Savitri and Satyavan…

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 Narada, 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 blessings 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.

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 Surya, goddess of the supreme Truth who comes down and is born to save; Aswapati, the Deva of the Horse, her human father, is the Deva of Tapasya, the concentrated energy of spiritual endeavour that helps us to rise from the mortal to the immortal planes; Dyumatsena, Deva of the shining’ Hosts, father of Satyavan, is the Divine Mind here fallen blind, losing its celestial kingdom of vision, and through that loss its kingdom of light.

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.

मनसानिश्चयंकृत्वाततोवाचाभिर्धीयते ।
क्रियतेकर्मणापश्चात्प्रमाणंमेमनस्ततः ॥

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.

Savitri Vrata or Savitri Amavasya is a fasting day observed by married Hindu women on the Amavasya, the no moon day in month of Jyeshtha. It is celebrated in the Indian states of Odisha, Bihar, Uttar Pradesh and in Nepal. It is also known as Sabitri Uwaans in Western Odisha region.

Married Hindu women whose husbands are alive observe it as a vow with great dedication and pray for their husband to have a long life. The word reflects the origin and significance of the Vat-Savitri puja. The fast is dedicated to Savitri, who saved her husband Satyavan from being taken by the death god.

Savitri Vrata ki shubhkamnayein!