Savitri

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Savitri and Satyavan.jpg

Savitri is the name of a noble and devoted wife whose story is narrated in the devoted in he oldest known version of the story of Savitri and Satyavan is found in "The Book of the Forest" of the Mahabharata. The story occurs as a multiple embedded narratives in the Mahabharata as told by Markandeya. When Yudhisthira asks Markandeya whether there has ever been a woman whose devotion matched Draupadi’s, Markandeya replies by relating this story.

Quotes[edit]

  • 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 Satyavan, 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.
In the story of Sāvitrī we have one of the finest of the many ideal female characters which the older epic poetry of India has created. Sāvitrī, daughter of Açvapati, king of Madra, chooses as her husband Satyavat, the handsome and noble son of a blind and exiled king, who dwells in a forest hermitage. Though warned by the sage Nārada that the prince is fated to live but a single year,... - Arthur Anthony Macdonell.
  • In the story of Sāvitrī we have one of the finest of the many ideal female characters which the older epic poetry of India has created. Sāvitrī, daughter of Açvapati, king of Madra, chooses as her husband Satyavat, the handsome and noble son of a blind and exiled king, who dwells in a forest hermitage. Though warned by the sage Nārada that the prince is fated to live but a single year, she persists in her choice, and after the wedding departs with her husband to his father's forest retreat. Here she lives happily till she begins to be tortured with anxiety on the approach of the fatal day. When it arrives, she follows her husband on his way to cut wood in the forest. After a time he lies down exhausted. Yama, the god of death, appears, and taking his soul, departs. As Sāvitrī persistently follows him, Yama grants her various boons, always excepting the life of her husband; but yielding at last to her importunities, he restores the soul to the lifeless body. Satyavat recovers, and lives happily for many years with his faithful Sāvitrī.

Indian epic poetry: being the substance of lectures recently given at Oxford, with a full analysis of the Râmâyana and the leading story of the Mahâ-Bhârata, Volume 1[edit]

Savitri, a lovely daughter of a king Ashwapati, loves Satyavan, the son of an old hermit, but is warned by a seer to overcome her attachments as Satyvan is doomed man, having only one year to live.
...All in an instant she beheld an awful shape
Standing before her, dressed in blood~red garments, with a glittering crown
Upon his head; his form though glowing like the sun, was yet obscure;
And eyes he had like flames, a noose descended from his hand, and he
Was terrible to look upon, by her husband’s side he stood
And gazed upon him with a fiery glance....

Mahabharata translated by Monier Monier-Williams in: Indian epic poetry: being the substance of lectures recently given at Oxford, with a full analysis of the Râmâyana and the leading story of the Mahâ-Bhârata, Volume 1, 1863

  • Savitri, a lovely daughter of a king Ashwapati, loves Satyavan, the son of an old hermit, but is warned by a seer to overcome her attachments as Satyvan is doomed man, having only one year to live.
    • In: p. 37
  • Whether his years are few or many, be he gifted with all the grace
    Or graceless, him my heart has chosen, and it choseth not again.
    • Savitri in: p. 37
  • The kings daughter and the hermits son are therefore married, and the bride strive to forget the ominous prophesy; but as the last day approaches her anxiety becomes irrepressible. She exhausts herself in prayers and penances, hoping to stay the hand of the destroyer; yet all the while dares not reveal the fatal secret to her husband. As the last dreaded day arrives, and Satyavan sets out to cut in the forest. His wife asks leave to accompany him, but with a heavy heart. Satyavan soon makes the wood resound with his hatchet, when suddenly through his temples shoots a thrill of agony, and feeling himself falling he calls out to his wife to support him.
    • In: p. 37
  • Then she received her fainting husband in her arms, and sate herself
    On the cold ground, and gently laid his drooping head upon her lap;
    Sorrowing, she call'd to mind the sage's prophecy, and reckoned up
    The days and hours. All in an instant she beheld an awful shape
    Standing before her, dressed in blood~red garments, with a glittering crown
    Upon his head; his form though glowing like the sun, was yet obscure;
    And eyes he had like flames, a noose descended from his hand, and he
    Was terrible to look upon, by her husband’s side he stood
    And gazed upon him with a fiery glance. Shuddering she started up
    And laid her dying Satyavan upon the ground, and with her hands
    Joined reverently, she thus with beating heart addressed the Shape:
    Surely thou art a god, such form as thine must more than mortal be.
    Tell me, though godlike being, who though art, and wherefore art though here.
    • In: p. 37-38.
  • The figure replies that he is Yama, king of death; that her husband's time is come, and that he must bind and take his spirit.
    • In: p. 38.
  • Then from her husband's body forced he out and firmly with his cord
    Bound and detained the spirit, like in size and ...length to man’s thumb.
    Forthwith the body, bereft of vital being and deprived of breath,
    Lost all its grace and beauty, and became ghastly and motionless.
    • In: p. 38.
  • After binding the spirit, Yama proceeds with it towards his own quarter, the south. The faithful wife follows him closely. Yama bids her go home and prepare her husband’s funeral rites, but she persists in following, till Yama pleased with her devotion grants her any boon she pleases except the life of her husband. She chooses that her husband’s father, who is blind may recover his sight. Yama consents, and bids her now return home. Two other boons are granted in the same way, and still Savitri follows closely on the heels of the king of death. At last, overcome by her constancy, Yama grants a boon without exception. The delighted Savitri exclaims.
    • In: P. 38-39.
  • Nought, mighty king, this time hast thou excepted: let my husband live;
    Without him I desire not happiness, nor even heaven itself;
    Without him I must die. "So be it! faithful wife“, replied the king of death.
    “Thus I release him;” and with that he loosed the cord that bound his soul.
    • In: p. 39.

The Mahabharata: An English Abridgment, with Introduction, Notes, and Review[edit]

Narada came on a visit to Aswapati, and they talked about Savitri's marriage. Just then she came back from her search, and reported that she had chosen Satyavan. Narada acknowledged his great merits, but there was one fatal defect.- he would die within a year...Notwithstanding this, Savithri would have him. After the marriage Savithri took off all her ornaments and clothed herself in bark and cloth dyed red.
...Savitri insisted upon accompanying him. Satyavan suddenly got ill and lay down with his head on Savitri's lap.

Mahabharata in: The Mahabharata: An English Abridgment, with Introduction, Notes, and Review, Christian Literature Society for India, 1898

  • Aswapati, king of the Maduras, for a long time had no children, but at last he had a very beautiful daughter, named Savitri. As no one had asked her in marriage after she had become of full age, her father allowed her to make her own choice.
    • In: p. 56.
  • After a long search she fixed upon Satyavan son of the blind ex-king of the Salvas, living in the forest. His name means “truthful,” and he was distinguished for every excellency.
    • In: p. 56.
  • Narada came on a visit to Aswapati, and they talked about Savitri's marriage. Just then she came back from her search, and reported that she had chosen Satyavan. Narada acknowledged his great merits, but there was one fatal defect.- he would die within a year...Notwithstanding this, Savithri would have him. After the marriage Savithri took off all her ornaments and clothed herself in bark and cloth dyed red.
    • In: p. 56.
  • Savitri counted the days her husband had to live. When he would die on the fourth day, she fasted three days and three nights. On the fourth day when her husband was going to the forest to gather fuel, Savitri insisted upon accompanying him. Satyavan suddenly got ill and lay down with his head on Savitri's lap.
    • In: p. 56.
  • She then saw a dreadful being approaching with a crown on his head, and a noose in his hand. On Savitri asking him who he was, he said that he was Yama, come to take away Satyavan. Yama pulled out of the body of Satyavan his prana, about he size of the thumb.
    • In: p. 56.
  • When Yama went away in a southerly direction, Savitri followed him as the duty of a wife to follow her husband. Yama pleased with her, offered here a succession of boons, excepting the life of her husband. She first asked that her beloved father-in-law might have his sight restored; next that he might regain his kingdom, that he might have a hundred sons, and lastly that her husband might be restored to life. Yama agreed at last, and gave up the prana to her, upon which Satyavan revived and they lived happily 400 years.
    • In: p. 56.

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