At one time King of Madradesh (now known as Syalkot, Pakistan) had prayed to Savitri Devi with the offerings of Musturd seeds for a good ten months hoping that his Queen would concieve and deliver a son. The King was from the Shakal dynasty by the name of Ashwapati. At the conclusion of the Yajna his wife, Malti, delivered a female child. To honour his ritual to the Goddess, the King named the new born too as Savitri. The princess grew up into a beautiful maiden and soon it was time for her marriage. The King eventually got her married to a prince by the name of Satyavan, son of King Dyumnasen. At the time of her marriage, Narada Rishi visited the occassion and forcasted that Satyavan would live for only one year after his marriage.
Savitri came to know of the prediction but remained unmoved and calm. She was happy with her marriage and continued to please her husband and in-laws as was appropriate for her in those times. Dyumnasen was sightless and after he had ruled for some time decided that he will move to the forest and live there. The rest of the family too decided to move with him and they all began to live there as hermits. Satyavan began to cater to the whole family from jungle produce and would collect firewood in his spare time. Savitri looked after the family and every body lived a happy life for almost a whole year. One day a Brahmin came to the hutment and reminded the King that Satyavan would die on the fourth day from then on. A pall of gloom descended over the family, but savitri did not flinch. She went about her dutiful ways as usual
Three days later, as Satyavan prepared to go to the forest for food and fire wood, Savitri too obtained her Father and Mother-in-law's blessings and started to follow her husband. Narada's words resounded in her mind but she maintained an outward calm. On the way to the interior she kept asking Satyavan about various flowers and shrubs and he kept revealing secretsof flora and fauna.
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Satyavan had been collecting roots and fruit and felt he had stocked enough of them and said, 'Dear, I have now only to collect some fire wood and then we can return to our waiting family. You just sit in the shade of this mulbury tree and rest for a while'. Savitri settled on small grassy patch and said, 'Yes, I will wait here but please do not go out of miy sight'. Soon Satyavan saw a dried wood stump and began to chop away wood to be carried back, but, in a little while he felt a mild headache and decided to rest for some time. He lay down next to Savitri and placed his head on her lap. Savitri began to gently press his forehead, but, the mild ache developed into a splitting pain.
Just then she saw an apparation approaching them and she was sure that it was Dharmaraj Yam Himself and was coming to take away Satyavan's life. Dharmraj was of a deep blue colour and wore a yellow garment. He had a crown on his head and sparkling Kundan ear rings on both ears. He wore a garland of jungle flowers on his wide chest and had armlets of deep-red flowers. Behind him, she also saw, Mrityu and MahaKaal. Dharmaraj extracted the thumb sized life from Satyavan's heart and tied it firmly with the rope he had carried for the purpose and began to pull away. Savitri saw all this and got up, putting the lifeless body on the grass. She began to follow Dharmaraj.
Savitra spoke, 'By Mother's grace, this Loka, by Fathers grace the middle Lokas and by the grace of Guru one attains the Brahmloka. When one respects these Lokas he has attained every thing that any religion can offer and one who has ignored these will have failed even he had done every other karma with the best of intent and effort. So long as one has followed his Mother, Father and Guru in the right spirit, he has no need to follow any other religion'. Yamaraj was impressed and said, ' You have spoken well, but, for what ever reason you are following me, I can not grant your wish. Every one who is born in this world will surely die one day. Satyavan has lived his life and now I have personally come to take him away as he had lived his life with great human qualities. I suggest you do not give yourself more pain and just return'. Savitri did not falter in her stride and said, ' For a woman , her Husband alone is the God and is the only person to keep her in his care, attention and affection. Therefore, a married woman should be loyal to him in an unflinching way. Father, brothers and sons can give a woman only worldly pleasures, but a Husband alone gives her divine pleasures and paves her way to her next life. Therefore, a woman must be grateful and committed to the Husband even in his death. Wherever you are going with him, it is my duty to reach there too and serve my husband as much as I can. I have no recourse but to follow you and my husband's soul'.
Dharmaraj was impressed and said, ' O! the one with beautiful eyes, I am happy and I grant you any boon other than Satyavan's life'. Savitri pleaded, ' O Mostpowerful ! My Father-in law is blind and had relenquished his throne, may he get the benefit of both and rule again'. 'Tathastu' , said Dharmaraj as he continued on his way. But Savitri did not stop and continued to match pace with him.
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As they moved on, the jungle became thicker and darker. It became really difficult for Savitri to follow Yamraj, but she did not give up. Presently she said, 'There can be nothing better than to associate with great people and no effort can be too big to stay connected. A person may be of religious disposition or of Aasuri nature, both learn only from Truthful Teachers. A selfish person can neither help others nor ever be of any use to himself. No one is as scared of poison, fire, snake or firearms as much as one has the fear of a friend who, for no reason turns into an enemy. Like a God-fearing person will readily give up his own life to help others, a wicked person too will not hesitate in doing evil to those who follow them in good faith. A good person will always do good even at the peril of his life and a wicked person will do evil even if his own life is compromised. Brahma, the creator of the world, himself has appointed a King for his population to punish people with wicked ways. It is for the King to evaluate and judge people and reward those who are do-gooders and punish those who damage other peoples interests. But, if a King too can not punish such wrong- doing persons then, Brahma has appointed you over all men. You are the one amongst Gods who are the most powerful and has the most critical role in deciding ones rebirth. Hence, I have great pleasure to follow you'.
Yamraj said, ' I am once again impressed by your clear thinking and utterences of Dharmic words. I will grant you yet another boon , other than the life of Satyavan. Please ask your desire'. Savitri said, ' I have always yearned for a hunded brothers as I am the only child of my parents. Besides, my father must have a great son who can take over as King once my father decides to step down'. Yamraj blessed her and said, 'All that you ask for is granted and you will soon have all the brothers you ask for. Now, you have already travelled far enough and must return to conduct the last rites of your husband'.
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Savitri still kept walking behing Dharmaraj and said, ' To perform a duty in the line of ones religious persuit one can never do enough and none of ones efforts can be too tiring. One must always strive hard for performing the religious dictats. A learned person must always work to get rewards in the line of his religion because, Religion (dharma), Meaning (artha) and Karma can be accessed by men only in this life. For a person who is not religious, both Arth and Karma have no profound meaning. After one has lived ones life the only thing that carries forward to his new birth is Dharma. All other worldly persuits, brothers, family and kingdom are left behind as soon as one dies. All the seven Lokas and those of Brahma, Moon, Vishnu, Shiv, Indra, Yama, Sun, Fire and so on are accessed by men only because of their practise of Dharma, Arth and Kaam here on this earth alone'.
Dharmaraj was once again impressed by her knowledge and said,'I am pleased with you and your worldly knowledge. I will grant you another boon except for Satyavan's life'. Savitri said, 'O! Lord, in this world a woman without a son is never granted a position of honour and favour. Therefore I request you to grant me a hundered sons born out of my own womb'. Yamraj said, 'Tahastu, but now you must return back from here'.
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Savitri still continued to follow Yamraj. Her feet were bleeding and her body was badly scratched by jungle thorns. She continued with her narrative too. ' You are the one God who knows both, Dharma and Adharma, and you understand all other religions too. You are the Lord of all beings and you alone enforce spiritual discipline amongst all, therefore you have the name Yama. And, because you alone please all beings because of your unbiased persuit of Religion you carry the name Dharmaraj. After death all beings place thier evil and good deeds for your perusal and you decide their future course, hence you carry the name Mrityu. Also, because you keep account of everyones individual life span you carry the name Kaal. Finally, because you bring about the end of all beings you carry the name Antaka. You are the first Son of Vivasvaan (surya) and thus the Devas call youVivasvat. You are the keeper of Dharma espoused by the Rig, Yajur and Sam Veda, thus preventing any aberation of Dharma over Yugas and Manvantars. You also are keeper of worldly sanctity for people who follow the truthful path. O Lord! Please help this grieved Pativrata (a woman who follows her Husband unquestioningly). Even the parents of this Prince are living under great grief. Please help us'.
Yamaraj said, ' O Religious lady, I have been happy to hear your prayers to me, your devotion to your Husband and his family, and your knowledge of what is right and what is wrong. I have set free the soul of this noble prince. You may now return to the same spot and reunite with Satyavan. Also, you will both live together for five hundred years and later, he will proceed to Heaven. The sons that you beget from Satyavan will all be brave warriers and will be collectively known by your name'. Saying this Yamaraj vanished before her eyes.