In ancient India there was a king who had everything except a child. He worshipped the gods for many years and finally Goddess Savitri gave the king the gift of a daughter. She was named Savitri after the goddess. Savitri was so beautiful and intelligent that no one dared to marry her. The king asked Savitri to choose a suitable husband for herself.
Savitri traveled for many years until she reached a hermitage where many princes lived as ascetics giving up their luxury, wealth and power. When Savitri entered the hall of worship and paid respects to the eldest teacher, a young man entered the hall, guiding an old, blind man. Savitri asked the teacher, “Who is he?” The teacher replied, “He is prince Satyavan, a virtuous man, guiding his blind father who lost his kingdom. Like his name, he is the emblem of truth.” Savitri decided to marry Satyavan.
When Savitri returned home, her father inquired. Savitri happily replied, “Father, I have decided to marry Satyavan.” But seeing Satyavan’s horoscope, the astrologer said, “Satyavan will die one year from today.” The king was stunned to hear this and requested Savitri to choose someone else. Savitri trembled and said, “But father, I have already chosen Satyavan, and I will not choose another man. I will share the precious one year with him only.”
Soon the king rode with Savitri to the hermitage to formalize the proposal. Satyavan was overjoyed to be offered such a bride. His father, the blind king, asked, “Savitri you are a princess, can you bear the hard life of the hermitage, living on fruits and wearing the matted barks?” Savitri replied, “I will be content.” Savitri and Satyavan were married.
For a year they lived happily. But Savitri could never forget that Satyavan’s death was drawing closer. Finally, when only three days remained, Savitri prayed for three days and three nights. On the final day, she came out from the prayer room with the rising sun. Satyavan wondered to himself, why Savitri was praying so hard?
When Satyavan was ready to go out to collect wood for the fire, Savitri rushed to his side and said, “I will come with you.” “You look tired” said Satyavan ” I will return soon. You rest.” But Savitri insisted on accompanying him.
In the woods, Satyavan suddenly felt dizzy while chopping the firewood and laid down. Savitri raised his head on her lap watching Satyavan’s face carefully. Satyavan closed his eyes and began to breath slowly. Suddenly Lord Yama, the god of death, arrived. He caught the soul of Satyavan with his noose and headed towards his kingdom. Satyavan’s body lay dead. Yama tried to console Savitri by saying, “Satyavan was a man of great virtue and happiness awaits him in my kingdom.”
Savitri did not say anything but rose and started after Yama. Yama objected, “You cannot follow me to the land of the dead!” Savitri replied, “Lord Yama. I know you are doing your duty of taking away the soul of my husband when it is time. But my duty as his wife is to stay beside him.”
“Your duty is over with the death of your husband. I admire your loyalty. I will grant you anything but the life of your husband.” Savitri most respectfully asked for the restoration of the kingdom and sight of her father-in-law.” Yama granted the wishes and once again headed towards south through the rough roads of thorns and ditches. Savitri continued to follow, with torn clothes and bleeding feet. Yama said, “Savitri you have come far enough, now go back.” Savitri said, “Lord Yama, my husband will find happiness in your kingdom but you are carrying away the happiness that is mine.”
“I admire your devotion” Yama said, “But you have to bend to your faith. I will grant you another wish except the life of your husband.” “Give many children to my father, I was his only child” said Savitri and Yama granted her wish. Then he began to climb a steep hill. When Yama looked back he saw Savitri coming up the steep hill, tired and exhausted.
“Savitri,” Yama said in a loud voice “I forbid you to come farther. I am telling for the last time you have come far enough. I admire your courage and your firmness. I grant you one last favor, anything, but the life of your husband.”
Savitri got her last chance, and said, “Lord, then grant me many children, and let them be the children of Satyavan.” Yama was surprised by Savitri’s wit and strong will, “You have not asked for your husband’s life, yet I cannot grant your wish without releasing Satyavan. You have won your husband’s life.”
Savitri found herself at the same spot where she took her dying husband’s head on her lap. Satyavan woke up and saw Savitri both crying and laughing. When asked what happened, Savitri said, “My love, let us return home.”
Yama fulfilled all of Savitri’s wishes. Satyavan became king and Savitri his queen. They lived long and were blessed with many children. When they were old, Yama came and together they happily departed for his kingdom.