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The Legend of Savitri-Sathyavan A Hindu Myth retold to celebrate this beautifully symmetric day 14-3-14/ 14-March-14 which is also

the last day of the second-last month (Masi) of the Tamil year (Vijaya) in its 150-years cycle. Source: Book of the Forest, The Mahabharata As told by Markandeya to the eldest Pandav, Yudhishtra who was living in exile in the forest with his four brothersBheem, Arjun and Twins: Nakul & Sahadev and Draupadibecause he lost his Kingdom, the divine city Indraprasta, and even wife, Drauoadialthough after the Kaurav attempt to disrobe her in the royal court was stopped by the intervention of the Lord Krishna (who then protected his adopted sisters honour and ensured her return to her husbands, the five Pandavs)in a game of chaturang (an early form of chess) to the eldest Kaurav Dhuryodhan and his maternal uncle Shakuni. Yudhishtra was born to his mother Kunti by the grace of the God of Death Yama who is also known as Dharmaraj as he metes out justice to the souls. Markandaya himself was to have died as a young boy but because Yama mistakenly yanked the Shiv Lingam the boy was praying along with the boys soul in his attempt to collect Markandayas soul with his instrument of death, the whip, he incurred the wrath of the Great Destroyer who kicked Yama away, acquiring the name Mrityunjay, and bestowing immortality on young Markhandaya pleased with his devotion. Thus it is apt that Markandeya, one of the few souls to defeat death by the grace of Lord Shiva, narrates the story of Savithrithe pious and clever woman who wins the life of her husband and many other boons from Yama Dharmaraj himself through her devotion, charm, and witto Yudhishtra the god-son of Lord Yama. So reader of this narrative you get three myths in one, the story of how the Pandavs lost everything to the Kauravs and how Markandeya gained immortality as well as the story of Savitri-Sathyavan. The Tale Retold: Ashwapati, the childless king of Madra, and his consort Malavi gain a beautiful and pious daughter through the grace of the Sun God, also called Savitr, who was pleased by the couples devotion and peity. They royal couple name their virtuous child Savitri in honour of the Sun God. As Savitri was born out of devotion and asceticism she gains these traits as well so much so that she grows up to be so beautiful and pure, she intimidates all the men making her suitorless! Ashwapati rises to the occasion by instructing his beloved daughter to find her own husband. She sets out on a pilgrimage for this purpose and finds Satyavan. Satyavan is the son of a blind king Dyumatsena, who after he had lost everything including his sight, lives in exile as a forest-dweller (a la the Pandavs). Savitris first sighting of the young man is of him carrying his aged and handicapped parents on his shoulders in a makeshift balance-like device, taking them on pilgrimage. She was so impressed by Satyavans devotion to his parents that she decides to marry him even before finding out anything about his antecedents. Thankfully although they are exiled his heritage is royal too. When Savitri tells of her decision to her father and the divine Sage Narada, the latter announces that Savitri has made a bad choice: although perfect in every way, Satyavan is destined to die one year from that day. In response to her fathers pleas to choose a more suitable husband, Savitri insists

that she will choose her husband but once. After Narada announces his agreement Ashwapati accepts her decision. The virtuous young lady gives up the life of comfort in her parents castle and joins Satyavan and his parents in their forest-dwelling as is right for the daughter-in-law rather than bringing them to her fathers home. Immediately after the marriage, Savitri wears the clothing of a hermit and lives in perfect obedience and respect to her new parents-in-law and husband. Three days before the foreseen death of Satyavan, Savitri takes a vow of fasting and vigil. Her fatherin-law, unaware that his son is going to die soon, tells her she has taken on too harsh a regimen, but Savitri replies that she has taken an oath to perform these austerities. Dyumatsena gives way. The morning of Satyavans predicted death, Savitri asks for her father-in-laws permission to accompany her husband into the forest. Since she has never asked for anything during the entire year she has spent at the hermitage, Dyumatsena grants her wish. They go and while Satyavan is splitting wood, he suddenly becomes weak and lays his head in Savitris lap. Yama himself, the god of Death, comes to claim the soul of Satyavan as his soul is so pure. Savitri through the power of her piety and devotion to her husband manages to follows Lord Yama as he carries the soul away. A human cannot enter the Land of the Dead before their fated time and as Savitri was fated to live a long life the God of Death tries to convince her to turn back, she offers only praise of Yama Dharmarajs virtues instead. First she praises obedience to Dharma, then friendship with the strict, then Yama himself for his just rule, then Yama as King of Dharma, and finally noble conduct with no expectation of return. Impressed at each speech, Yama praises both the content and style of her words and offers any boon, except the life of Satyavan. She first asks for eyesight and restoration of the kingdom for her father-in-law, then a hundred sons (BAHUPUTRALABAM) for her father, and then a hundred sons for herself and Satyavan. The last wish creates a dilemma for Yama, as it would indirectly grant the life of Satyavan. However, impressed by Savitri's dedication and purity, he offers one more time for her to choose any boon, but this time omitting "except for the life of Satyavan". Savitri instantly asks for Satyavan to return to life. Yama charmed and impressed by the young womans wit and devotion grants life to Satyavan and blesses Savitri's life with eternal happiness. Satyavan awakens as though he has been in a deep sleep and returns to his parents along with his wife. Meanwhile at their home, Dyumatsena regains his eyesight before Savitri and Satyavan return. Since Satyavan still does not know what happened, Savitri relays the story to her parents-in-law, husband, and the gathered ascetics. Dyumatsenas ministers arrive with news of the death of his usurper. Joyfully, the king and his entourage return to his kingdom. * Thus it is that through her devotion, wit, and virtue the god-daughter of the Sun God Savitri wins many boons from the God of Death.

Note that Savitri will be half-sister to Yudhistras half-brother, Kuntis eldest son Karna who she gains through the grace of the Sun God before marriage and thus chooses to abandon to a charioteer and his wife. Through a twist of fate the virtuous and loyal Karna becomes best-friend and general to Dhuryodhan and is set squarely against the rest of his family is the great war of right-vs.-wrong the Mahabharata!

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