in seven sections in Vana Parva, the Book of the Forest of the Great Epic. Rishi Markandeya narrates it to exiled Yudhishthira to console him out of his plight of melancholy, distressed as he was by the sufferings of Draupadi; the sage assures him that, in the manner of Savitri, she too will prove a saviour and fortune-bringer to the desolate Pandavas.

King Aswapati of Madra is issueless and performs, over a period of eighteen years, Savitri-Yajna and receives a boon of a radiant daughter from the Goddess. The girl grows into full and beautiful maidenhood in due time, but no noble prince of heroic valour approaches her to claim her in marriage. The King suggests to the Princess to seek a husband of her own choice, and she sets out on the missioned task, accompanied by the elderly counsellors of the royal Court. Savitri travels to distant lands, and visits several ashramas, and holy shrines, and proud capital cities on river banks. She offers her prayers to the deities in pilgrim-centres, and gives away great charities to the learned and worthy ones as she moves in her quest from place to place. Finally, she comes to the deep Shalwa Woods where she meets Satyavan and at once chooses him as her life’s partner, as does Satyavan too in regard of Savitri. In the meanwhile, sage Narad visits Aswapati and, as they are engaged in conversation, returns Savitri to the Palace after accomplishing her mission. On being asked by her father, Savitri discloses that it is in Satyavan that she has made her choice. But immediately Narad, as if to make it firmer, speaks of it as unfortunate; for, Satyavan is destined to die one year after the marriage. Aswapati advises his daughter to make another choice, but she is unswerving in her resolve. Savitri’s choice is made only once and not again. Narad sees and knows that her determination is in conformity with the Dharma and that there is hence a heavenly sanction for it; he in fact blesses the marriage and wishes it to pass off without any ill-happening. Then Aswapati, following the age-old tradition, makes a formal proposal to Satyavan’s father Dyumatsena, and the wedding of Satyavan and Savitri is solemnised in the presence of the Rishis of the Forest. One year is about to end, and Savitri is greatly afflicted when only four days are left in the life of her husband. She decides to undertake an austere vow of standing at a given place, continuously for three days, without taking food. On arrival of that fated day she worships the Fire-God and, after receiving benedictions from the elders, accompanies Satyavan to the wood where he has to go for his usual work. But, while engaged in the work, he suddenly feels tired and begins to perspire profusely. Savitri takes him in her lap and, as foretold by Narad, reckons the coming of the appointed moment. Soon Savitri sees in front of her a bright God snatching the soul of Satyavan and carrying it away with him, even as he started moving in the southerly direction. Savitri follows him, and offers great eulogies to the shining divinity in Yama, and in the process receives several boons from him; finally, she wins back the soul of Satyavan. Returning to earth, the young couple realise that it has already grown dark in the evening. They decide to make haste, and get back to the hermitage where the elders must be waiting for them with all anxiety in their heart. In fact, Dyumatsena is very much disturbed and is appropriately consoled by the wise sages of the ashramas. Then, not too long after that, arrive at the premises Satyavan and Savitri, and there is great jubilation. On the insistence of Rishi Gautama Savitri reveals to them the several details, beginning with Narad’s prophecy of Satyavan’s death on that particular day, Yama’s arrival and taking away his soul, and his granting her five boons, including a long life of four hundred years for Satyavan to live with her.

Such is the essential substance of the Mahabharata-Savitri, recounted in 300 ślokas or 600 hemistichs. While the immediate purpose of the poet in giving us the story is to emphasise the power of love and wifely devotion even in the face of death, he goes far beyond the moral, ethical, or religious considerations. Actually, the poem is a spiritual document, and the simple episode a significant assertion of the inner law in transactions of everyday life. Indeed, the poet is suggesting that the path of truth-virtue is really the path of everlasting happiness and salvation. Values that are soul-charged are the only ones which will ultimately prove beneficial in the context of the worldy affairs as well. Savitri’s soul had recognised the truth in Satyavan the moment they met in the Forest, and she clung to it in the extreme adverse circumstance too; it was by the power of love that her soul had come out and made the choice, even so much as her nature was ready to accept it as a luminous and infallible guide. She was “driven from within” and, with that force, triumphed over all that stood between her and the sole good she knew by the wonderful alchemy of the newly awakened love in her. The entire thrust of the narrative is on inner perception and the fortitude required to abide by it. That is really the nature of Satya-Dharma, the Law of Truth, which has always the sanction of heaven, to walk as well through the peril and disaster of life. Savitri’s true greatness is that she upheld it gloriously even in her darkest hour when the mid-day sun stood above her head. Satyavan’s death was not an ordinary mortal’s death, and Yama himself had come on that specified noon to seize his soul. It is in that extra¬ordinariness rose Savitri’s indomitable spirit and claimed divinity in the earthly mould giving to it its own marvellous glow. To establish this victory, Savitri had prepared herself fully by doing long and difficult tapasya. She was not only a fiery princess, kanyā tejasvinī, but was a masterly adept in the Yoga of Meditation, dhyānayogaparāyaņā, and she was as much proficient in the occult workings too. She alone could effect transformation in the Power of Darkness standing in the way of the supreme event of Love. In giving us such a Savitri the poet himself has climbed extraordinary heights.

The composed and dignified manner of Vyasa is evident in every line and in every description of the upākhyāna. He is austere in purity of the artistic taste, and there is a complete wholesomeness in its self-sufficient and exact delineation. Vyasa is too precise a writer to be paraphrased hurriedly. It is a “maturer and nobler work, perfect and restrained in details”—this Savitri-tale, full of vigour, and in reaching its objective direct. Though written in the “morning of his genius”, it has already a surer stamp of his Rishihood on it. Assessing the quiet grandeur of it Sri Aurobindo exclaims: “… in the Savitri what a tremendous figure a romantic poet would have made of death, what a passionate struggle between the human being and the master of tears and partings! But Vyasa would have none of this; he had one object, to paint the power of a woman’s silent love and he rejected everything which went beyond this or which would have been merely decorative. We cannot regret his choice. There have been plenty of poets who could have given us imaginative and passionate pictures of Love struggling with Death, but there has been only one who could give us a Savitri.” 1It is this story which Sri Aurobindo found charged with the profoundest spiritual contents and took it up in its several dimensions to give us his epic of the bright evolutionary fulfilment. The story, though ancient, thus remains ever compelling.

About symbolic possibilities of the Savitri-tale this is what Sri Aurobindo has written: “The tale of Satyavan and Savitri is recited in the Mahabharata as a story of conjugal love conquering death. But this legend is, as shown by many features of the human tale, one of the many symbolic myths of the Vedic cycle. Satyavan is the soul carrying the divine truth of being within itself but descended into the grip of death and ignorance; Savitri is the Divine Word, daughter of the Sun, goddess of the supreme Truth who comes down and is born to save; Aswapati, the Lord of the Horse, her human father, is the Lord of Tapasya, the concentrated energy of spiritual endeavour that helps us to rise from the mortal to the immortal planes; Dyumatsena, Lord of the shining’ Hosts, father of Satyvan, is the Divine Mind here fallen blind, losing its celestial kingdom of vision, and through that loss its kingdom of glory. Still this is not a mere allegory, the characters are not personified qualities, but incarnations or emanations of living and conscious Forces with whom we can enter into concrete touch and they take human bodies in order to help man and show him the way from his mortal state to a divine consciousness and immortal life.” 2Tradition handed down to Vyasa the symbolic myth of the Vedic cycle and he recreated it in the sublimity and splendour of his spiritual attainments; this creation itself has the beauty and form of the damsel of heaven, devarūpinī, to use Vyasa’s own epithet for Savitri.

Thus the story of Savitri as a spiritual symbol is the story of conquest of death by the divine Might incarnating herself in this creation. A supreme moment has arrived in the evolutionary process when such an action is categorically imperative. Man’s thousand ills, and all the falsehood enveloping his soul, cannot be redeemed or removed, and what is there is only the harrowing question lived again and again, interminably. The sacrifices made over the long painful aeons do not seem to appease the Deity seated in the deep heart of the terrestrial darkness. Implacable is the hunger of this enormous shadow-built, rather shadow-assumed, Being and even the gods of heaven are helpless. This cannot be accepted as the eternal fact of existence, and Savitri has come to tackle the fundamental issue, tackle it by accepting the load of the death-prone creature, the lot of mortality:


Awake she endured the moments’ serried march
And looked on this green smiling dangerous world,
And heard the ignorant cry of living things. ||2.39||

Amid the trivial sounds, the unchanging scene
Her soul arose confronting Time and Fate. ||2.40||

Immobile in herself, she gathered force. ||2.41||

This was the day when Satyavan must die. ||2.42||


She bore the agony of Satyavan’s death, duhkham mahān, the great sorrow, and fulfilled the creation in God. In it is the full implication of Narad’s prophecy when he says ‘Satyavan must die’, and not ‘Satyavan will die’; and it is this which renders to the story a certain luminous massiveness to be able to bear the whole weight of spirituality in Sri Aurobindo’s Savitri.

The death of Satyavan epitomises the travail of earthly existence, and Savitri accepts it in order to give the solution that lies only in vanquishing the all-devourin Dread present in its fullest proportion in and around us. The certitude is that her action will save the creation—by making the Truth-conscient Light its real guiding sun.

If this is the theme and significance of the Savitri-episode, then certainly it is pregnant with the possibility of a new future that can be initiated by the might of the creative Word itself, the mantra. When such a Word comes from the highest region, from the causal plane where the speech is Para Vani, transcendental speech, then it brings with it also its effectuating dynamism. The tale is at once a legend and a symbol, a fact of history so old in time that it has become a legend, and a symbol belonging to the occult workings of the affirmative spirituality even in material life. This is what we see in Vyasa’s upākhyāna, and also in Sri Aurobindo’s Epic. Being the creation of a rich Rishihood, each event, each turn of phrase, each verse, and sound of word, and sight of image, the entire poetic art including the plot and structure of the poem, everything has the authenticity of expression that comes only from those who are “seers and hearers of the poetic truth and poetic word”, kavayah satyaśrutah. That is why it also becomes aesthetically most satisfying and compellingly delightful, needing not one addition or alteration anywhere. Such is the “wonderful poem of faithful Savitri”—if we are to use Winternitz’s felicitous phrase.

Unfortunately, however, there is an enormous mediaevalism that has crept in several narratives of the Savitri-tale. It leads not only to confusion and distortion; it also considerably lowers the calm and poised dignity that Vyasa had given to it in his masterly measure. Thus, Romesh Chunder Dutt made the fiery heroine of the virile poet a feeble and weeping housewife, “taking away the very strength of which she is built”, as was pointed out by Sri Aurobindo. It is inconceivable that such an emotional weakling could have truimphed over the stern Ordainer of the Worlds and resurrected the soul of her husband, drawn him back from the fearsome jaws of living death. There are many small details too that have been added by the later authors, depicting the tastes of their times; but these, instead of enriching the poem, tend to diminish, if not tarnish, its diamond-like flawlessness, its purity and coherence. Even to say that a woman can achieve the impossible by the virtue of her chastity, gained through service to her husband, is to moralise the issue and offer a particular brand of social philosophy which cannot satisfy the keenest and deepest instincts of humanity; it becomes, in the strain of a God-fearing religion, an aspect of belief in the efficacy of loyalty which could easily turn out to be a dangerous vital attachment. It is too simplistic and cannot win our admiration on many scores. Certainly, it cannot be the thought of a seer-poet who has the complete power of revelatory expression at his command, and whose vision is always life-ennobling.

Take one or two more examples, the first in the context of Narad’s visit to Aswapati. Savitri has returned to the Palace after her discovery, and discloses that she has chosen Satyavan for her husband. In one strange version the heedful father asks the heavenly sage to cast the horoscopes of the young couple and read what the stars foretell about their future; he wants to make sure that the match will be happy. And imagine Narad complying to this request and, after looking at the constellational configuration, announcing the death of Satyavan one year from that day! That would make him blind to his native sight, and bring him down to the level of a village Brahmin-astrologer. If the horoscope is to govern the life of this exceptional pair, then there is no doubt that it is the starry destiny, and not Savitri, who is going to gain signal victory over Yama. But the “blithe conjuction of two stars” has another purpose in the spiritual unfolding. If this is not recognised, then it again leads to the same Duttian result—it takes away all the strength the incarnate Goddess had gathered in herself to settle the forboding dark’s issue for ever. In yet another version it is also mentioned, without textual support, that Goddess Savitri had not only granted to Aswapati the boon of a son, but in her enthusiastic response gave an extra one, of a radiant daughter! Such inanities definitely weaken the force of the narrative, and dim and attenuate the many shades that are there in pristine glory in the original. The Rishi-poet has no intention to queer any pitch, or else dramatise or romanticise what is classically solid and tight and most appropriate in every aesthetic and spiritual sense or detail. In it are not the preachings of a moralist, but elevating wisdom and virtue depicting the power of love that can overrule destiny and death.

It is not that the Legend of Savitri is a legend only to the common multitude, and that there is nothing more in it to the illumination. Indeed, it is a very intense and living symbol too, bright and heaven-ascending like the sacrificial fire itself. Its structural framework offers full scope to hold in it spiritual contents of a wide-ranging richness, and its vibrant and gleaming soul benedictive delight in possibilities of the Infinite growing in the earthly life. If the great Sacrifice of the Purusha, the self-renunciation of the Primal Being or, to put it more boldly, his first death, hymned loudly and cheerfully in the Vedas, gave rise to the creation, then it is the supremely forcible Holocaust of Prakriti, of the executive Might, which shall recreate this creation in Divine Body of the Primal Being. That truly seems to be the purport and significance of Savitri as a Legend and a Symbol seen transcendentally. The Being’s death and then his resurrection by the executive Consciousness-Force to usher in a New World Order in the triple Delight is what is envisaged. And this envisioning has already advanced, and has taken the subtle-physical shape of the Truth-Word, and is now operative in its dynamism to get itself luminously materialised here: the body of the dead Being has already become in evolution sufficiently im-mortal to emerge and breathe the sun-bright intensities of the Superconscience’s wonders. Thus he who is great, mahān, in the world of immortality also becomes great, mahān, in the world of transformed mortality.

In order that this be achieved on the human plane, in mŗtyuloka, it is necessary that Satyavan should die; that is the second death of the supreme Being, but now in this creation. In creation, again, it is Savitri who is going to bring the splendours of immortality by removing the death of her spouse. Such are they as incarnate persons amidst us. She who was silent in the Absolute has sprung up into action to awaken the one who is in a deathful repose, who has accepted the passive role of a witness here. To put it metaphorically in Jnaneshwara’s langu-age: “When the Lord goes to sleep the Mistress remains awake and plays herself the part of both.” The spiritual-metaphysical Purusha and Prakriti become the tangible and endearing Satyavan and Savitri in human flesh and blood to work out the stupendous alchemy of converting untruth into truth, darkness into light, mortality into immortality.

If this is the multifold imperative, then let us read the Ancient Tale of Savitri again to live in its fullness and to let it live in its manifestive glory in us.


She Faces the Fierce Question of Mortality

From Sri Aurobindo’s Savitri


Akin to the eternity whence she came,
No part she took in this small happiness;
A mighty stranger in the human field,
The embodied Guest within made no response. ||2.2||

The call that wakes the leap of human mind,
Its chequered eager motion of pursuit,
Its fluttering-hued illusion of desire,
Visited her heart like a sweet alien note. ||2.3||

Time’s message of brief light was not for her. ||2.4||

In her there was the anguish of the gods
Imprisoned in our transient human mould,
The deathless conquered by the death of things. ||2.5||

A vaster Nature’s joy had once been hers,
But long could keep not its gold heavenly hue
Or stand upon this brittle earthly base. ||2.6||

A narrow movement on Time’s deep abysm,
Life’s fragile littleness denied the power,
The proud and conscious wideness and the bliss
She had brought with her into the human form,
The calm delight that weds one soul to all,
The key to the flaming doors of ecstasy. ||2.7||

Earth’s grain that needs the sap of pleasure and tears
Rejected the undying rapture’s boon:
Offered to the daughter of infinity
Her passion-flower of love and doom she gave. ||2.8||

In vain now seemed the splendid sacrifice. ||2.9||

A prodigal of her rich divinity,
Her self and all she was she had lent to men,
Hoping her greater being to implant
That heaven might native grow on mortal soil. ||2.10||

Hard is it to persuade earth-nature’s change;
Mortality bears ill the eternal’s touch:
It fears the pure divine intolerance
Of that assault of ether and of fire;
It murmurs at its sorrowless happiness,
Almost with hate repels the light it brings;
It trembles at its naked power of Truth
And the might and sweetness of its absolute Voice. ||2.11||

Inflicting on the heights the abysm’s law,
It sullies with its mire heaven’s messengers:
Its thorns of fallen nature are the defence
It turns against the saviour hands of Grace;
It meets the sons of God with death and pain. ||2.12||

A glory of lightnings traversing the earth-scene,
Their sun-thoughts fading, darkened by ignorant minds,
Their work betrayed, their good to evil turned,
The cross their payment for the crown they gave,
Only they leave behind a splendid Name. ||2.13||

A fire has come and touched men’s hearts and gone;
A few have caught flame and risen to greater life. ||2.14||

Too unlike the world she came to help and save,
Her greatness weighed upon its ignorant breast,
And from its deep chasms welled a dire return,
A portion of its sorrow, struggle, fall. ||2.15||

To live with grief, to confront death on her road,—
The mortal’s lot became the Immortal’s share. ||2.16||

Thus trapped in the gin of earthly destinies,
Awaiting her ordeal’s hour abode,
Outcast from her inborn felicity,
Accepting life’s obscure terrestrial robe,
Hiding herself even from those she loved,
The godhead greater by a human fate. ||2.17||

A dark foreknowledge separated her
From all of whom she was the star and stay;
Too great to impart the peril and the pain,
In her torn depths she kept the grief to come. ||2.18||

As one who watching over men left blind
Takes up the load of an unwitting race,
Harbouring a foe whom with her heart she must feed,
Unknown her act, unknown the doom she faced,
Unhelped she must foresee and dread and dare. ||2.19||

The long-foreknown and fatal morn was here
Bringing a noon that seemed like every noon. ||2.20||

For Nature walks upon her mighty way
Unheeding when she breaks a soul, a life;
Leaving her slain behind she travels on:
Man only marks and God’s all-seeing eyes. ||2.21||

Even in this moment of her soul’s despair,
In its grim rendezvous with death and fear,
No cry broke from her lips, no call for aid;
She told the secret of her woe to none:
Calm was her face and courage kept her mute. ||2.22||

Yet only her outward self suffered and strove;
Even her humanity was half divine:
Her spirit opened to the Spirit in all,
Her nature felt all Nature as its own. ||2.23||

Apart, living within, all lives she bore;
Aloof, she carried in herself the world:
Her dread was one with the great cosmic dread,
Her strength was founded on the cosmic mights;
The universal Mother’s love was hers. ||2.24||

Against the evil at life’s afflicted roots,
Her own calamity its private sign,
Of her pangs she made a mystic poignant sword. ||2.25||

A solitary mind, a world-wide heart,
To the lone Immortal’s unshared work she rose. ||2.26||

At first life grieved not in her burdened breast:
On the lap of earth’s original somnolence
Inert, released into forgetfulness
Prone it reposed, unconscious on mind’s verge,
Obtuse and tranquil like the stone and star. ||2.27||

In a deep cleft of silence twixt two realms
She lay remote from grief, unsawn by care,
Nothing recalling of the sorrow here. ||2.28||

Then a slow faint remembrance shadowlike moved,
And sighing she laid her hand upon her bosom
And recognised the close and lingering ache,
Deep, quiet, old, made natural to its place,
But knew not why it was there nor whence it came. ||2.29||

The Power that kindles mind was still withdrawn:
Heavy, unwilling were life’s servitors
Like workers with no wages of delight;
Sullen, the torch of sense refused to burn;
The unassisted brain found not its past. ||2.30||

Only a vague earth-nature held the frame. ||2.31||

But now she stirred, her life shared the cosmic load. ||2.32||

At the summons of her body’s voiceless call
Her strong far-winging spirit travelled back,
Back to the yoke of ignorance and fate,
Back to the labour and stress of mortal days,
Lighting a pathway through strange symbol dreams
Across the ebbing of the seas of sleep. ||2.33||

Her house of Nature felt an unseen sway,
Illumined swiftly were life’s darkened rooms,
And memory’s casements opened on the hours
And the tired feet of thought approached her doors. ||2.34||

All came back to her: Earth and Love and Doom,
The ancient disputants, encircled her
Like giant figures wrestling in the night:
The godheads from the dim Inconscient born
Awoke to struggle and the pang divine,
And in the shadow of her flaming heart,
At the sombre centre of the dire debate,
A guardian of the unconsoled abyss
Inheriting the long agony of the globe,
A stone-still figure of high and godlike Pain
Stared into space with fixed regardless eyes
That saw grief’s timeless depths but not life’s goal. ||2.35||

Afflicted by his harsh divinity,
Bound to his throne, he waited unappeased
The daily oblation of her unwept tears. ||2.36||

All the fierce question of man’s hours relived. ||2.37||

The sacrifice of suffering and desire
Earth offers to the immortal Ecstasy
Began again beneath the eternal Hand. ||2.38||

Awake she endured the moments’ serried march
And looked on this green smiling dangerous world,
And heard the ignorant cry of living things. ||2.39||

Amid the trivial sounds, the unchanging scene
Her soul arose confronting Time and Fate. ||2.40||

Immobile in herself, she gathered force. ||2.41||

This was the day when Satyavan must die. ||2.42||


The Tale

The story of Savitri narrated in three hundred verses, mostly in the Anushtubha metre, appears in the Vana Parva, the Book of the Forest, of the Mahabharata. The Pandavas had lost the game of dice and had been ordered to live for twelve years as exiles, away from civilization; this was to be followed by one year of dwelling incognito. In their wanderings, moving from place to place in different parts of the country, they came again, towards the end of the twelve-year period, to the Kamyaka Woods. The place was beautiful and gorgeous, with varied trees ever laden with flowers and fruits; there were woodland lakes, and several streams carried limpid waters with low murmuring sounds; the beasts roamed freely there, and the birds filled the air and the sky with soft delightful songs. In those serene cloistral surroundings lived hundreds of sages who had achieved difficult perfections, siddhis, through lifelong austerities. The Pandavas also chose one of the happy convenient places to be in the holy company of those godly souls.

It was here that, on an earlier occasion, Rishi Markandeya had visited the Pandavas when Sri Krishna, with his consort Satyabhama, had been staying with them for a few days; the sage Narad also had happened to visit them around that time. Urged by him Markandeya, bright like the midday sun, had taught the sublime precepts of life and of virtuous conduct to Yudhishthira, the eldest of the Pandavas. However, during the intervening period the Pandavas, though driven out to the forest, were still chased and harassed by their archenemies. All the five of them, and their wife Draupadi too, had to bear humiliations and withstand constantly the demoralising tortures inflicted upon them. In fact, Draupadi was once abducted by Jayadratha, and she had to be rescued by defeating him in a battle.

In the sad resultant state of melancholy, and introversion, Yudhishthira approached Markandeya and asked him whether in the entire history of mankind there had been anyone who had ever had to face such harsh difficulties, and who was harrowed in life like him. The Rishi consoled him and recounted to him the story of Rama, the Prince of Ayodhya, whose sufferings, including the abduction of his wife Sita, had been immeasurably poignant. It was all in the cause of Righteousness to uphold it, for which he would pay any price. When pressed further to tell if there had been any woman who too had undergone hardships in devotion to her husband the way Draupadi did, Markandeya narrated the story of Savitri.


शृणुराजन्कुलस्त्रीणांमहाभाग्यंयुधिष्ठिर ।
सर्वमेतद्यथाप्राप्तंसावित्र्याराजकन्यया ॥


Listen, O King Yudhishthira, the most precious fortune, which the women of noble upbringing desire and cherish, that is what Princess Savitri won for them all.

Thus Markandeya begins the narration.

Long ago in Madra ruled a noble king. An ardent follower of the dharma, he was of a devout nature, and was firmly established in truth. He was respectful to the seers and sages, and was kind to the citizens of his country. His name was Aswapati. Performer of Yajnas, presiding over charities, skilful in work, one who had conquered the senses, he was loved by the people of his kingdom and himself loved them; Aswapati’s single concern was always the welfare of everybody, and towards that end he spared no effort. But he was issueless. With the passing of time, and with the advancing of age, this caused him great affliction. Therefore, with the intention of getting a child, he undertook very hard and arduous tapasya, extending over eighteen years. Every day he offered a hundred-thousand oblations to the Goddess Savitri. He observed rules of the strictest continence, and held all the senses fully under control, and took just a little food, and that too only in the sixth part of the day. At last, pleased with his devotion and worship, Goddess Savitri herself appeared out of the sacrificial flames in front of him, and blessed him. She granted him a boon of fulfilling an appropriate wish of his. She even told him that she, understanding the purpose of his great austerities, had already spoken to Brahma about his desire to have a son. She further informed him that he would soon get a daughter, beautiful and effulgent, kanyā tejasvinī, and he should not have any hesitation or reservation in accepting this boon. It had been bestowed by the great Father-Creator himself, and he should be happy about it.

In proper time the King, who ever abided by the Law, established his seed in the womb of his eldest queen, the companion of his dharma, Malawi; a few months later a daughter was born to her.


सावित्र्याप्रीतयादत्तासावित्र्याहुतयाह्यपि ।
सावित्रीत्येवनामास्याश्चक्रुर्विप्रास्तथापिता ॥


Given as she was by Savitri, who was pleased by the Savitri-oblations, the father and the wise ones named her too Savitri.

Fair and beautiful, like the Goddess Fortune, the Princess grew into full maidenhood at an appropriate age. With large hips and a slender waist graceful as she was, and lotus-eyed, she looked truly like a perfect golden idol. People often thought her to be some heavenly damsel, devarūpinī, who had come down here as Aswapati’s daughter. And, indeed, because of that unsurpassable beauty, and the fiery splendour of her youth, no king or hero-prince dared approach her, extending his hand in marriage.

Once, on a good and festive auspicious day, at the turning of the lunar fortnight, Savitri took a holy bath, shampooing and washing her hair; then she went to the temple, and offered her prayers to the gods, and gave ritual oblations to Agni. The wise ones recited the hymns of benediction. Worship done, she took some flowers and a portion of the food-offerings to the deities, the prasād, and went to give it to her father. She touched his feet in obeisance and, after offering him the flowers and giving him the prasād, stood with folded hands by his side.

Seeing his daughter grown to full youth, and beautiful like a goddess, devarūpinī, and yet unmarried, Aswapati was very much distressed. He told her that she should go out in search of one who was endowed with qualities like her own, a young man of her choice to espouse. She could do so, for none had come as a suitor asking for her hand. He also explained to her that a father becomes open to reproach when, according to the dharma, he fails to give his daughter, of the right age, in marriage.

The noble virgin, blushing somewhat, bowed down at her father’s feet and, without a second thought, set out on her distant search. Riding in her golden chariot, and accompanied by the elderly counsellor-ministers, she travelled through various kingdoms. She went to the ancient and holy places of pilgrimage, and gave away great wealth to the most excellent in sacred learning. In the course of her journey, as she passed through the green wooded regions, she visited several hermitages and made respectful obeisances to the royal sages and the Rishis, deeply absorbed in a life of contemplation.

In the meanwhile, on a particular day, the heavenly sage Narad and Aswapati were in council in the majestic Palace of the King. About the same time, as if by coincidence, Savitri, after visiting the holy places and the several ashramas, returned to her father’s house. Seeing her father and the god-sage Narad seated in the Palace-Hall, she, bright and graceful like a bride, touched their feet and offered them worshipping respects. Narad looked at her, and made enquiries of the King as to why he had not given his young grown-up daughter in marriage yet. Aswapati explained to the sage that it was precisely with that purpose he had sent her abroad; he also surmised that she must be returning now after having accomplished her mission. He asked her to narrate the details of her journey, and the name of the one whom she had chosen for a husband.

Savitri, at her father’s instance, began relating the detailed sequence of her long journey, and the result of her quest. She told them that she had gone to the far Shalwa country which at one time was ruled by King Dyumatsena. He was once a mighty and defeatless ruler, and was ever righteous in the conduct of governing the country. But, then, he became blind. A neighbouring king, his past enemy, took advantage of this hapless plight of his and invaded his kingdom. Dyumatsena was defeated and had to retire, with his wife and a young child, to the forest. There he engaged himself in tapasya, by observing difficult vows. That child, named Satyavan, grew in the hermitage under the tutorship of the sages and the elderly Rishis, learning the sacred lore from them. Savitri disclosed that it was Satyavan whom she had chosen as her life’s partner.

But Narad at once rang a note of alarm, even regret, and told the King it was a matter of grave misfortune that Savitri should have chosen Satyavan for a husband.


अहोबतमहत्पापंसावित्र्यानृपतेकृतम् ।
अजानन्त्यायदनयागुणवान्सत्यवान्वृतः ॥


Alas! Savitri has, O King, done something accursed, that forebodes a great evil; unknowingly she has made the choice of Satyavan, taking him to be one of high merit.

True, his father always lived in truth and his mother had noble attributes and, born as he was of such parents, he was named by the Brahmins Satyavan, truth-holding the Truthful. As a lad he was fond of painting, and drew horses, and therefore he was also often called the Painter of the Horses, Chitrashwa. To several queries of Aswapati, Narad replied that Satyavan was bright like the sun and had a sharp intellect like that of Brihaspati; he was munificent like Rantideva, the son of Sankriti, and like Yayati was exceedingly generous; in the manner of Shibi, the son of Ushinar, he was respectful to the learned, and was a speaker of the truth; and, because he was beautiful like the moon, people often wondered whether he was one of the Ashwinikumars themselves. He had mastered his senses; he was a youth of heroic deeds, and yet was friendly to everybody. The sages of the Wood were endeared to him, and had always high praise for his exceedingly fine qualities. But, at Aswapati’s insistence to know also if Satyavan had any defect, Narad said that there was only one blemish, and that blemish lay in the fact that Satyavan was to die on that day after one year. Savitri had made, quite unknowingly, for that single reason, an undesirable, nay, an accursed choice in selecting Satyavan to be her life’s companion.

Aswapati advised Savitri to proceed again on her quest and find another person for a husband. He told her that as the revered sage, respected by the gods also, saw a short life for Satyavan, it nullified his virtues and all his other noble or exceptional qualities; she should not accept what was blameworthy, particularly when made known.

Savitri was, however, firm in her resolve. She stuck to her decision by asserting that it was her inner being which had made the choice and which would alone govern her; it was the entire judge and authority for her, pramāŋam me manastatah. She argued that only once can the family wealth be divided between brothers and not the second time; only once can a father give his daughter in marriage and not again; and once only does a philanthrope speak the word of charity and abide by it. It mattered not for her if Satyavan had a long life or short, whether he had virtuous qualities or was without them; because, only once would she make her choice and not the second time. She elaborated her point further by invoking a greater truth of the higher life.


मनसानिश्चयंकृत्वाततोवाचाभिर्धीयते ।
क्रियतेकर्मणापश्चात्प्रमाणंमेमनस्ततः ॥


By perception does one first come to a certain conclu¬sion and then one holds it by speech; only afterwards is it put into action. That perception of mine for me is the one single authority here.

Savitri reiterated that this was exactly what she had done in making her choice and adhering to it.

Narad saw in Savitri a firm and fine unperturbed discernment; he recognised too that she was resolutely treading the path of dharma from which none could take her away. Seeing also that the qualities of Satyavan could not be matched in anybody else, he recommended their marriage. In the elderly wisdom he blessed them, and wished that the marriage of Savitri would proceed unhindered, without any ill-happening. Then, invoking propitious things of life, and good fortune for all, he left the Palace for his home in Paradise.


अविघ्नमस्तु सावित्र्याः प्रदाने दुहितुस्तव ।
साधयिष्याम्यहम् तावत् सर्वेषां भद्रमस्तु वः ॥


Aswapati began attending to the details of marraige. He invited the wise experienced Brahmins, and all the priests officiating at the holy sacrifice, and the chanters of the Riks. Choosing an auspicious day and time he, along with them and his daughter, commenced the journey to the forest-hermitage where dwelt the king-sage Dyumatsena. On reaching the place, and following the high tradition of proposing a marriage, he formally made a request to Dyumatsena to accept Savitri as a bride for his son, Satyavan. Dyumatsena was somewhat hesitant in the beginning, as he felt that he was living the life of a destitute, devoid of royalty, having lost his kingdom and having been driven out into the wilderness; he felt that he was in several respects no equal to King Aswapati to establish this tie. He also had the apprehension whether the young Princess would at all be able to adjust herself to their present pattern of cloistral life and bear the hardships of a forest-dwelling. But Aswapati assuaged his fears, and assured him that he had made the proposal in the full knowledge of all these circumstances, and pleaded not to be refused. He further told him it was with affection, and in the friendship which does not discriminate between persons according to their status, that he had approached him. Dyumatsena finally accepted the offer and confided in him that, in this relationship it was actually his own long-cherished desire that was getting fulfilled. The marriage was duly solemnised by the learned Brahmins in the presence of the great Rishis of the forest. Satyavan was happy that in Savitri he had found a beautiful wife with all the exquisite qualities of a high-born virgin; Savitri too was joyous that her heart’s desire had been so well fulfilled:


सत्यवानपि तां भार्यां लब्ध्वा सर्वगुणान्विताम् ।
मुमुदे सा च तं लब्ध्वा भर्तारं मनसेप्सितम् ॥


Soon the marriage-party left for Madra, leaving Savitri behind to live in the hermitage with her husband and her parents-in-law. She laid aside all the ornaments and jewellery; she also gave up rich clothes and started wearing bark garments and red-dyed robes, accepting the simple and sacred life of those forest-dwelling ascetics. She looked after the physical needs, and all the small wants of her old mother-in-law; whatever little she spoke with her father-in-law, it was always with a sense of deep humility and reverence. Both of them were immensely pleased by her conduct and behaviour. She also performed, with noble composure and grace and poise, the various routines and the household chores of attending to the kitchen-fire and using broom and jar. In a like manner, always remaining calm and contented, employing soft and sweet language, mindful of her husband’s needs and desires, and in their privacy, she kept Satyavan ever happy. Thus devoted to service and with absorption in tapasya a lot of time went by.

But the virtuous woman suffered greatly within. With each rising sun, or while sleeping in the night, at every passing moment, she remembered Narad’s words and felt the cruel day approaching closer. When she counted that only four days were left, and Satyavan would be living no more afterwards, she resolved to perform the three-night vow, trīrātra vrata, of fasting and standing at one single place through the entire period. Dyumatsena, on coming to know of this, was very much distressed and tried to dissuade her by explaining how difficult the vow could be, and advised her to abstain from it. Savitri, however, assured him that she was quite confident of standing up to the demand and rigour, and told him that he need not have any apprehensions in her fulfilling it. Dyumatsena finally conceded her wish, seeing her determined to carry it out, and blessed her in her undertaking. Remaining erect like a stick, without moving from the chosen spot, and without taking any food for three days, Savitri by the power of her strong will and a woman’s strength to suffer succeeded in her vow.

On the fourth day, the destined day of Satyavan’s death, she got ready well before the sunrise, and lit a bright fire, and made offerings to the gods. Then, she went to the parents-in-law and paid her respects to them. When they told her to break the fast, for she had become extremely weak, not having taken food during the entire period of vow, she replied that she would do so only in the evening. Afterwards, she went to the various hermitages around, and made obeisances to the Rishis. They all blessed her with auspicious things dear to a young devout wife. She, accomplished in the Yoga of Meditation, dhyānayogaparāyaŋā, willed in her heart for their blessings to come true. On returning to the cottage she saw Satyavan, with the axe on his shoulder, leaving for the forest; she halted him and told him that he would not go alone for work, that she would accompany him to the forest on that particular day. He tried to tell her otherwise, but to no avail. Finally, he asked her to get the permission from his father. Savitri approached her father-in-law and pleaded that she could not bear separation from her husband, and asked for permission to go with him; she even told him that had it not been to fetch for his revered gurus flowers and fruits and sacrificial sticks required for the holy Yajna, she would not have allowed Satyavan to go for work. She also expressed her own little desire to see the beautiful forest, full of trees and vari-hued blossoms, to which she had never gone since her coming to the hermitage. Dyumatsena, recollecting the past one year, noted that ever since her father had left Savitri in his charge, never had she requested him for any favour, nor had she asked for anything in particular. He could not refuse her request now and told her that she could do what her heart desired. Then, counselling Savitri not to be inattentive in duty while following Satyavan, he permitted them to go together to the wood.

Permission granted, the young couple set out happily, hand in hand. Satyavan would show to Savitri the sacred rivers carrying waters and point out trees laden with flowers. In the lovely and delightful forests, with flocks of peacocks dancing there, they heard all around a lyrical note of joy. Satyavan would speak to her in honey-sweet words.


नदीः पुण्यवहाश्चैव पुष्पितांश्च नगोत्तमान् ।
सत्यवानाह पश्येति सावित्रीं मधुरम् वचः ॥


And Savitri too, delighted by the beauty of the surroundings, and in the company of her lover, responded to him with equal sweetness. But she was constantly watching her husband in all his movements, and did not allow him to go out of her sight. Remembering Narad’s words, she knew that his life was now in hours, and he would die with the arrival of the Time-Person, kāla-puruşa. Within, she was in great agony all the while. Yet, accomplished in austerity as she was, and reckoning the swift-approaching fatal moment, she remained calm.

Satyavan, lustrous in his strength, collected a basketful of fruits with the help of Savitri. Then, he started cutting the fire-wood. He wanted to complete the day’s task quickly, and spend the rest of the time with his beloved. But he suddenly felt exhausted due to over-work and began perspiring profusely. There was a severe headache, as though shafts of agony were piercing through the skull. The limbs were in pain, and in the heart there was an intense burning sensation. Savitri immediately went closer to him, and sat on the ground under the tree, and took his head in her lap. She knew that the foretold moment had arrived, and that the kāla-puruşa would now soon appear.

Soon enough, Savitri saw a bright Person standing there in front. He was luminous and beautiful in his red attire, and wore a splendid crown over his head; it looked as though the Sun-God himself had come there. His body was dark in hue, yet lustrous, and he had red eyes, and was steadily staring at Satyavan. There was a noose in his hand. It inspired great dread, indeed. On seeing him, Savitri laid aside her husband’s head on the ground, and stood up with folded hands. Her heart was trembling, but she asked him who he was and why he had come. She told him that he did not look like one who was a human being, and that he must be some god. The Person introduced himself as Yama, and averred that he could converse with her because she was a devout and chaste woman and a practitioner of difficult austerities. He, instead of sending his subordinates, had come there himself to take away the soul of Satyavan. Yama explained to Savitri that Satyavan’s was a virtuous soul with fine and beautiful features, and that it was an ocean of noble qualities; as such, his deputies would not have been able to seize or snatch it. He then threw the noose and forcibly pulled the soul, no bigger than the thumb, anguşţamātrah puruşam, and started moving towards the South. When Satyavan stopped breathing, his body without its soul became pale and remained immobile and the lifeless corpse appeared very frightful. Savitri, afflicted with agony, followed Yama on his path. This she could do, because of the merit or siddhi of the vows she had successfully observed.

A little while later, Yama looked back and observed Savitri following him. He advised her to return as she had paid the debt to her husband by accompanying him after death over the permitted distance. She was free of the obligation, and now she had to attend to the funeral rites of the dead. Savitri did not accept Yama’s advice. She had walked with him for more than seven steps and therefore, according to the precepts of the well-versed, a friendly relationship was established between them. She told him so, and made use of it and argued extensively with him on fundamental issues of existnece, he being the son of Vivasvan, the Sun-God, and the knower and upholder of the Law of Truth in the Universe.


विवस्वतस्त्वं तनयः प्रतापवांस्ततो हि वैवस्वत उच्यसे बुधैः ।
शमेन धर्मेण चरन्ति ताः प्रजास्ततस्तवेहेश्वर धर्मराजता ॥


You are the mighty son of Vivasvan, and that is why the learned call you Vaivasvat; to all the creatures you are fair, and you uphold the dharma. For that reason you are, O Lord, also known as Dharmaraj.

Her speech was perfect, following the rules of grammar and syntax, complete in knowledge of etymology, and prosodically well-structured; and her reasoning too was flawless. She told him that her own place lay near her husband, and she could not go back without him, firmly as she was fixed in the dharma. By austerity, by devotion to the preceptor, love for the husband, observance of the sacred vows, and by the grace of Yama himself, there is nothing, she told him, that cannot be accomplished by a woman. Further, she asserted that all holy people abide in virtuous conduct, and never have they sorrow, nor are they any time afflicted. Company with pious people is always rewarding, and therefore one should be ever closer to them. In the fellowship of saints and sages all fear disappears. For that reason, more than himself does a man trust holy persons, and so does he give more of his love to them. Then, in a tremendous moment of revelation, she even disclosed that it is by the Truth that the saints lead the sun; by askesis the saints uphold the earth; in the saints all the three divisions of Time find their refuge; noble persons in the midst of the saints have never any grief:


सन्तो हि सत्येन नयन्ति सूर्यं सन्तो भूमिं तपसा धारयन्ति ।
सन्तो गतिर्भूतभव्यस्य राजन् सतां मध्ये नावसीदन्ति सन्तः ॥


In that conduct of the dharma the illustrious, the excellent, help each other and do not do hurt to others. Therefore, they are the protectors of the entire world.

Immensely pleased with the sublimity of these soul-felt utterances, and with their Truth-contents, Yama granted her boon after boon. Indeed, the more and more she spoke the well-adorned and lofty things of the dharma, acceptable to the Truth adorer, in the same manner his admiration too grew for her. By the first two boons she desired eyesight for her blind father-in-law and his lost kingdom; in the third boon she asked for a hundred sons for her father Aswapati, true and heroic brothers to her. By the fourth boon she would have got a hundred sons for herself, but she argued that this boon was of a different kind than the other three. It would not be fulfilled without tproper matrimony. She therefore reiterated her request for the life of Satyavan. Without him, she told Yama, she herself would be dead; she would abstain from any pleasure, even that of entering heaven. If Satyavan was not present with her the boon would thus lie waste, unfructuated. Then, in a kind of dialectics, she pointed out the strange anomaly in Yama’s words and actions:


वरातिसर्गः शतपुत्रता मम त्वयैव दत्तो ह्रियते च मे पतिः ।
वरं वृणे जीवतु सत्यवानयं तवैव सत्यं वचनं भविष्यति ॥


You have given me the boon of a hundred sons, and you yourself are taking my husband away; for that reason I again ask the boon of life for Satyavan, by which your words shall come true.

Yama, exceedingly gladdened by Savitri’s Words of the Dharma, saying ‘Let it be so’, released the noose around the soul of the dead. He told her that Satyavan was now in good health, and fit to return to the earth with her. Further, he granted a life of four hundred years for him to live with her and perform the holy Yajnas for the welfare of the world. Then Yama, blessing Savitri and sending her back with the soul of Satyavan, returned to his own Abode.

After the departure of Yama Savitri, getting her husband back, came to the place where his dead body was lying. Seeing her husband on the ground, she went near him and sat there and took again his head in her lap. By now Satyavan regained his consciousness and, looking affectionately at Savitri, began talking to her like one who had returned from a long journey abroad. He felt that he was waking up from some deep sleep; but he carried a faint recollection of the dark-hued and terrifying figure that had dragged him to some dreadful unknown world. He enquired about him of Savitri who told him that it was the great God Yama himself, the Ordainer of Creatures, who had come there; she, however, quickly added that it was now all over, and that he had left the place. Satyavan wanted to know more about the entire episode; but Savitri postponed it by saying that she would narrate it the next day, and she pointed out that a thick darkness was fast enveloping them in the forest.

Satyavan looked around and suddenly realised that he had not returned yet to the hermitage. He was worried lest his old parents should be much disturbed, not seeing him back in spite of the growing night. Satyavan started cursing his sleep and wanted to hasten homeward, as fast as they could. He told Savitri that, on an earlier occasion he had been severely upbraided for such a delay when the dusk had just gathered in the sky. The parents had not only been anxious; all kinds of ominous thoughts had started haunting them. They had also expressed their sentiments in no uncertain words, by telling him that he was a staff for them and they could not move, or live, without it even for two hours.

But Savitri was a little hesitant. She saw that Satyavan was still weak, and had doubts whether he was in a condition to walk all the long distance to the hermitage. Getting lost in the forest could be quite risky too. She was very much scared:


नक्तम् चराश्चरन्त्येते हृष्टाः क्रूराभिभाषिणः ।
श्रूयन्ते पर्णशब्दाश्च मृगाणां चरतां वने ॥
एताः घोरम् शिवा नादान् दिशं दक्षिणपश्चिमाम् ।
आस्थाय विरुवन्त्युग्राः कम्पयन्त्यो मनो मम ॥


Those cruel-voiced prowlers of the night are moving freely now; and listen to the sound in the fallen leaves as the wild beasts go about in the forest. This fearsome howling of the she-jackals in the south, and in the west, is causing my mind and my heart to tremble.

Possessed by this fear, she began persuading him to return only the next morning. But Satyavan broke down and started weeping. He was unable to bear the separa¬tion from his parents any longer. He told Savitri that his blind father and the old mother must be surely going from sage to sage, enquiring about him and about his welfare. The more he remembered them the more he wept. He wanted to go immediately and also give respects to his revered Teachers. In a somewhat firm manner, almost rebukingly, he spoke to Savitri that if her understanding was fixed in righteous conduct, then the fit course for them was to return home the same night.

Realising the truth of what her husband was saying, and seeing the deep respect and devotion to the elders he was showing, the follower of the dharma that he was in every action of his life, Savitri agreed to return without further delay. She got up, and knotted her loose hair; then, holding both the hands of her husband, she helped him stand. Satyavan dusted his body and, looking all around, noticed the fruit-basket lying nearby. But Savitri told him that it could be picked up the next day. She tied the basket to the branch of a low tree and, with the axe on her shoulder, went to the place where her husband was standing. Encircling his waist with her right arm, his left on her left shoulder, they then started walking slowly. Satyavan chided her that she was a timid woman and was unnecessarily worried about getting lost in the wood. He assurerd her that he was quite familiar with all the paths there, as he had trod them very frequently; he could even tell the correct one simply by looking at the stars. He pointed out to her that they were actually on the same path they had taken in the morning while coming to the forest. Indicating that at the bifurca¬tion near the group of palasa-trees she should take the path leading to the north, he asked her to quicken the pace that they might reach home soon as possible.

In the meantime, at the hermitage, Dyumatsena, though surprised to have received suddenly his eyesight and of being able to see everything clearly, was very much disturbed by the fact that Satyavan had not returned yet. The evening darkness had thickened into early night, and his mind was wandering wildly, thinking of unholy and untoward happenings. A great fear had gripped him. He, along with his wife Shaibya, went from cottage to cottage enquiring about his son and daughter-in-law. They went in search of them to the river-banks, and to the innumerable lakes around, and wandered through the difficult parts of the forest, cutting across thick and thorny bushes. Whenever they heard some voices at a distance, they hoped, or imagined, these to be of Satyavan and Savitri’s, they coming back home. With their feet badly wounded, and bleeding, and their limbs pierced by thorns, they raved almost in madness and went hither and thither in all directions, wailing about them constantly.

Seeing the distressed plight of the old parents, woun¬ded, bleeding, tormented by evil suggestions, the sages of the forest gathered around them and began consoling them. Suvarchas, ever the speaker of the truth, assured them that as Savitri was a woman of exceptionally virtuous qualities, and was fixed in the dharma, and had made great progress in her tapasya, nothing injurious would happen to Satyavan. Bharadwaja also expressed the same conviction, and held that Satyavan was hale and living. Gautama asserted that he had studied all the six branches of the Vedas, accumulated great might of askesis, had observed strict celibacy since his early age, and had pleased his preceptors and the Fire-God well. By that power of austerity, and by the concentration of his will, he could know all the movements of others. Stating so, he affirmed that Satyavan was alive. Gautama’s disciple vouched that never had a word uttered by his Teacher turned out to be untrue or wrong, and therefore Satyavan must be living. Dalbhya pointed out that Dyumatsena’s getting his eyesight back in such an unexpected way augured auspicious happenings; he also said that the way Savitri had observed the very difficult three-night vow, and the fact that she had accompanied her husband to the forest without breaking the long fast, meant complete safety for Satyavan. Apastambha saw in the tranquil benign surroundings, and in the manner and movement of the animals and birds, a secret presence of harmony, and that there was nothing which should really disturb or disquieten them. As there was no trace of concern, or note of uneasiness anywhere, he too was sure that Satyavan was alive. Dhaumya proclaimed that Satyavan, a noble prince of unparalleled merit, dear to everyone, had the marks of a long life and therefore he must be living.

This way the great Rishis assuaged the fears of the troubled parents. Then, not too long afterwards, Satyavan with his wife Savitri arrived at the ashram-premises and entered the hermitage, immensely happy. There was great jubilation amongst all present. Indeed, in the union of the father and the son, in the blind King’s receiving his sight, and in Savitri, they saw glorious and mighty portents of the future. Kindling a bright fire, they all sat around it and threw a volley of questions at Satyavan. They surely wanted to understand why he had been so late in returning when the night had grown dark; they were also anxious to know whether he had any obstacle to face on his way back. Very appropriately, they wished to know everything, in detail. But all that Satyavan could say was, while cutting the trees, he suffered a severe headache and consequently had fallen asleep; on getting up he had found that it had already grown dark in the night; he regretted that he had slept unconsciously for too long.

But Gautama was not satisfied with the answer; the blind King’s receiving back his eyesight was still a mystery that remained unexplained. He therefore turned towards Savitri and expressed his eagerness to know the secret of it all from her. He told her that she alone could unravel it, the mystery.


श्रोतुमिच्छामि सावित्रि त्वं हि वेत्थ परावरम् ।
त्वां हि जानामि सावित्रि सावित्रीमिव तेजसा ॥
त्वमत्र हेतुं जानीषे तस्मात् सत्यं निरुच्यताम् ।
रहस्यं यदि ते नास्ति किञ्चिदत्र वदस्वः नः ॥


O Savitri, I am eager to hear of it from you; you know, O Savitri, all that is far and near, that belongs to the past and to the future; you understand it, one like Goddess Savitri herself as you are, with her effulgence. Surely, you have the knowledge of its cause and its purpose, and therefore speak the truth of it; if there is nothing in it to hide from us, tell us all of it.

Savitri narrated everything in detail, right from the beginning, how Narad had foretold the impending doom of Satyavan’s death, and the reason for her undertaking the three-night vow, and of accompanying her husband to the forest on that particular day. She told them that Yama had come there along with his assistants to snatch the soul of Satyavan; as he was taking it away with him, she too followed him and offered him high eulogies with the utterances of Truth. The mighty God, the Upholder of the Dharma, had with her become happy, beyond bounds; he even adored her with devotion. She then told how she had received the five boons, and how Satyavan had regained consciousness. The Rishis blessed the young devout lady, and departed in happiness to their respective cottages, hailing her as the Saviour of the House.


निमज्जमानं व्यसनैरभिद्रुतं कुलं नरेन्द्रस्य तमोमये ह्रदे ।
त्वया सुशीलव्रतपुण्यया कुलम् समुद्धृतं साध्वि पुनः कुलीनया ॥


The House of the King was plunging more and more into darkness, assailed by misfortunes; but you of noble birth and a virtuous wife, sweet and amiable in nature, and an observer of the vows, one given to meritorious conduct, redeemed the family from doom.

But when the night was over, and the solar orb had appeared in the eastern sky, they all, rich in austerities, completing the morning oblations and the fire-worship, gathered once again around Dyumatsena. They spoke to him of the extreme good fortune, mahābhāgyam, of Savitri, and were not contented even though they repeatedly narrated it.

While they were thus talking, a group of citizens of the Shalwa kingdom arrived there, unexpectedly. Extending their welcome to the mighty King Dyumatsena, they informed him that his enemy had been murdered by his own minister. Everyone in the capital had resolved that Dyumatsena should occupy the throne again, as he was its rightful and worthy heir. For them it did not matter even if he was blind. Thus, imploring him to return and assume the reins of the kingdom, they told him further that the full army was also ready, with all its four divisions at his command. Then, seeing the King with his sight regained, and in good health, they were happily surprised, and bowed down to him.

Dyumatsena made his respectful obeisances to the Rishis, worshipped them, and with their blessings departed for his capital. Shaibya along with Savitri rode a gold-embroidered and richly decorated car and, accompanied by the army, left the hermitage. At the capital, the priests sprinkled holy water and performed the coronation ceremony of Dyumatsena; Satyavan was also made the Crown-Prince. In the course of time all the boons of Yama given to Savitri got fulfilled.

Completing the narration of the Tale of Savitri to Yudhishthira, Markandeya told him that by her devotion, and by suffering greatly for her husband, the young pious lady had not only saved him from doom; she also brought prosperity to both the families. The Rishi assured the exiled and melancholy King that Draupadi too, in the manner of Savitri, would be the fortune-bringer for the Pandavas.


The Message

Rishi Markandeya recounts the story of Savitri to Yudhishthira, essentially with the intention of consoling him and encouraging him out of his plight of grief and suffering. He has lost his kingdom in a game of dice and has been ordered to stay in the forest for a period of twelve years, which is to be followed by one year of dwelling in disguise. Exiled and stripped of the kshatriya-pride, all the five brothers, and with them their common wife Draupadi, accept the lot that has fallen on them. But their miseries are not yet over with this ordeal alone. Even in the forest the Pandavas are constantly harassed and persecuted by their enemy. The loss of royalty is no doubt very painful to them; but the evil treatment given to their wife is more distressing and is the main cause of their melancholy and their agony. There can be no greater insult to an upright person than to witness, in a state of unmanly helpless¬ness, the humiliation of a woman. On an earlier occasion, Draupadi was dragged into the Assembly Hall with none of the elders coming to her rescue; later on, in the forest, she was abducted by Jayadratha. It is in this mood of dejection that Yudhishthira enquires of Markandeya whether he had met or heard of any woman who, despite being chaste and virtuous, had to bear the inner wounds the way Draupadi did. The Rishi’s narrating the story of Savitri is not only to provide a parallel by way of an illustration. He pronounces the ideal of womanhood and elaborates further how conduct in the dharma can be a means of proper salvation in all the circumstances of life. Virtue never goes unrewarded. The deep sorrow by which Savitri had been afflicted turned finally into happiness. By her devotion and by suffering greatly for the sake of her husband, the young pious lady had not only saved him from doom but also brought prosperity to both the houses. Markandeya assures that Draupadi too, because of her nobility and chaste conduct, shall prove to be a fortune-bringer to the Pandavas.

Alleviation of grief and suffering is the one immediate purpose of the narration; but suggestions are made at various levels, ranging from the mundane-social to the profound occult-spiritual. A whole culture, based on truth-values, and the two interpenetrating into each other, is what this little episode brings vividly to us from a time that itself was moulded by the thought-vision of a Rishi-poet. A kind of heroism emerges in upholding all that is noble and elevating, a heroism that brings prosperity not only in life here in this world but afterwards beyond too. Righteous conduct turns out to be its own reward. To follow the Path of the True in an evil circumstance of existence is itself the process of eliminating that circumstance and transcending it. The great have done it and made the way sure and safe. They have accepted miseries and misfortunes of life, only to deal with them in the conviction and strength of their ideals and principles. In the economy of nature a positive gain is registered by their actions. A firm new ground is conquered for the spirit’s glory. To know of such path-finders and leaders is also to walk in the safety of their lead.

It appears that in the midst of life’s harshness, Yudhishthira’s faith in the efficacy of the dharma, though sterling and incontingent, got shaken. In that mood of despondency, a situation almost amounting to a crisis of consciousness has arisen in him. He is puzzled how Draupadi, fair and noble, ever virtuous in her conduct, could have been a victim to the cruelty, the uncouthness of the world. She was born from the Fire-Altar, Yajna-Kunda, without undergoing the trauma of the ordinary mortal birth and yet it looked as though she was sub-jected to Time and Fate and the workings of Nature. She had never committed any sin, and from the worldly vices she was ever free; she had never misbehaved, nor was she guilty of any selfishness. Her chastity was that of a sacrificial flame, and she always offered her services and obeisances to the learned and the wise, to the Brahmins and to the noble and the holy, the high-souled. Why then did she suffer? This could be the real query of Yudhishthira, but he puts it in a different sense: he wants to know whether in the entire history of earth there was any woman who was afflicted in life, like Draupadi, and had to brave misfortunes such as hers, whether there was another woman beaten with the “rods of grief and pain” in spite of being straight and pious in life’s conduct.

Markandeya’s answer in the course of the narrative, while assuaging Yudhishthira’s grief and suffering, moves over to the triumph of dharma in the conflict of life. Savitri’s case is taken as an example to illustrate the point. Her woe is as though it has become the quintessence of the woe of the entire world. She has made her choice in Satyavan as her husband, but he is doomed to die one year after their marriage. She had the foreknowledge of the event, and yet she did not deviate from her decision. Savitri, when advised by her father to choose another youth for a husband, asserts her firm resolve and tells him:

May he be of a short life or a long life, with virtuous qualities or else without them; I have chosen him as my husband and I shall choose not again. By perception does one first come to a certain conclusion and then one holds it by speech; only afterwards is it put into action. That perception of mine for me is the one single authority here.

It is this inner perception, the dharma of her soul, that is more sacred to her than all the gains of life or of death. She cherishes it as the best guiding principle and is willing to sacrifice everything else for its sake. Narad immediately recognises the very spiritual quality of her statement and tells the King:

O Great among men, firm and unperturbed is the understanding and discernment of your daughter Savitri; none can swerve her from that and in every respect it is in conformity with the dharma.

He recommends Savitri’s marriage with Satyavan and blesses them. Values more than even love are thus held supreme, values for which alone life becomes worth living.

Compared with Savitri’s calamity, knowingly to face the consequences of Fate’s evil edict, Draupadi’s plight was of a relatively minor character. It was therefore possible for the Pandavas, and for Draupadi, to take help from the fortitude of righteousness upheld by Aswapati’s daughter. She has shown the way. “Driven from within she followed her long road.” She finally succeeded. The path of truth-virtue, difficult and slippery though it might be, has been proved to be the path of happiness and salvation. The sage enjoins on Yudhishthira to accept it and to take courage by it. Indeed, he is suggesting Savitri’s being “driven from within” as the true motive-force in all actions, and Yudhishthira too must live by it. Therein are the greatest and surest values. It is in them that the lumi¬nous commerce of the creation can really flourish. Leaders and thinkers of society, the wise and the learned, the law-givers and the sages, Rishis and Yogis, even the gods, therefore strive to establish these values, this conduct of righteousness, this being “driven from within” for life’s fulfilment. Participation of the gods in this endeavour can be to a very large extent a guarantee of its success. Bright Guardians of the Law of the Truth, they actively support and promote this adventure of the soul’s progress in the Light of a greater Destiny. In this earthly welfare is also their own welfare. It is towards this that there is the common commitment of Man and God, commitment to uphold the Dharma.

King Aswapati is issueless. He is a performer of the Yajnas, is skilful in work, has the welfare of the State at his heart, gives away great charities, is a follower of the dharma, has subdued his senses, is of a forgiving nature, and is always a speaker of truth; but he has no child. This is a blemish in the fulfilment of the dharma and therefore must be removed. To beget a son is to assure the continuity of the ancestral line; it is only then that the duties in the conduct of the dharma can perpetuate the order unimpaired. The maintenance of the virtuous race, of a heroic community, is the social concern of a good patriarchal ruler and he must see that there is no break in it. There will be otherwise a breakdown of the structure itself. It is also the pride and fulfilment of man’s manhood, the grihastha-glory, by which he establishes his superiority in life. To beget children is man’s manliness. Indeed, without it he cannot enter into the next stage of life, of Vanaprastha. After his death the funeral rites have to be performed by his son, and without them entry into heaven is also not possible. Tradition upholds the propagation of the race as a part of the dharma. The ancient Rishis prayed to the gods, and asked for a long life, and for plenty and progeny. They considered the richnesses of the earth without children to be incomplete. And the gods too, understanding the necessity for the maintenance of the Law, granted to the righteous aspirants such boons. There is in fact a relationship of mutuality between the two: it is in sacrifice that the gods grow and, for the sacrifice to go on, the race of the righteous must continue. It is that which drives the wheels of life’s superior urges.

Retiring to the forest for a period of eighteen years, Aswapati resorts to severe austerities. He performs Savitri-Yajna and offers to the Goddess a hundred-thousand, śata-sahastra, oblations every day. It is by the alchemy of sacrifice that a wish or a desire can receive a fulfilling boon. Aswapati’s desire for a son was actually of a noble character, and was meant for a noble cause; it was for the continuance of the holy Yajna itself. Besides, and more importantly, there was a great devotion in the performance of the sacrifice. The Goddess Savitri, therefore, exceedingly glad as she was with the worship, emerges from the sacrificial flames and speaks to Aswapati; very graciously she tells him to ask for an appropriate boon:

O King sovereign, I am immensely pleased by your purity and chastity, by your abstinence and self-restraint, the observance of the rules of austerity, and all the heart with which you worshipped me in devotion. O Aswapati, Ruler of Madra, ask what you desire, the boon; falter not in any way, in performance of the duties of the dharma.

It is indeed in the spirit of this non-faltering that Aswapati reveals the purpose of his long and arduous tapasya and prays to Savitri:

O Goddess, it was with the intention of begetting children for performing religious rites, that I had initiated this holy sacrifice; grant several sons that the line of my ancestors may grow. If so pleased Thou art, O Goddess, I ask for this one boon that I entreat of Thee; the twice-born, the wise of the world, tell me that the proper begetting of progeny is a great dharma.

The Goddess is ready with the boon; she had already mentioned it to Brahma, her Father,—about Aswapati’s performance of the Yajna for a child. Brahma in his all-wisdom bestows on him, through Savitri, the boon of the birth of an effulgent daughter. It looks as though the Goddess herself has taken this birth. Savitri’s taking birth as a princess is therefore charged with the mission of maintaining the dharma in the world. And because this birth is a sanction from the Supreme himself, it is the highest Dharma that she will uphold here, even in the face of Death. Mortality shall therefore know the most benevolent Law for its redemption. Dharma’s triumph in this creation is Savitri’s one single concern and her sole task. She has hence accepted suffering in life for the fulfilment of the most praiseworthy purpose.

Aswapati was a strict follower of the path of the dharma. Even in his conjugal relationship he had adopted the prescribed injunctions. When a daughter was born to him he attended to her birth-rites, jātakarma, and named her Savitri, as was advised by the family-priests. Savitri was brought up in a holy spirituo-religious atmosphere, and was given good education in the various branches of learning. She not only knew the worldly lores, but also acquired great mastery in the Yoga of Meditation. On a certain festive religious occasion when she carried prasād to her father, she paid obei¬sances to him, and stood respectfully by his side. When she went from place to place in quest of her life’s partner, she visited several hermitages and gave away great wealth to the Brahmins, and the learned. When her father had asked her to go in search again, after Narad had made the prophecy of Satyavan’s death, she quoted sayings from the scriptures, and politely stuck to her own decision. After her marriage she served her parents-in-law most affectionately, though they were exiles and were living a life of forest hermits. Then, abnegating her own self, she made her life a sacrifice for the sake of her beloved husband. By her sweet and loving humble manners, she had become dear to the sages of the Ashram. Indeed, she was ever “driven from within”, and her utterances always rang a yogic note. A large share of credit of such an upbringing must certainly go to her father. The daughter’s education in the Vedic tradition is a responsibility of the father, and Aswapati had fulfilled it well. A kind of completeness in the worldly duties is a part of the dharmic conduct which he followed fully; it gives a certain wholesomeness to life itself. Aswapati’s accepting Narad’s advice to arrange for the marriage of Savitri with Satyavan only goes to show his high regard for the sage who was his teacher and preceptor. It needs indeed tremendous courage to stand by his words when the doom is made known. Aswapati is aware that what is decreed is unavoidable, and must be borne with the fortitude of the dharma. A very excep-tional aspect of Aswapati’s character emerges in his abiding by the words of his spiritual preceptor in the most adverse situation of life. There is a secret foundation of faith in the dharma, and in the values of noble conduct, on which the entire visible edifice is built. Aswapati has that faith, and he carries a conviction within him that, ultimately everything will turn out to be beneficial and happy. Fate shall be ineffective in the face of dharma. Narad’s unexpected visit to him at this crucial juncture is itself a pointer in the direction of a happy ending. It looks as though a high predestined concern is there in every detail of life for the establishment of dharma here. He ever listened to “other sounds than meet the sense-formed ear”. Thus, though “like one who ever sits facing Fate”, Aswapati remained calm and contented. This poise in dharma is the real key to success, irrespective of the adversities of this world, or of other invisible ones.

The little Savitri-episode, even like the mammoth of the Mahabharata, presents to us, every now and then, instances and aspects of daily life founded on principles of the dharma. That seems to be the common thread weaving the whole of the narrative. Be it the marriage proposal, or the coronation ceremony, or the funeral rites, all have to be conducted according to the prescribed norms, norms that have been evolved—and renewed—by the learned Brahmins and sages, the fulfilled souls. Aswapati retires to the forest to perform the Yajna and returns, after getting the boon, to rule again over the kingdom. Exiled Dyumatsena lives the life of a king-sage but has no hesitation in going back to the capital to resume his rule as soon as the kingdom comes to him once more. The duty of the kshatriya, of the warrior-prince, has to be performed for the full maintenance of the social order. For him this duty is his dharma, and is above everything, even above sagehood at this stage. The sages of the forest approved of it. And the sages too, though ever absorbed in tapasya, and given to spiritual practices, were not world-shunning recluses, cut off from the stream of active life. Indeed, they participated in life in a great manner for its fullness; but that participation was from an entirely different level where the worldly and non-worldly conflicts do not exist. To put it in the words of Sri Aurobindo’s Savitri:


One-souled to all and free from narrowing bonds,
Large like a continent of warm sunshine
In wide equality’s impartial joy,
These sages breathed for God’s delight in things. ||99.42||

Assisting the slow entries of the gods,
Sowing in young minds immortal thoughts they lived,
Taught the great Truth to which man’s race must rise
Or opened the gates of freedom to a few,
Imparting to our struggling world the Light
They breathed like spirits from Time’s dull yoke released,
Comrades and vessels of the cosmic Force,
Using a natural mastery like the sun’s:
Their speech, their silence was a help to earth. ||99.43||


In the Vyasa-tale of Savitri itself we have an illustration of how the sages participated in human affliction, as much as in jubilation. Savitri has won back the soul of Satyavan from Yama, but they are late in returning to the Ashram. Dyumatsena is very worried about his son’s fate, and is tormented by horrible ominous thoughts. He goes around, from place to place, almost in madness, enquiring about him from everybody. The Brahmins of the Ashram, speakers of the Truth-Word, console him in various ways. Thus Suvarchas tells him:

His wife Savitri, I know, is engaged in tapasya and has control over the senses, and is of a good well-poised conduct; from that I can proclaim that Satyavan is alive.

Similarly, Gautama asserts:

I have studied the Vedas and all their six limbs, accumulated great might of askesis, observed the strictest celibacy from my early youth, and pleased well my preceptors and the Fire-God. I have com¬pleted, with the power of concentration, all the vows and in former times I had observed meticulously the fasting-rites by nourishing myself with the air only. I can, by the strength of these faultless austerities, know all the movements of others; take, therefore, what I assert to be true, that Satyavan is living.

On an earlier occasion, on the fated day, Savitri, after completing the three-night vow, had gone to the various sages to pay her respects and receive their blessings. They all had wished her auspicious things dear to a young woman, and a life without widowhood. Life’s plenty and penance were ever combined harmoniously in their living.

It looks as though by acquiring worldly lores, and laurels too, the path of the spirit itself becomes surer and more definite. For instance, Gautama. He had studied all the Vedas, and the six Vedangas consisting of Shiksha, Chhandas, Vyakarana, Nirukta, Kalpa, and Jyotisha—that is, Phonetics, Metres, Grammar, Etymology, Religious Practices, and Astronomy. Savitri too was well-versed in several of these branches, as was attested by Yama himself. He has snatched the soul of Satyavan and is proceeding towards the South, his abode. Savitri follows him, disregarding his advice to return, and tells him:

Wheresoever is taken my husband, or wheresoever he goes of his own, there must I follow him, that is the eternal dharma, the conduct of righteousness. By austerity, devotion to the preceptors, love for the husband, observance of the holy vow, and by your noble grace, there is nothing that my going can arrest. Knowers of the science of reality proclaim that, by taking seven steps with a person, a friendly relationship is established with him; honouring our friendship in that respect, I shall tell you something to which I request you to listen. Those who are not self-possessed, even though they may stay in a forest, they cannot practise dharma, or go by the preceptors, or undertake difficult austerities. The wise, who know discrimination, hold happiness to lie in the dharma alone; therefore do the sages give to dharma such pre-eminence. Following one’s own dharma, approved by those who are established in the truth, one knows the path which takes one to the goal; therefore, one should not covet the second, or the third, any other person’s dharma: such is the dharma which the sages hold to be excellent.

Yama is immensely pleased and replies

O Unblamable, return now; in true accent and knowing the letters well and making the right use of the words, and with the proper reasoning that you speak, I am pleased with you. Ask for a boon which I shall grant, but excluding life for the dead.

Abandoing the world, the sages established themselves in dharma to uphold the world. The esoteric and the secular merged into one manner and pursuit. There is no dichotomy in their dealing with them.

Indeed, even the gods participate in the matter of upholding the dharma in the world. Brahma’s bestowing the boon of an effulgent daughter, kanyā tejasvinī, to Aswapati is a shining illustration of the Creator’s participation in the entire process of the creation. Gautama recognised this effulgent daughter to be none other than Goddess Savitri herself, Brahma’s own daughter. She has now come here as an incarnate power to uphold the Order of the World. She must do that by confronting Death who is as though epitomising all the opposition to Dharma.

Satyavan’s death is not an ordinary mortal’s death. Yama himself has come to seize his soul, and to take it away along with him. When Savitri asks him why he did not send his subordinates for this purpose, he replies to her:

As he is conjoined in the dharma, and has beautiful features, and is an ocean of noble qualities, guŋa sāgara, it is not in propriety that he be taken by my ministers; for this reason I have come myself in person.

Satyavan’s sanctioned life is over, and he must now be taken away; but none dare touch that nobility except the Lord of the Dharma himself. And if the Order of the World is to be maintained, then he must do what is preordained. Yama is simply following the Law obtaining in the mortal creation. However, Savitri cannot accept this Law; Satyavan has not fulfilled his life’s dharma here yet, and Yama cannot sever his life’s cord. There is thus a direct confrontation between the two. But, behind the figure of Death, Savitri sees a larger divinity operating in the cosmic workings and it is to this divinity that she addresses her prayer and solicitation. No doubt, there is presently an occult need for life to grow through the process of death; but, at some stage, a moment has to come when this should not be necessary. Death is a habit, and is not indispensable. She therefore appeals to that divinity that, for the higher fulfilment of the dharma, the full run of Satyavan’s life must be allowed. Yama should not terminate it; he should not force the soul to leave the body with the work only half-done, left incomplete. Her plea is not to the figure of Yama dark in hue, with blood-red eyes, and with a noose in his hand, but to Dharmaraj in all his gracious and glowing nobility. To this Lord of the Dharma Savitri offers high eulogies in utterances of the Truth and tells him:

You are the mighty son of Vivasvan, and that is why the learned call you Vaivasvat; to all the creatures you are fair, and you uphold the dharma. For that reason you are, O Lord, also known as Dharmaraj. More than himself does a man put his trust in the sages and so everyone gives more of his love in particular to them. Only, with a good heart can the living beings find trust in one another, and hence the sages are particularly trusted by everybody… Holy people ever abide in the dharma and do not the sages despair, nor are they afflicted any time. Such a company or fellowship of the pious with the saints is never without rewards or fruits. Never is for them any fear from the saints. By the Truth the saints lead the sun; by askesis the saints uphold the earth; the past, present and future find their refuge in the saints. Noble persons in the midst of the saints have never any grief. Those endowed with nobility honour and serve the dharmic practices of eternal value; in that they strive for the supreme good of one another and at each other do not look otherwise. Benedictions of the persons established in the Truth go never unfulfilled; neither in them is the ill of selfishness, nor is there the wounded sense of lost pride; and because such three qualities are ever present in the saints, they are hailed as the protectors of the world.

Yama, pleased as he was with these Truth-utterances, salutary for the welfare of the world, grants her a boon:

O devoted and chaste Lady, the more in well-adorned verses, full of great significance and agreeable to perception, you speak of the noble things conformable to the dharma, the more does my excellent devotion for you increase; therefore choose yet another but an appropriate boon from me.

Savitri had already received from Yama a boon for a hundred sons, noble and heroic in deed, well-born, extending the glory of the house; but she wanted these sons to be born out of her union with, Satyavan. Therefore she re-asserts:

O Destroyer of Pride, this boon which you have granted me is of a different kind than the earlier ones, and it cannot be fulfilled without proper matrimony; that is why, again, I ask you for the life of Satyavan without whom as a husband I am as good as dead. If I am to get such pleasure without my husband, I will abstain from it; even if heaven were offered to me, I would not enter it without my husband; I am not anxious to possess wealth or fortune if it is without my husband; actually, I do not wish even to exist without my husband. You have given me the boon of a hundred sons, and yet you yourself are taking my husband away; for that reason I again ask the boon of life for Satyavan by which your words shall come true.

Yama, the Dharmaraj, genuinely impressed with these words of Savitri, releases the noose from around the soul of Satyavan and, delighted, speaks to her:

0 gracious Lady, here I free your husband, O Daughter doing honour to the House; by your words possessed with the merit of the dharma, O saintly Woman, you have fully gladdened me. Take him now, of sound health and fit to return, to accomplish your desire which shall come true soon. He shall have a life of four hundred years to live with you; also, by performing the holy Yajnas of fire-sacrifice, and by the conduct of the dharma, he shall be renowned in the world.

Satyavan comes back with a new life. God has fulfilled himself in creation. By the power of words carrying the merit of the dharma, utterances in the nature of the mantra that can actualise what is spoken, Savitri has won him to accomplish her desire in the world. The holy Yajna is kindled again and a new fire leaps to the skies. And in that new fire of Yajna earth’s plenitudes grow, grow like the richly shining abundances of heaven itself.

Savitri saw in Yama a great God who could fulfil her desire. And it was the desire of the daughter of Brahma himself, she the one who had come to earth to help her grow in the completeness of the dharma. Mighty powers seem to have converged towards the accomplishment of this single goal. Satyavan’s death and resurrection appear to be charged with tremendous occult significances. No wonder, Narad had visited Aswapati carrying the Word of Fate to “steel the will of Savitri”!

Yama as the son of Vivasvan is the Ordainer who governs the world by the Law of the Truth-Light, by divine Illumination. The Sun-God Vivasvan, in his various aspects is the Fosterer, the Seer, the Ordainer, the illumining Sun, the power of the Father of creatures. “His realm is described as the Truth, the Law, the Vast. He is the Fosterer or Increaser, for he enlarges and opens man’s dark and limited being into a luminous and infinite consciousness. He is the sole Seer, Seer of Oneness and Knower of the Self, and leads him to the highest Sight. He is Yama, Controller or Ordainer, for he governs man’s action and manifested being by the direct Law of the Truth, satya-dharma, and therefore by the right principle of our nature, yathā-tathyatāh, a luminous power proceeding from the Father of all existence, he reveals in himself the divine Purusha of whom all beings are the manifestations.” [Sri Aurobindo, The Upanishads, p. 67] Savitri’s eulogies and solicitations were essentially to this noble Yama who is the upholder of the Satya-Dharma. The new life for Satyavan that she has claimed back from him comes, therefore, charged with the very luminous breath of this Dharma of the Truth. She has established something new in the process on this earth. That something new was her heart’s desire fulfilled by the blessings of Yama. She was always “driven from within” towards this.

Hence Vyasa’s Savitri-tale, in its essential message, speaks to us about the Path of Righteousness, the Path which, while it unfolds itself, becomes at the same time its own goal, its own destiny. It has been laid out from high above and like a river, while running its course here, becomes its own sea. The two are one in the supreme Dharma. The gods protect the Path and keep it safe for treading, and the sages upbear it like the Truth’s Sun to live in its light, and the incarnate power brings to its glories newer dimensions of manifestation. This sacredness is not only cherished as a prized gift, but also taken as a dynamic means to achieve progress. In it is the plenty of happiness and all the riches of truth-living grow in it as does the harvest with rain and sunshine. Vyasa sings the lauds of the Path. He, by putting it in the context of the issues and conflicts of existence, gives to it an extra-sharp edge of effectivity, even amounting to its inevitability in the balance of forces. Savitri, Aswapati’s daughter, has herself shown how this balance of forces can be decisively tilted, through inner sacrifice, in favour of the dharmically fulfilled life. What Savitri received from Yama has turned out to be the greatest and the finest boon, perhaps unparalleled in the whole spiritual history of the earth.

However, it must be noted that Vyasa, while delivering to us this message of the righteous conduct in life, does not care to go into several questions of metaphysics which, from a certain logical point of view, could be considered rather necessary for the completeness of the narrative’s structure. For instance, we are not told why Brahma granted the boon of a daughter to Aswapati when he wanted to have sons for the continuance of his ancestral line. He was, on the contrary, told not to have any reservation in accepting what was being given to him. Aswapati, recognising it to be the will of the Creator himself, which should ultimately be for his good, submits to it in all humility. But the immediate reason for such a boon not conforming to the solicitant’s wishes remains still unknown, and puzzling, to us. Similarly, we do not know why Satyavan’s life was preordained to be short, only to end one year after his marriage with Savitri. Of course, we must admit that the poet has taken enough care to provide answers to such questions in another form in the sequel to the happenings. He has done ample poetic justice to these events by presenting them as deep imponderables of life. In fact, he has very satisfactorily and convincingly incorporated them, albeit tacitly, in the framework of an entire occult working. Besides, there is the knowledge of the tradition and, hence, it is not so much obligatory for him to explicitly spell out everything. We can quite well understand the poet immediately capitalising on this knowledge of the tradition for his purposes. After all, he had not set himself out to write a treatise on the metaphysical foundations of cosmic operations. In the present narrative his chief or primary concern is to convey and to drive home, with the force of his poetry’s logic, the importance of truth-values in the conduct of life. Vyasa has in that process established, through this little episode, which at the same time is epically grand and vast in proportion, the all-pervasive character of the Satya-Dharma held so high by the saints and by the gods. What protects has to be dearly clung to and ever embraced. It has to be breathed all the time, made an integral aspect of our daily activities. Indeed, while it constitutes the true and total essentiality, the very stuff of the whole existence itself, it must turn out in the operative part of life’s conduct, in our day-to-day functionings, to be in the state of being “driven from within”. Satya-Dharma in the world is precisely this state, and it is in it that the poet-seer wants us to live; he wants us to base our life’s actions upon it. Yudhishthira is thus enjoined by Markandeya to enter into this state of being “driven from within” and thus fulfil the Satya-Dharma on the earth. The Rishi then assures him that, not only will all his calamities disappear from him, but he shall also discover that this path is truly the path of salvation. The pressure of the narrative therefore brings with a tremendous persuasiveness the efficacy of the Satya-Dharma in the transactions of life.

At the behest of Brahma Savitri, to accomplish his purpose in the creation, takes birth as Aswapati’s daughter. The Father-Creator has missioned her with the task of re-establishing Dharma in the face of Death. It is perhaps out of it that a new order shall emerge. The world has until now been running the same course under the stars, and this must change into the illumination of the everlasting day. Only when the past, its force spent, is eliminated from the path, and the karmic load ultimately symbolised embodied by Death removed, can the higher Law born of the supreme Wisdom be founded here. Aswapati’s tapasya seen in this context turns out to be an invocation to this divine Power, the World-Force, in the figure of Savitri who should descend and bring about the miracle of transformation. And who else could have been more fit to father such a flaming daughter, such a kanyā tejasvinī, than Aswapati himself? It looks as though the opportune moment, the auspicious muhurta, has arrived and issues and events must now be precipitated towards the commissioning of the New Order. For this to happen, the World-Force must agree to descend, and there must be the sanction of the Supreme. The sanction has come in response to the invocation from the earth; this invocation was necessary, and Aswapati’s long and arduous yoga-tapasya of eighteen years carried in it the cry of the mortal creature himself. Now the process must be set in motion. Savitri is born. She meets Yama, walks with him seven steps and thereby establishes a friendly relationship with him, asks back the soul of Satyavan that they may together work out the Creator’s will here. The Upholder of the Law is made to break the well-founded Law; he is persuaded to do so, and he consents to it. Satyavan, “sound of health”, returns with a life of four hundred years, symbolising perfection, to perform the holy rites of Fire-Sacrifice. The boon is of the benign godhead.

To get back the soul of Satyavan was certainly the desire of Savitri’s heart. But, actually, she saw a more fundamental issue in the matter. Satyavan has just completed his Brahmacharyashrama, the life of celibate studentship, and entered into the next stage of the household, the Grihasthashrama. But Yama comes too soon, and snaps his life-breath. If the four ages, ashramas, of man have the authority of the Wise, of the Dharma itself, then Yama’s action is in direct conflict with it. He proclaims Satyavan’s soul to be beautiful, fixed in dharma, and an ocean of noble qualities and, at the same time, denies him the full measure of life to carry out his fourfold duties prescribed by the Satya-Dharma. In that process the Ordainer himself is destroying the Order. Indeed, as the four ashramas fulfil each other, Satyavan’s Brahmacharyashrama itself then remains incomplete, unfulfilled. Savitri’s dialectics, so to say, wins over Yama. The Law-upholder by breaking the Law, an apparent anomaly, becomes the benefactor of the creatures. His grace transcends all rules and all constraints, and comes as a definitive force in the forward march of the manifesta¬tion. If the saints lead the sun by the truth, then Yama himself as the supreme Saint, Dharmaraj, upholds the creation by the Satya-Dharma.

The little Savitri-tale therefore becomes the Tale of the Triumph of the Satya-Dharma in the World.

The Harmony of Virtue, p. 155 ↩

Sri Aurobindo on Himself, p. 265 ↩


The Story of Savitri: The True Essence of Love and Friendship
Long long ago, there ruled a king named Ashvapati. He was a pious and virtuous man. However, he had no offspring. To acquire the same he resorted to a rigorous regimen of discipline, which included eating only a minimal amount of food at a specific time of the day and keeping the mind and body under strict control. Every day he would pour offerings into the sacred fires, accompanied by a hundred thousand chantings of the Gayatri mantra. After eighteen years, the goddess Gayatri was finally pleased with his devotion and manifested herself before him saying: “King! I am happy with your self-discipline and control over the senses. Ask whatever boon you want.”

Goddess Gayatri

The king replied: “Kindly grant me a son to carry on my family name forward. The goddess gave an intriguing reply: “Dear king, I have already spoken to Lord Brahma regarding your desire for a son. However, he has instructed me to instead grant you a daughter who will outshine the world with her qualities. We should not question nor doubt Brahma’s judgement.” The king bowed and with folded hands accepted the divine plan laid out before him.

Soon a daughter was born to him, whom he named Savitri, another name for goddess Gayatri, by whose grace he had been blessed. Savitri grew up to be so beautiful that anyone who saw her took her for a divine being rather than human. Her personality was powerful and luminous, so much so that she outshone all princes who thought of winning her hand.

One day, she made an appearance before her father to pay obeisance to him. She stood before him with folded hands. Seeing his fully grown daughter who had not yet been sought out by a suitor made the king extremely sad and he spoke out: “Dear daughter, the time is ripe for me to hand you over to a suitable husband. However, none has come forward to ask for your hand. Therefore, as per the scriptures, please go ahead and choose a husband yourself, someone who equals you in qualities. Let me know of the person of your choice and after due consideration, I will marry you off to him. Don’t worry, whatever I am asking you to do is strictly according to Dharma only because the scriptures say: ‘A father who does not give away his daughter at the suitable age is contemptible; a husband who does not have physical relations with his wife just following the days of her monthly cycle is contemptible; and the son who does not look after his widowed mother is contemptible.’ Hence, for my sake, so that I am not a culprit in the eyes of the gods, please go ahead and start looking for a suitable boy yourself.”The king then instructed his elderly ministers to make necessary preparations for the trip and also asked them to accompany Savitri on her journey. The princess, though bashful, did not even for a moment doubt her father’s words, and set immediately out to fulfil his wish. Accompanied by her father’s mature and trusted advisors, she sat on a golden chariot and set out to the forests and various places of pilgrimage to seek out a husband for herself.

Some days later she returned to her father’s house. By chance, the great sage Narada too was visiting them at that time. The virtuous Savitri touched the saint’s feet with her head. On her father’s enquiry she revealed that she had seen a king who had lost his eyesight and consequently his kingdom, and who had retired to the forests to practice severe penances there. He had a son named Satyavan, who though born in the city, had been raised and brought up in the forests only. It was him that Savitri had chosen as her husband.

Hearing this, Narada exclaimed that Savitri had unknowingly brought misfortune on herself. Even though undoubtedly Satyavan was unmatched in terms of qualities, he was destined to live for only one more year. The king pleaded with his daughter to select another man for marriage. To this the great Savitri replied: “Father! Just like wealth is divided between brothers only once, a daughter too is given only once. Whether he have a long life or a short one, whether he is full of virtues or devoid of them; I have already chosen him as my husband and can therefore never chose another. First it is the mind that decides what’s to be done, then the speech utters it and finally we perform the action. It is my mind’s firm decision to have him and only him as my husband.”

Savitri Satyavan (Bengali)

Narada applauded Savitri’s speech saying that she had a firm mind and could not be deviated from the path of Dharma. He then told the king that it was best that she be married to Satyavan only. The king answered: “O sage! You are my guru. Your wish is my command. I will start off immediately to seek the permission of the groom’s parents.”

Savitri’s father used his chariot only till the edge of the forest. From there he proceeded on foot to where the hut of the blind king was. He introduced himself with all humility and requested Satyavan’s father to accept his daughter as a wife for his noble son. The blind king replied: “Sir, we have lost our kingdom and now live in the forest as reclusive hermits performing severe penances. It is not befitting that your princess be subject to the hardships of the forest.”

Savitri’s father replied: “Dear Sir! Pain and pleasure come and go. Me and my daughter both are aware of this. I have come to you with a firm resolution and with great expectations. Please don’t disappoint someone who has taken refuge under you with great hope.” Hearing these humble words, Satyavan’s father was greatly satisfied and respectfully agreed to the match. Savitri and Satyavan were then married in the forest and king Ashvapati, having handed over his daughter along with a large number of gifts to Satyavan, returned to his palace.

Satyavan was delighted to receive the glorious Savitri as his wife and so was she to have him as her husband. After her father had gone, Savitri removed all her ornaments and rich clothes and donned clothes made of barks and leaves as befitting forest-dwellers. Very soon she won the heart of all the residents of the hermitage by her spirit of service, humility, restraint and by acting according to the wishes of the elders. She satisfied her mother-in-law by physical service and gifts of clothes etc. and her father in law by maintaining restraint of speech in his presence. Similarly she gave immense satisfaction to her husband through sweetness of speech, efficiency of her work, maintaining peace in the house and through pleasurable activities when they were alone. Some time elapsed in this manner.However, Savitri, who could not for a single moment let Narada’s words out of her mind, was in constant turmoil. The day soon approached when Satyavan was to give up his body. His devoted wife was counting each day and four days before, she took a severe vow (Vrata) that she would remain standing for three nights and days without taking any food. On seeing her strict regimen the father in law was extremely pained and addressed her thus: “O Princess! You have taken up a very tough Vrata. It is very difficult to be without food for three days.”Savitri said: “Father, please don’t worry. I will complete this Vrata. The cause of success of a Vrata is the firmness of one’s resolve only. I have taken it up only after making a firm decision.” Satyavan’s father then blessed her for the successful completion of her Vrata.

Savitri, reduced to a lifeless piece of wood, spent the last night standing immersed in the thought that tomorrow would be the last day of her husband’s life. The next morning, after finishing her early morning chores, she went down to seek the blessings of her in-laws and the elderly Brahmins of the hermitage. All answered her with words which blessed her with a long married life. Savitri became situated in Dhyana Yoga and received these words into her heart with the silent acceptance: ‘This is how it will be’.

Sometime later in the day, her in-laws addressed lovingly said to her: “Dear Daughter! You have successfully finished your Vrata. Now the time has come for you to take food.” Savitri replied: “Father, after sunset when I have achieved my desire, only then will I take food.This is my firm resolve.”

As she was speaking these words, Satyavan, putting an axe on his shoulders was setting out to gather wood for the sacred fires (Agni) from the forest. Savitri requested that she too wanted to accompany him. Satyavan tried to dissuade her by pointing out that the trails of the forest were difficult and as it is she was considerably weakened by her severe fast. Savitri however replied that she was not feeling any weakness at all due to the fast and was very desirous of accompanying him and therefore he should not say no to her. Seeing her enthusiasm, Satyavan agreed but asked her to take the permission of his parent’s first. She went before her in-laws, bowed her head before them and said: “Dear Parents, it’s been a year and I have never stepped out of the hermitage. It is my heart’s desire to go along with my husband today and see the beauty of the forest.” Her father-in-law replied: “Daughter, ever since you have come here you have not asked for anything. This is the first time you expressed a desire for something. Go daughter, May God fulfil your desire.”

Thus did Savitri, after having obtained permission from both her in-laws set out with her husband towards the deep forests. Outwardly she seemed normal and happy but inside she was burning in the fire of torment. Her loving husband meanwhile, oblivious of his impending fate, set out to entertain his wife by pointing out the beauties of the forest. Savitri was constantly watching over her husband. She was convinced that Narada’s words were definitely going to come true. Walking slowly, Savitri seemed to be divided into two parts – one which followed her husband and the other which dreadfully waited for the looming moment.

Within a small time, Satyavana, with his wife’s help, had collected a basket of fruits. Then he set to split wood with his axe. The hard labor made him sweat and his head began aching. Tormented by the pain he went to his beloved wife and said: “Savitri, today the job of cutting wood tires me out and my head and body are aching. My heart too seems to be burning and I feel as if someone is piercing my head with needles. Dear, I want to sleep. I don’t seem to have enough power to remain standing.”

Hearing this, Savitri rushed to his side and sitting down, placed his head in her lap. Just then there appeared in front of her a divine being wearing red clothes. He was of dark complexion and fierce disposition, and was holding a noose in his hand. He was continuously looking towards Satyavan. Seeing him, she gently placed her husband’s head on the ground and stood up with folded hands. With her heart pounding and voice faltering she said: “Sir, it seems you are a divine being. If you wish can you let me know who you are and what you want to do here?” The divine personage replied: “Savitri, you are a devoted wife (Pativrata) and also lead an ascetic-like life. Therefore, I can converse with you. I am Yamaraja – the god of death. Your husband’s life is over, hence I am going to tie him up and take him with me.” Saying this, Yamaraja tied up the jiva who was the size of a thumb (angushtha-matra), and extracted him from Satyavana’s body. Then, because of losing his Prana, Satyavan stopped breathing, his body lost all lustre and lay lifeless on the ground like an undesirable object. Yamaraja carried off with the jiva in the southern direction. Savitri, beside herself with grief, kept on following him. On way, the following conversation took place between the two – a conversation unparalleled in the annals of world literature:

Yamaraja: Savitri, you should return now and prepare for your husband’s last rites. You gave him company till the very last possible and are now free from any debt towards him.

Savitri: It is a wife’s eternal Dharma to go wherever her husband takes her or go wherever he is going; and this is what I am doing. Due to Tapasya, Guru-Bhakti, love for my husband, performing Vratas and your blessings, I have access to all worlds and hence can follow my husband and you. Wise persons say that two people become friends even if they have walked seven steps together (and we have already covered more ground). Keeping this friendship in front of me I will say something, please hear: Situated in one’s own Dharma one reaches the highest goal. One should not desire to follow Dharma other than one’s own. Therefore, virtuous people give preference only to Dharma.

To Savitri’s these words, soaked as they were in Dharma, Yamaraja, also known as Dharmaraja (The King of Dharma) replied:

Yamaraja: Your words are almost like poetry to my ears. Ask any boon you want except for your husband’s life.

Savitri: Lord, my father-in-law has to suffer a lot because of his blindness. I request that his eyesight be restored.

Yamaraja: So be it. You should return now as you look very tired.

Savitri: How can a wife feel any tiredness when she is near her husband? I am going to end up wherever my husband does. Wherever you take him, it is mandatory that I follow you there. Lord, listen to my one more thing. The company of saints (like you) is greatly desirable, even if it be for once only. It is even better to have friendship with them (which I have already developed with you). The company of saints is never futile, it is bound to always yield some happy fruit. Therefore, one should always strive to be in the company of the great.

Yamaraja: Savitri, you have uttered words which are beneficial for all. It conforms exactly to what is held by me too. I am extremely happy at your words. Ask for another boon except that of Satyavan’s life.

Savitri: Please restore my father-in-laws lost kingdom.

Yamaraja: So it will be; and now that your wish has been fulfilled, you can go back.

Savitri: Dear Lord! It is you who control the world through the various rules (Niyama) laid down by you. That is why you are known as Yama. Please listen to what I have to say. Never hurting others either mentally, verbally or physically is the eternal Dharma practiced by virtuous people. Dharma also has compassion and charity as its necessary components. Saints (like yourself) have compassion even towards your enemies who come under your refuge (then how cannot you have compassion upon us who have gained your friendship?).

Yamaraja: Your words are as soothing to me as water is to a thirsty man. Go ahead and ask for any boon except Satyavan’s life.

Savitri: Dear Lord, my father is without a son. Please grant him a hundred sons who can carry his family name forward.

Yamaraja: So will it be. Dear Lady, now that your wish has been fulfilled, go back as you have already come too far.Sati Savitri

Savitri: How can I be far from anywhere when I am near my husband? We can keep walking as you listen to me. You treat all equally according to Dharma, hence you are known as Dharmaraja. Actually, man does not have as much faith in himself as he has in saints like you. One person trusts another due to sympathy and compassion and saints have the maximum compassion in them and so all have faith in them.

Yamaraja: The type of words I have heard from you I have never heard from anyone else. I am very satisfied with what you have said. Ask for a fourth boon, other than his life and then you can return from here.

Savitri: May there be born from me and my husband Satyavan a hundred sons to expand our family name. This is the fourth boon I want from you.

Yamaraja: So be it. There will be born to you a hundred sons who will be a source of immense joy to you. Now go back before you are exhausted.

Savitri: Virtuous people are always engaged in the performance of Dharma. They desire the company of saints and never fear them. Actually, it is the Dharma of the virtuous and Tapasya of the saints which holds up the world. Living under such saints (like you), followers of Dharma (like us) are never subjected to grief. The blessings of saints never go waste. Indeed, they are the ones protecting this world.

Yamaraja: O Chaste Woman! Your voice, loaded with serious import and populated with beautiful words pleases me and my devotion towards you continues to increase more and more. Ask any boon from me.Savitri: Sir, the boon you have given me of a hundred sons is not possible alone without my husband being with me. This boon is not like the other boons I had asked for. Therefore, I request that my husband be restored to life because I am as good as dead without him. If there is any pleasure in this world without my husband I don’t want it. I don’t wish for a heaven without him. I don’t want any riches without him. What more can I say, I do not wish to live without my husband. You have blessed me with a hundred sons, and you yourself are carrying away my husband from me. Therefore, I repeat my request for being reunited with my husband.

Yamaraja replied in the affirmative and released the soul of Satyavan from his bond, blessing Savitri that her name would be immortalized as a source of inspiration till eternity.