Food removes hunger, water removes thirst sun
removes darkness, compassion removes anger and
love removes hatred. But devotional worship of God
steers one clear of ail calamities. Because of this.
we find that human beings have been offering ardent
prayers to the Almighty ever since creation. No prayer
to God goes waste as all seekers know and there is no
man who has not had at least some of his prayers
answered. The story of Savitri is a classic example of
the wonderful power of prayer.
Ashwapati was the noble, generous and virtuous king of Madradesh (which was a popular place in
Punjab). The people of Madradesh were very pleased
with their king. One thing, however, made Ashwapati
dissatisfied and sad. He had no issue by his wife. At
last he decided that only gods could fulfill his desire.
Therefore the king decided to go into a deep forest
and worship God. King Ashwapati gave up luxurious life of the palace and began meditating with-out having even food and water. At the time of meditation, he used to forget himself completely and be
totally absorbed in his deeper self. Thus he meditated
The heavenly gods and goddesses became pleased
by Ashawapati's continued meditation and decided to
grant him a boon. According to the boon the king
was to become the father of a baby-girl. After a few
days, while the king was deeply engrossed in meditation
one morning. Goddess Saraswati appeared in his consciousness and said: "0 King A&hawapati! By your
deep meditation the gods and goddesses are pleased,
and on their request I am to take birth as your daughter
by your wife. You are blessed that the gods have
favoured you." Saying these words Goddess Saraswati
disappeared. As his wish was to be fulfilled the king
became very happy and returned to his kingdom.
After some time Queen Malati gave birth to a
female child. King Ashwapati became very happy and
he sent for the astrologer in order to know about the
child's future. Examining the palm of the little child,
the astrologer became wonder-struck regarding her
future. It was evident that her palm foretold that she
was the symbol of the Goddess of Wealth - Laxmi.
Goddess of Knowledge - Saraswati and Goddess of
Character - Parvati. The baby was sure to bring
luck to her parents, brothers, father-in-law, husband and
sons. There was. however, one mysterious mark in her
palm. And it showed that she would be facing some
great tragedy in her life - the like of which no woman
had ever faced - but ultimately she would emerge the
grand winner and that she would be worshipped by all women from generation to generation. The astrologer in the end suggested that her name should be Savitri.
Slowly Savitri began attracting the attention of the-
people even as a child. It was absolutely impossible-
to believe that a girl of hardly a few years could show
great devotion to God or be deeply interested in
prayers. She would often forget herself while deep in
meditation in which she spent hours and hours. This
happened very often, and even when mother Malati
threw hot or cold water on her face, it was with great
difficulty that Savitri could come to her normal consciousness. Her way of talking and asking the questions was highly philosophical. Without any study she
knew all branches of knowledge and she was able to
express and explain the deep layers of thought. Now
she was known not only as Ashwapati's daughter, but
people also started saying that Savitri was a goddess
in the form of a girl. From morning till evening people from various places started coming to the King's.
palace lo see Saviiri and seek her advice to solve their
difficulties. The palace of King Ashwapati now be-
came a temple and Savitri was the idol. The people
used to say that King Ashwapati and Queen Malati
were indeed fortunate to have such a goddess as their
daughter. Now Ashwapati and Malati realised the-
veracity of the words of the astrologer. Saviiri was
really a goddess of knowledge, wealth and character.
In due course Savitri grew into a lovely maiden.
The King and the Queen decided that they should find
a suitable match for their daughter. They called their
ministers and instructed them to look for a noble and
virtuous youth who could "be a life-partner to Savitri.
The ministers went out in search of a suitable match
from one kingdom to another. Ultimately they came
back without finding any. They could not find any
person whom they could even vaguely suggest as a
possible match for Savitri. The ministers further suggested to the King: "Sire1 In our search we could
not find anyone suitable enough to be considered by
you in connection with Savitri's marriage. We have
come to the conclusion that we should leave it to
Savitri herself to choose her future husband. She is
quite capable of deciding for herself." The King and
the Queen accepted this suggestion.
One day Ashwapati and Malali explained to Savitri that according to the Law of Nature each and every
female should have her mate. as life would be incomplete otherwise. "We are worried about yourself these days," the King said, "and it is our great desire that you should yourself find out a suitable young man
whom you might like to marry." Savitri assured her
father that she would obey his orders and act accordingly.
Savitri set out in search of a life-partner. But
instead of going about her business in the royal houses
of the kingdom far and near, she turned to the forests, and visited many Ashramas on the way, receiving the
blessings of a good number of saints and sages. Many
days had passed since she began her search, but she
still was still after more and more Ashramas situated in the thick of jungles, and which were presided over by
saintly souls. This was the cause for much worry and
embarrassment to the ministers escorting her, and one of them even went to the extent of reminding her of the
real purpose of the task for which King Ashwapati
had sent her out.
Hearing the words of the minister, Savitri smiled
and said : "0 Minister, the path of sages is indeed
worthwhile and noble. But I do not want to adopt
that way of life at present because I would like to fulfill
my parents' desire. But of one thing I am sure. The
blessings of sages and saints will help me find my life-
partner, and therefore I am visiting more and more
Savitri proceeded further in yet another direction
in the forest There her eye fell on a handsome young
man, who was carrying a bundle of faggots on his
head. He looked indeed very attractive, his face shoo3
brightly, his chest was broad with his hands almost
touching his knees. He was poorly attired, which ,
showed that he hailed from a family of meager means.
Such, however, was his bearing that Savitri was greatly
attracted to him. She soon realised that her search for
a life-mate had come to an end on a happy note- She
informed the ministers that she had found her life partner and that she did not want to proceed any further. The ministers began gathering some information
about the handsome young man who was known by the name of Satyawan and whose father's name was Dyumatsen. Both father and son lived the life of sages
in the forest. Dyumatsen was blind and son Satyawan
was very much devoted to his father. Formerly Dyumalsen was a king but he had been defeated by his enemies rind exiled from his kingdom. After getting
this information the party returned to the palace.
Savitri came back in a happy mood. She
wanted to bow at the feet of her father Ashwapati.
before breaking the good news to him. But she saw
there the heavenly sage, Narada, conversing with her
parents, and she touched the feet of Narada - as was
the custom of the day. Narada blessed her saying
that she would be the mother of many children. He
then made inquiries with King Ashwapati regarding
her marriage. Ashwapati told him that Savitri had
been out in search of her life-partner and that she had
Just then returned, perhaps after succeeding in her mission. As soon as Narada heard this, he was eager to
know who the lucky soul was, whom Savitri had chosen
for her life-partner. At this Savitri naturally felt shy.
but the ministers who had escorted her told all about
Satyawan and Dyumaisen- When he heard the name
of Satyawan, Narada became very pleased and said :
"Well done, Savitri. well done! Really you have found
a capable person for your life-partner. To the best of
my knowledge 1 have not come across any youth like
Satyawan. - He is the paragon of virtue, might and
strength. He is wise and generous. You have made
an excellent selection. Savitri. But in spite of all his
charms and abilities there is one great hitch in the
matter. I can't blame you for not knowing it. Per-
haps you might change your decision if you knew what
I am in a position to tell you about his future. The
&ad thing is that Satyawan is destined to die exactly
a year hence. But for this he would be a very ideal
husband for you. Still if you insist on marrying him,
nobody can stop you."
On hearing the words of Narada. King Ashwapati and Queen Malati. as also-the ministers felt shocked.
Savitri, however, became furious. Her parents could
rot think of giving her in marriage to Satyawan. On
ihe one hand Narada had praised the virtues of Satyawan while on the other he had no clear-cut objections
to her marriage with him. The King became surprised at this difficult position which appeared almost like a riddle,
In response to the King's queries. Sage Narada
said : "0 my dear King! I have been waiting for this
situation ever since Savitri started on her search for
her life-mate. There was, of course, nothing I could
do before she had made her choice in the forest. It
was then that I foresaw the brief length of Satyawan's
lifespan, and so I have come here to forewarn you. Life
and death are but natural for mortals; no one can
survive for ever. But some things happen at the proper time, some things do not Death at the prime of life can never be a proper thing. To die within one
year of marriage is anything but a happy event- I
would, therefore. like to inform you all that Satyawan
is destined to breathe his last a year hence. And now
it is up to you all to help Savitri decide properly."
King Ashwapaii now turned to Savitri : "My darling
daughter you have heard the Sage, We all feel that in these
circumstances, it will not be wise for you to marry
Satvawan. Go again and find someone else for your
life mate. It was a great act of kindness on the part for Narada to have come here and thus forewarned us:
otherwise we were sure to give our consent to your
marriage with Salyawan." Mother Malati could not
contain herself. With tears rolling down her checks,
she said : "Nothing has gone wrong yet, Savitri. Go
and select someone else who will have a long life in
addition to other virtues. We do not want to play with
your life. As you know a life-mate is not a day's toy
You just can't play with it one day, only to break it off
the next day."
Persuasion of her father and mother had little
effect on Savitri. Without feeling any grief, she thanked the divine Sage Nanida and spoke thus to her parents : "Dear Father, Dear Mother, I accepted your
suggestion to choose a life-mate Whatever I have
selected with all my heart, good or had. long life or
short life. painful or pleasant, it is my sacred duly to
accept him as a Gift of Gods. It cannot be changed.
With my limited experience of life, it seems to me that
choosing a life-partner is not just a physical and this-
worldly affair. I think it is all connected with one's previous birth as also life hereafter. It is not in my stars that I should change my mind now and choose another
being as my life-partner. Should I change my mind
now, I feel married womanhood might challenge des-
tiny that a soul once given to anyone could not be
gifted away to someone else under any circumstances.
Even if I am not going to see the face of Satyawan
again in my life, his soul and mine have become one
and they cannot be separated. Every pore of my
being is full of Satyawan; wherever I turn my face I
see Satyawan. There is nothing now that could induce
me to change my mind". These words, came out so firmly that even Narada was unable to say anything.
Narada then persuaded King Ashwapati: "0 King think no more. Arrange her marriage with Satyawan May you live long to see your daughter becoming the-
mother of many children, all of them healthy, mighty
and virtuous." With these words Narada picked up his
Veena and with 'Narayan, Narayan' on his lips disappeared from the scene.
King Ashwapati summoned all his courage and
arranged Savitri's marriage with Satyawan. The King
was keen on having a royal atmosphere for the marriage ceremony even if it was to be celebrated in the forest. But Savitri did not relish the idea. She vas
very happy with the life Satyawan and his father
led. The forest with its scenic beauty and rustic
charms was very much to her liking and Satyawan's
love made it a paradise.
At her Father-in-law's home Savitri worshipped
both her husband and Dyumatsen. She was very
much occupied in their service which to her was as good as divine worship. She spared herself the least
when it came to attending to the needs of the aged and
blind Dyumatsen. The latter would often rebuke her
for wearing herself out but Savitri would not listen-
On the other hand she argued : "Please do not worry,
about anything. Nobody feels tired in the service of
the Lord. Allow me to do my duty as long there is
breath in my body. Who knows what will happen
after death? It is my good Karma will at least lead me on to a good life."
At light, after Satyawan and Dyumatsen had retired to bed, Savitri would sit down for her meditation. Sometimes she was still seen in meditation when
Satyawan woke up in the morning. She constantly remembered the time-limit spoken by Narada regarding Satyawan's life-span. Hence her ardent prayers
to seek a way out where all doors of redress seemed
closed to her. She was bracing herself to face the
inevitable. Perhaps from somewhere within her own
deeper Self, she got the soothing assurance that nothing
was impossible for a true and devoted soul, and that
even the inevitable could be challenged.
One day when Satyawan was preparing to go out
to collect some roots and fruits from the forest, Savitri
requested that she be permitted to accompany him.
Her request was a surprise to Satyawan because
she had not touched any food the previous night. Little
did Satyawan know that Savitri had been too preoccupied throughout the night with her prayers and
meditation to sleep, for she knew what was to befall
him on the morrow. Satyawan naturally did not want
her to accompany him to the forest, for the path was
rough and moreover there were wild beasts prowling
about. At last he said : "If you insist on accompanying me, let it be so. But you should go and get the permission of my father. If he allows. I shall be
pleased to take you along to the forest."
Savitri went to Dyumatsen said in a humble voice
requested him for permission to accompany Satyawan.
It was indeed a surprising request, even though Dyumatsen agreed after some initial hesitation, saving : "0 my daughter, if you feel fresh and energetic I do not mind you accompanying Satyawan. But you were on
fast last night" To this Savitri replied : "I fee! quite
well and fresh to accompany Satyawan." and touching
the feet of Dyumatsen she took her leave of him. Dyumatsen blessed her and asked her to be back before sunset.
It was for the first time that Savitri and Salyawan
were going out into the forest together, and Satyawan
was greatly pleased with the opportunity." He was full
of enthusiasm and joy, and as they slowly wound their
way amidst the thick growth, he would pick up beautiful flowers that lay scattered all over the path to give
them to his beloved, or draw her attention to some
scenic highlights, or some rare variety of birds that
we came across only in the jungles.
Presently they came to a tree laden with ripe fruit,
Satyawan now lost no time in climbing up and picking
some ripe ones; he threw these down to Savitri who was
eagerly watching his movements. She knew that the
fatal hour was approaching as moments slipped by. For
Satyawan, however, she appeared to be eagerly wilting
for the fruit he was throwing down to her. Indeed she
wanted to pick up more fruit and as he tried to reach
out for more hanging from some far off branch, he lost
his balance and was about to fall down. Somehow he
precariously clung to the tree and made haste to reach
the ground; his breathing was hard and his vision fast
getting blurred. He could hardly stand, but Savitri
who knew what was going to come was now all alert-
ness and attention. She placed his head on her lap
and let his limbs rest on the ground. With the loose
end of her sari, she wiped out the beads of perspiration from Satyawan's brow.
Savitri did not shed tears. At this fateful hour.
the great power within, which she had been invoking
ever since Sage Narada's prediction, look posses-
'.Ion of her. She was no longer the tender aged
girl: she was the embodiment of that Super Power
which asserts itself at all critical moments in life. Savitri
had become a super woman who could challenge both
man and God.
The modern concept of Justice as a blind goddess
holding the scales applies to Duty. One who is
Duty-bound must be least concerned about the consequences of his actions. He must needs have a detached illusion. This should have been the position of
Yama the God of Death, who now made his appearance on the Scene stride his buffalo, a well-built figure by any standards, resplendent with a glow all his own.
True he was the God of Death, but there was nothing
dark or deathly about him. Rather Saviiri found him
radiant with wisdom, his face calm and composed like
one who knew the real nature of things. He even appeared kindly and benevolent, and perhaps left to himself, he would have been the last to cut short
Savitri's happiness. Who in this world has the heart
to turn a teenaged girl like Savitri into a widow? Yama
was not wanting in Mercy and Generosity; perhaps to
be cruel is almost foreign to his being. As it was his
duty to take over when life ceased to be, he had come
to the place with the usual equipment Seeing Satyawan's head resting on Savitri's lap, Yama hesitated a
little, for he wanted to be extremely polite and courteous; he wanted to take away Satyawan's life with as little of displeasure to Savitri as possible. It was indeed a difficult task but the God of Death was quite up to it.
Calling into play the tact he was capable of, Yama
bowed before young Savitri: "0 righteous woman. I salute you. I am Yama, the Lord of Death. It is my
unpleasant duty to take away Satyawan's life."
Savitri stood up placing Satyawan's head on the
ground and bowed at the feet of the great Yama saying : "0 great God of Death, accept my humble salutations. I am blessed that the Almighty has provided
me with an opportunity to be in your presence while
I am still in my mortal frame. It is not given to many
to have this honour. My Lord."
"Well said, Savitri. well said," said Yama. "Perhaps you may not know that you' have earned this opportunity through your spiritual Sadhana. No gift
is ever granted for nothing in this universe. A reward
is won only when you work for it."
"Thanks, Lord Yama, for your compliments. I
almost feel as if I am in the presence of a kind
father. Let me again salute you, 0 great Lord," Savitri
replied, and bowed to Yama a second time.
Even as these words were being uttered, Savitri
was fully aware of the purpose of Yama's visit. It was.
as though a part of her was a keen watch over Satya-
wan's body from which the Soul was yet to be extricated. while the other was engaged in conversing with the
God of Death. At the same time, Yama too was
acutely conscious of his duty which required him to
extricate Satyawan's soul from his body. Not wishing to delay matters, Yama spoke thus to Savitri.
"Satyawan was a virtuous man, noble and pure. He-
was indeed an ideal husband for you. It is so unfortunate that his life span has ended shortly. May be, in some future life. you both could be united as man
and wife, living a life-span of a thousand years. Now let me take away his soul as my Duty demands.'" So saying the God of Death threw a silken chord over Satyawan's body, and pulled out from it his soul. This done
Yama mounted his buffalo, took his leave of Savitri with the words: 'May God bless you, my child,' and turning in the opposite direction rode on. Satyawan's
soul secure in his custody.
Hardly had the buffalo moved a little, when Yama
found to his surprise that Savitri was following him.
This was something unexpected. For Yama was used
to performing his duties undisturbed. If he had
needed much tact to get hold of Satyawan's soul
without offending Savitri, he had greater need for tact
now to persuade her to return. "Why are you following me, Savitri?" he questioned, go back and perform the last rites of Satyawan."
Now was the time when Savitri needed all her wit
and courage. She proved equal to the task, thanks
to the Super Power within which had taken possession
of her. Calmly she replied : "I am only following my
husband. 0 God of Death. Is it not the duty of a
virtuous wife to follow her husband wherever he goes?
So long as you carry Satyawan's soul, I am bound to
follow it. Save with being with her husband, there
is no place in this world for a devoted wife."
Her reply pleased the Lord of Death. Realising
fully that she was no ordinary woman who could be
easily dissuaded from doing what she had chosen to.
Yama tried to please her with a boon. "You speak
a great truth, my child," said Yama. "I am pleased
with you. Ask for a boon but remember you can
ask for anything save the soul of Satyawan."
Savitri was touched by Yama's kindness. "It is so
kind of you to grant me a boon, my Lord." she said-
"May I have the boon that my blind father-in-law may
regain his eyesight and also his lost kingdom."
"So be it. my child," Yama said. "Now that I
have granted you the boon, let me go, Savitri." So
saying he turned the direction and rode ahead.
Imagine his surprise when he found after he had
covered a little distance, that Savitri was still following
him. The God of Death was now a little perturbed
Savitri persists in following Yama....
"Why are you again Following me?" Yama said to her. "Please understand
that attachment is the root cause of all the trouble in
this world. Humanity suffers because of this attachment. Pain and sorrow cease once we are detached.
"When you understand this truth. I am sure you wilt go
back and perform the last rites of your late husband."
Savitri's reply was ready almost immediately.
"What you say is true, 0 Lord of Death" she said.
"But please explain me. If Lakshmi is always with
Narayan, Parvati with Shiva and Saraswati with Brahma,
is it not attachment? Then what is wrong with a wife
like me trying to be with her husband?"
Yama realised that Savitri was getting the better
of him. Instead of his winning over Savitri. it was
the other way about. Trying to cut short the argument
and be free to move ahead, he said : "Savitri, you are
great intellectually, even as you are great in other fields.
I am pleased with your replies. Ask for another boon.
my child, but ask not for the life of Satyawan."
Yama's kindness overwhelmed the great Savitri.
Since not asking for a boon now could be construed
as an insult; she spoke : "I can't thank you enough for
your second boon, my Lord. Since you have been
gracious enough to offer me a second boon, may I
wish that my parents who have not been gifted with
sons may bring forth a hundred sons."
"May it be so." Yama replied. He was now in
great hurry and he could hardly afford to lose time in
carrying on the conversation with her. ''Now go back.
Saviiri, and leave me alone.'
The Lord of Death now rode quickly on. He was much worried that so much precious time had been
already lost. When therefore, he soon found that
Saviiri was still following him, Yama was all confusion.
He saw almost no way out of his predicament, with
the lovable little woman winning boon after boon from
him, and still refusing to leave him alone. Neverthe-
less he could not get angry with her - who indeed
could be? And so he decided to satisfy her with yet
"Savitri, my child, why are you still following me?
Don't bother yourself to answer my question. Ask
for yet another boon, my child, and thereafter at least
leave me alone. But remember, again, ask not for the-
soul of your husband."
Yama's kindness and offer of a third boon brought
out tears of gratitude from Savitri. She made her
obeisance at his feet and said : "My Lord, I am yet
to meet one kinder than you in my life. Blessed am I
that I met you. May your third boon be that my
father-in-law be able to see a hundred happy grand-
children born to his daughter-in-law."
"So be it. my child, so be it. Now atleast leave
me alone." Yama was in great hurry and he lashed
at his buffalo to make it move faster. He was happy
that now at last Savitri was not following him. But
when he looked back to be sure. he realised how mistaken he was. For Savitri was still following him
"Savitri," Yama said, a note of dejection now apparent
in his voice. "Should you still follow me? Haven't I
granted you three boons, my child?"
*This time you yourself are compelling me to follow you. 0 God of Death," Savitri spoke with supreme assurance. "How could your third boon be realised without your granting me the life of my husband?"
Savitri's words left Yama dumb-founded. Now
only did he realise the significance of his last boon. If
her father-in-law was to become the grand-father of a
hundred happy grand-children born of her it was
obvious that Savitri should be given back Satyawan's
life. It was indeed remarkable how without mention-
ing Satyawan's name in her boon, as indeed God Yama
wanted her to, she had made the great Lord of Death
yield and grant her the life of Satyawan. The great
Yama should have inwardly cursed himself a little for
The haste in which he granted the third boon. Indeed
his sole objective then had been to dissuade her from
following him, and benevolent as he was, he granted
her boon after boon, as if to compensate her for the
loss of Satyawan. True, he had warned her to ask for
anything but the life of Satyawan. But little did he
know that the little woman who was following him
was so clear in her mind about what she wanted, with
not even a touch of haste about her mind, that she
could catch him unawares and win from him precisely
what he had warned her not to ask. She never gave
up, the little Savitri, and she had a plausible explanation. every time she was questioned. She had patience
and perseverence, and above all, her great heart was so
full of love for one and all, - an all-consuming love
which knew no barriers - that the Lord of Death
should have found himself off his feet in the sweep of
Savitri's love. Here was Love's victory - Love that
knew no defeat - and it was a joyous Yama who now gave her husband's soul, saying: "Here. my child.
take back Satyawan's life and live with him happily for
a thousand years. Go and tell the world that Yama
had been defeated - by Love."
Savitri bowed at the feet of the Lord of Death,
shedding tears of joy and received Satyawan's soul. As
Yama moved ahead after blessing Saviiri. he would
have felt a little sad that Savitri was no more follow-
ing him. Such was the power of her love that it made
his great heart melt, and the God of Death did look
back more than once, eyes full of tears, to see Savitri
fast disappearing in the jungle.
Thus we see that Savitri's greatness lay in her love.
Add to this her clarity of mind, her wise approach to
things and her ready wit, and you have the key to her
success. You could never fail in your life if you follow
in her footsteps. You and I need not have to wait till
we arc face to face with death to show our love, patience or perseverance. Indeed Savitri's example is
meant for constant application throughout one's life, so
that one becomes the happy witness to the phenomenon
of surmounting difficulties and achieving greater all-
round harmony. Look at it from any angle, Savitri's
example is but another way of saying : "To love is to
live, to live is to love."