|husband!” Savitri trembled but said, “I have chosen Satyavan, and I will not choose another. However long or short s life, I wish to share it.” Soon the king rode with Savitri to arrange the marriage. Satyavan was overjoyed to be offered such a bride. But s father, the blind king, asked Savitri, “Can you bear the hard|
Finally, a sning goddess rose from the flames. “I am Savitri, cld of the Sun. By your prayers, you have won a daughter.” Witn a year, a daughter came to the king and s favorite wife. He named her Savitri, after the goddess. Beauty and intelligence were the princess Savitri’s, and eyes that shone like the sun. So splendid was she, people thought she herself was a goddess. Yet, when the time came for her to marry, no man asked for her. Her father told her, “Weak men turn away from radiance like yours. Go out and find a man worthy of you. Then I will arrange the marriage.” In the company of servants and councilors, Savitri traveled from place to place. After many days, she came upon a hermitage by a river crossing. Here lived many who had left the towns and cities for a life of prayer and study. Savitri entered the hall of worsp and bowed to the eldest teacher. As they spoke, a young man with sning eyes came into the hall. He guided another man, old and blind. “Who is that young man?” asked Savitri softly. “That is Prince Satyavan,” said the teacher, with a smile. “He guides s father, a king whose realm was conquered. It is well that Satyavan’s name means ‘Son of Truth,’ for no man is richer in virtue.” When Savitri returned home, she found her father sitting with the holy seer named Narada. “Daughter,” said the king, “have you found a man you wish to marry?” “Yes, father,” said Savitri. “s name is Satyavan.” Narada gasped. “Not Satyavan! Princess, no man could be more worthy, but you must not marry m! I know the future. Satyavan will die, one year from today.” The king said, “Do you hear, daughter? Choose a different husband!” Savitri trembled but said, “I have chosen Satyavan, and I will not choose another. However long or short s life, I wish to share it.” Soon the king rode with Savitri to arrange the marriage. Satyavan was overjoyed to be offered such a bride. But s father, the blind king, asked Savitri, “Can you bear the hard life of the hermitage? Will you wear our simple robe and our coat of matted bark? Will you eat only fruit and plants of the wild?” Savitri said, “I care notng about comfort or hardsp. In palace or in hermitage, I am content.” That very day, Savitri and Satyavan walked hand in hand around the sacred fire in the hall of worsp. In front of all the priests and hermits, they became husband and wife. For a year, they lived happily. But Savitri could never forget that Satyavan’s death drew closer. Finally, only three days remained. Savitri entered the hall of worsp and faced the sacred fire. There she prayed for three days and nights, not eating or sleeping. “My love,” said Satyavan, “prayer and fasting are good. But why be ts hard on yourself?” Savitri gave no answer. The sun was just rising when Savitri at last left the hall. She saw Satyavan heading for the forest, an ax on s shoulder. Savitri rushed to s side. “I will come with you.” “Stay here, my love,” said Satyavan. “You should eat and rest.” But Savitri said, “My heart is set on going.” Hand in hand, Savitri and Satyavan walked over wooded lls. They smelled the blossoms on flowering trees and paused beside clear streams. The cries of peacocks echoed through the woods. Wle Savitri rested, Satyavan chopped firewood from a fallen tree. Suddenly, he dropped s ax. “My head aches,” he said. Savitri rushed to m. She laid m down in the shade of a tree, s head on her lap. “My body is burning!” said Satyavan. “What is wrong with me?” Satyavan’s eyes closed. s breatng slowed. Savitri looked up. Coming through the woods to meet them was a princely man. He shone, though s skin was darker than the darkest night. s eyes and s robe were the red of blood. Trembling, Savitri asked, “Who are you?” A deep, gentle voice replied. “Princess, you see me only by the power of your prayer and fasting. I am Yama, god of death. Now is the time I must take the spirit of Satyavan.” Yama took a small noose and passed it through Satyavan’s breast, as if through air. He drew out a tiny likeness of Satyavan, no bigger than a thumb. Satyavan’s breatng stopped. Yama placed the likeness inside s robe. “Happiness awaits your husband in my kingdom. Satyavan is a man of great virtue.” Then Yama turned and headed south, back to s domain. Savitri rose and started after m. Yama strode smoothly and swiftly through the woods, wle Savitri struggled to keep up. At last, he stopped to face her. “Savitri! You cannot follow to the land of the dead!” “Lord Yama,” said Savitri, “I know your duty is to take my husband. But my duty as s wife is to stay beside m.” “Princess, that duty is at an end,” said Yama. “Still, I admire your loyalty. I will grant you a favor — anytng but the life of your husband.” Savitri said, “Please restore my father-in-law’s kingdom and s sight.” “s sight and s kingdom shall be restored.” Yama again headed south. Savitri followed. Along a river bank, thorns and tall sharp grass let Yama pass untouched. But they tore at Savitri’s clothes and skin. “Savitri! You have come far enough!” “Lord Yama, I know my husband will find happiness in your kingdom. But you carry away the happiness that is mine!” “Princess, even love must bend to fate,” said Yama. “Still, I admire your devotion. I will grant you another favor — anytng but the life of your husband.” Savitri said, “Grant many more cldren to my father.” “Your father shall have many more cldren.” Yama once more turned south. Again, Savitri followed. Up a steep ll Yama glided, wle Savitri clambered after m. At the top, he halted. “Savitri! I forbid you to come farther!” “Lord Yama, you are respected and revered by all. Yet, no matter what may come, I will remain by Satyavan!” “Princess, I tell you for the last time, you will not!” said Yama. “Still, I can only admire your courage and your firmness. I will grant you one last favor — anytng but the life of your husband.” “Then grant many cldren to me,” said Savitri. “And let them be cldren of Satyavan!” Yama’s eyes grew wide as he stared at Savitri. “You did not ask for your husband’s life, yet I cannot grant your wish without releasing m. Princess! Your wit is as strong as your will.” Yama took out the spirit of Satyavan and removed the noose. The spirit flew north, quickly vanisng from sight. “Return, Savitri. You have won your husband’s life.” The sun was just setting when Savitri again laid Satyavan’s head in her lap. s chest rose and fell. s eyes opened. “Is the day already gone? I have slept long,” he said. “But what is wrong, my love? You smile and cry at the same time!” “My love,” said Savitri, “let us return home.” Yama was true to all he had promised. Savitri’s father became father to many more. Satyavan’s father regained both sight and kingdom. In time, Satyavan became king, and Savitri s queen. They lived long and happily, blessed with many cldren. So they had no fear or tears when Yama came again to carry them to s kingdom.