Mahābhārata – Episode 42 – The Story of Sāvitrī (Part 2)

This article is part 42 of 112 in the series Mahābhārata

The couple gathered fruits and put them together in a bundle. As Satyavān was working on the logs, his body began sweating all over. He had a tremendous headache. He immediately stopped his work, went to Sāvitrī, and said, “Sāvitrī! My limbs, head, and the entire body is aching. There is some pain in my chest too. I feels like a spear has pierced my head. I don’t seem to be keeping well. I'm not able to stand on my feet and feel like lying down.” Sāvitrī rested his head on her lap and let him spread out on the ground. She recalled Nārada’s words. In a fraction of a second, she saw someone standing by the side of Satyavān. He appeared like the dazzling sun and was of an attractive build. He wore a crown and carried a noose in his hand. His body was dark, eyes red and his entire appearance was scary. As soon as Sāvitrī saw him, she got up, after softly placing her husband’s head on the ground. Her heart was beating fast. She said with folded hands – "Svāmī! You must be a Devatā! You don’t seem to be a human. Who are you? Tell me why you are here!" He said "Sāvitrī! You are a pativratā and a tapasvinī. I will thus tell you the truth. I am Yama. The lifespan of your husband is nearing its end. I have come here to take him away with him. I will bind him with my noose and pull him away from you. He is of dhārmic conduct, is good looking, and possesses great virtues. I came here myself; I felt that it would not be fair to ask my subordinates to come here to bring him." With these words, he pulled out the thumb-sized ‘life’ out of Satyavān’s body using his noose. He tied him up and started hearding towards the South. Sāvitrī, overcome with tremendous grief followed him. Sāvitrī was a pious lady, a pativratā, and of great qualities. She was able to follow him only because of these virtues she possessed. Looking at her, Yama said, “Turn back and return to your place. You will need to perform appropriate rites for the departed being. You have followed your husband everywhere possible and you have traversed the maximum distance behind him. You have are now free of your debt to him!”

Sāvitrī – I would like to go wherever my husband goes, rather, follow him to all the places he is taken to. That is my dharma too. My unrelenting performance of my duties, the blessings of my elders, my husband’s affection for me, and your blessing – all these come together to my aid and will remove any obstacles from my path. Moreover, a person who walks the seven steps with another will become a friend for life, they say. As you are now my friend by this logic, I will tell you a couple of words. Listen to me! A person meditates and performs tapas in the forest for self-realisation. What comes out of that realization is the understanding of dharma and its practise; that is why the learned hail dharma as the supreme. According to them, dharma alone has helped them achieve great heights. Thus, I do not have any inkling towards anything other than dharma.

Yama – Sāvitrī! I am happy listening to your words. Every letter you have spoken and the way you have explained yourself are exceedingly beautiful. I shall give you anything that you want except for his life. Please ask for a boon!

Sāvitrī – In that case, let my father-in-law, who has lost his kingdom and his eyes get back his sight and physical strength.

Yama – So be it! It seems like you are tired having walked this far. Please go back.

Sāvitrī – When I am by my husband, there is no space for tiredness to engulf me! I will need to be at the place my husband is. I will come to the place where you are heading with my husband. Kindly hear my words. Once you fall into the company of the good, it is said that they will turn out to be your friends. Moreover, good company will never go fruitless; thus, one must always be in the company of the virtuous.

Yama – Your words are pleasing to my mind and kindles my thoughts. You may ask for yet another boon except for the life of your husband.

Sāvitrī – I would like my father-in-law to get back the kingdom he has lost and lead a dhārmic life.

Yama – So be it! Leave now. You are tired already.

Sāvitrī – Deva! You have bound all living beings by your rule. You follow the rule that you have put forth and not through your own whims and fancies. That is why you have got the name ‘Yama’. I would like to add something more to this. Pray, hear me out; one must not cheat the other either in thought, words, or in action. We must always serve the other and help the needy. This is sanātana-dharma. The world exists and survives only because of the adherence to these principles. Man is weak by nature. A virtuous person is compassionate about the people who take refuge in him.

Yama – O pious one! Your words are like water that quench the thirst of the needy. You may ask me for one more boon, except for the life of Satyavān.

Sāvitrī – My father does not have male progeny; may he have a hundred sons and may his family and lineage flourish!

Yama – So be it! You father will beget a hundred children who will uphold his values and continue his lineage. Your wishes are now fulfilled. Turn back! You have come too far already!

Sāvitrī – No distance is long when I am beside my husband. My mind is running much more farther ahead than this. As you walk, continue paying attention to what I say.  You are the son of Vivasvān and are called Vaivasvata. Because you look after the peace and well-being of people, you are also dharma-rāja. A person does not have as much faith in himself as he has in a virtuous person. It is for this reason that everyone looks forward to the company of the good. Faith in another person grows only through intimate and intense friendship. People tend to develop faith in the good natured ones.

Yama – O mother! I had never heard such soothing words from anyone else before. This has gladdened my heart; you may ask me for one more boon except for his life. You have to turn back at any cost thereafter.

Sāvitrī – May I beget a hundred sons who are of noble character and who will help safeguard my family values. I would like to have the sons through Satyavān.

Yama – So be it! You must be really tired now. Go back!

Sāvitrī – The good always tread the path of dharma. They never look back or repent for their actions. The company of the good always bears great fruits. The virtuous ones are the cause for the Sun to shine; they uphold the earth through their intense penance. Whatever happened in the past and whatever is coming up in the future is all because of the good deed of those noble souls.  There is nothing wanting in the company of such people. They help the needy without expecting anything in return. This is the path that the great men, Āryas always followed. The grace of the pious never fails. Their grace will make sure that there is no loss of material or spiritual wealth. It is for this reason that the virtuous ones are considered to be the foundation for the world.

Yama – O mother! You have spoken words that are filled with dharma and are pleasing to the mind. I seemed to have developed devotion in you after having heard you this far. Thus, I would like to grant you one last boon. Please ask without any hesitation.

Sāvitrī – The boons that you have already granted me should come to me through righteous means. I, thus, request you to bring Satyavān back to life. Without him, I am as good as dead. I would not like to have any pleasures being separated from my husband. I don’t desire to go to the heaven that is devoid of my husband. I do not wish to live without my husband! You have granted me the boon of begetting a hundred children through Satyavān. Still, you seem to be taking my husband away from me. Please bring him back to life! This is the ultimate boon I ask for. Only by this will your words become true.

Listening to these words, Yama said “So be it”. With that, he let go of the noose and said “O revered lady, look here, I am releasing your husband. He will be healthy hereafter. You may take him with you. He will live with you for hundreds of years. He will perform great austerities and will gain great fame around the world. You will beget a hundred children through him. Those sons and their lineage will be named after you and will be known as ‘Sāvitras’. Your mother Mālavī will also give birth to a hundred children through your father. Their lineage will be known as the ‘Mālavas’!” With this, he sent Sāvitrī back and headed towards his abode.

To be continued…

This is an English translation of Prof. A R Krishna Shastri’s Kannada classic Vacanabhārata by Arjun Bharadwaj and Hari Ravikumar published in a serialized form. Thanks to Śatāvadhāni Dr. R Ganesh for his review and astute feedback.



Prof. A R Krishna Sastri was a journalist, scholar, polyglot, and a pioneer of the modern Kannada renaissance, who founded the literary journal Prabuddha Karnāṭaka. His Vacana-bhārata and Kathāmṛta are classics of Kannada literature while his Saṃskṛta-nāṭaka and Bankimacandra are of unrivalled scholarship.



Arjun is a writer, translator, engineer, and enjoys composing poems. He is well-versed in Sanskrit, Kannada, English, Greek, and German languages. His research interests lie in comparative aesthetics of classical Greek and Sanskrit literature. He has deep interest in the theatre arts and music. Arjun has (co-) translated the works of AR Krishna Shastri, DV Gundappa, Dr. SL Bhyrappa, Dr. SR Ramaswamy and Shatavadhani Dr. R Ganesh


Hari is a writer, translator, editor, violinist, and designer with a deep interest in philosophy, education pedagogy design, literature, and films. He has (co-)written/translated and (co-)edited 35+ books, mostly related to Indian culture. He serves on the advisory board of a few educational institutions.

Prekshaa Publications

Karnataka’s celebrated polymath, D V Gundappa brings together in the fifth volume, episodes from the lives of traditional savants responsible for upholding the Vedic culture. These memorable characters lived a life of opulence amidst poverty— theirs  was the wealth of the soul, far beyond money and gold. These vidvāns hailed from different corners of the erstwhile Mysore Kingdom and lived in...

Padma Bhushan Dr. Padma Subrahmanyam represents the quintessence of Sage Bharata’s art and Bhārata, the country that gave birth to the peerless seer of the Nāṭya-veda. Padma’s erudition in various streams of Indic knowledge, mastery over many classical arts, deep understanding of the nuances of Indian culture, creative genius, and sublime vision bolstered by the vedāntic and nationalistic...

Bhārata has been a land of plenty in many ways. We have had a timeless tradition of the twofold principle of Brāhma (spirit of wisdom) and Kṣāttra (spirit of valour) nourishing and protecting this sacred land. The Hindu civilisation, rooted in Sanātana-dharma, has constantly been enriched by brāhma and safeguarded by kṣāttra.
The renowned Sanskrit poet and scholar, Śatāvadhānī Dr. R...

ಛಂದೋವಿವೇಕವು ವರ್ಣವೃತ್ತ, ಮಾತ್ರಾಜಾತಿ ಮತ್ತು ಕರ್ಷಣಜಾತಿ ಎಂದು ವಿಭಕ್ತವಾದ ಎಲ್ಲ ಬಗೆಯ ಛಂದಸ್ಸುಗಳನ್ನೂ ವಿವೇಚಿಸುವ ಪ್ರಬಂಧಗಳ ಸಂಕಲನ. ಲೇಖಕರ ದೀರ್ಘಕಾಲಿಕ ಆಲೋಚನೆಯ ಸಾರವನ್ನು ಒಳಗೊಂಡ ಈ ಹೊತ್ತಗೆ ಪ್ರಧಾನವಾಗಿ ಛಂದಸ್ಸಿನ ಸೌಂದರ್ಯವನ್ನು ಲಕ್ಷಿಸುತ್ತದೆ. ತೌಲನಿಕ ವಿಶ್ಲೇಷಣೆ ಮತ್ತು ಅಂತಃಶಾಸ್ತ್ರೀಯ ಅಧ್ಯಯನಗಳ ತೆಕ್ಕೆಗೆ ಬರುವ ಬರೆಹಗಳೂ ಇಲ್ಲಿವೆ. ಶಾಸ್ತ್ರಕಾರನಿಗಲ್ಲದೆ ಸಿದ್ಧಹಸ್ತನಾದ ಕವಿಗೆ ಮಾತ್ರ ಸ್ಫುರಿಸಬಲ್ಲ ಎಷ್ಟೋ ಹೊಳಹುಗಳು ಕೃತಿಯ ಮೌಲಿಕತೆಯನ್ನು ಹೆಚ್ಚಿಸಿವೆ. ಈ...

Karnataka’s celebrated polymath, D V Gundappa brings together in the fourth volume, some character sketches of the Dewans of Mysore preceded by an account of the political framework of the State before Independence and followed by a review of the political conditions of the State after 1940. These remarkable leaders of Mysore lived in a period that spans from the mid-nineteenth century to the...

Bharatiya Kavya-mimamseya Hinnele is a monograph on Indian Aesthetics by Mahamahopadhyaya N. Ranganatha Sharma. The book discusses the history and significance of concepts pivotal to Indian literary theory. It is equally useful to the learned and the laity.

Sahitya-samhite is a collection of literary essays in Kannada. The book discusses aestheticians such as Ananda-vardhana and Rajashekhara; Sanskrit scholars such as Mena Ramakrishna Bhat, Sridhar Bhaskar Varnekar and K S Arjunwadkar; and Kannada litterateurs such as DVG, S L Bhyrappa and S R Ramaswamy. It has a foreword by Shatavadhani Dr. R Ganesh.

The Mahābhārata is the greatest epic in the world both in magnitude and profundity. A veritable cultural compendium of Bhārata-varṣa, it is a product of the creative genius of Maharṣi Kṛṣṇa-dvaipāyana Vyāsa. The epic captures the experiential wisdom of our civilization and all subsequent literary, artistic, and philosophical creations are indebted to it. To read the Mahābhārata is to...

Shiva Rama Krishna

சிவன். ராமன். கிருஷ்ணன்.
இந்திய பாரம்பரியத்தின் முப்பெரும் கதாநாயகர்கள்.
உயர் இந்தியாவில் தலைமுறைகள் பல கடந்தும் கடவுளர்களாக போற்றப்பட்டு வழிகாட்டிகளாக விளங்குபவர்கள்.
மனித ஒற்றுமை நூற்றாண்டுகால பரிணாம வளர்ச்சியின் பரிமாணம்.
தனிநபர்களாகவும், குடும்ப உறுப்பினர்களாகவும், சமுதாய பிரஜைகளாகவும் நாம் அனைவரும் பரிமளிக்கிறோம்.
சிவன் தனிமனித அடையாளமாக அமைகிறான்....

ऋतुभिः सह कवयः सदैव सम्बद्धाः। विशिष्य संस्कृतकवयः। यथा हि ऋतवः प्रतिसंवत्सरं प्रतिनवतामावहन्ति मानवेषु तथैव ऋतुवर्णनान्यपि काव्यरसिकेषु कामपि विच्छित्तिमातन्वते। ऋतुकल्याणं हि सत्यमिदमेव हृदि कृत्वा प्रवृत्तम्। नगरजीवनस्य यान्त्रिकतां मान्त्रिकतां च ध्वनदिदं चम्पूकाव्यं गद्यपद्यमिश्रितमिति सुव्यक्तमेव। ऐदम्पूर्वतया प्रायः पुरीपरिसरप्रसृतानाम् ऋतूनां विलासोऽत्र प्रपञ्चितः। बेङ्गलूरुनामके...

The Art and Science of Avadhānam in Sanskrit is a definitive work on Sāhityāvadhānam, a form of Indian classical art based on multitasking, lateral thinking, and extempore versification. Dotted throughout with tasteful examples, it expounds in great detail on the theory and practice of this unique performing art. It is as much a handbook of performance as it is an anthology of well-turned...

This anthology is a revised edition of the author's 1978 classic. This series of essays, containing his original research in various fields, throws light on the socio-cultural landscape of Tamil Nadu spanning several centuries. These compelling episodes will appeal to scholars and laymen alike.
“When superstitious mediaevalists mislead the country about its judicial past, we have to...

The cultural history of a nation, unlike the customary mainstream history, has a larger time-frame and encompasses the timeless ethos of a society undergirding the course of events and vicissitudes. A major key to the understanding of a society’s unique character is an appreciation of the far-reaching contributions by outstanding personalities of certain periods – especially in the realms of...

Prekṣaṇīyam is an anthology of essays on Indian classical dance and theatre authored by multifaceted scholar and creative genius, Śatāvadhānī Dr. R Ganesh. As a master of śāstra, a performing artiste (of the ancient art of Avadhānam), and a cultured rasika, he brings a unique, holistic perspective to every discussion. These essays deal with the philosophy, history, aesthetics, and practice of...


इदं किञ्चिद्यामलं काव्यं द्वयोः खण्डकाव्ययोः सङ्कलनरूपम्। रामानुरागानलं हि सीतापरित्यागाल्लक्ष्मणवियोगाच्च श्रीरामेणानुभूतं हृदयसङ्क्षोभं वर्णयति । वात्सल्यगोपालकं तु कदाचिद्भानूपरागसमये घटितं यशोदाश्रीकृष्णयोर्मेलनं वर्णयति । इदम्प्रथमतया संस्कृतसाहित्ये सम्पूर्णं काव्यं...


इदं खण्डकाव्यमान्तं मालिनीछन्दसोपनिबद्धं विलसति। मेनकाविश्वामित्रयोः समागमः, तत्फलतया शकुन्तलाया जननम्, मातापितृभ्यां त्यक्तस्य शिशोः कण्वमहर्षिणा परिपालनं चेति काव्यस्यास्येतिवृत्तसङ्क्षेपः।


इदं खण्डकाव्यमान्तं मालिनीछन्दसोपनिबद्धं विलसति। मेनकाविश्वामित्रयोः समागमः, तत्फलतया शकुन्तलाया जननम्, मातापितृभ्यां त्यक्तस्य शिशोः कण्वमहर्षिणा परिपालनं चेति काव्यस्यास्येतिवृत्तसङ्क्षेपः।


इयं रचना दशसु रूपकेष्वन्यतमस्य भाणस्य निदर्शनतामुपैति। एकाङ्करूपकेऽस्मिन् शेखरकनामा चित्रोद्यमलेखकः केनापि हेतुना वियोगम् अनुभवतोश्चित्रलेखामिलिन्दकयोः समागमं सिसाधयिषुः कथामाकाशभाषणरूपेण निर्वहति।


अस्मिन् स्तोत्रकाव्ये भगवन्तं शिवं कविरभिष्टौति। वसन्ततिलकयोपनिबद्धस्य काव्यस्यास्य कविकृतम् उल्लाघनाभिधं व्याख्यानं च वर्तते।

Karnataka’s celebrated polymath, D V Gundappa brings together in the third volume, some character sketches of great literary savants responsible for Kannada renaissance during the first half of the twentieth century. These remarkable...

Karnataka’s celebrated polymath, D V Gundappa brings together in the second volume, episodes from the lives of remarkable exponents of classical music and dance, traditional storytellers, thespians, and connoisseurs; as well as his...

Karnataka’s celebrated polymath, D V Gundappa brings together in the first volume, episodes from the lives of great writers, poets, literary aficionados, exemplars of public life, literary scholars, noble-hearted common folk, advocates...

Evolution of Mahabharata and Other Writings on the Epic is the English translation of S R Ramaswamy's 1972 Kannada classic 'Mahabharatada Belavanige' along with seven of his essays on the great epic. It tells the riveting...

Shiva-Rama-Krishna is an English adaptation of Śatāvadhāni Dr. R Ganesh's popular lecture series on the three great...


ಮಹಾಮಾಹೇಶ್ವರ ಅಭಿನವಗುಪ್ತ ಜಗತ್ತಿನ ವಿದ್ಯಾವಲಯದಲ್ಲಿ ಮರೆಯಲಾಗದ ಹೆಸರು. ಮುಖ್ಯವಾಗಿ ಶೈವದರ್ಶನ ಮತ್ತು ಸೌಂದರ್ಯಮೀಮಾಂಸೆಗಳ ಪರಮಾಚಾರ್ಯನಾಗಿ  ಸಾವಿರ ವರ್ಷಗಳಿಂದ ಇವನು ಜ್ಞಾನಪ್ರಪಂಚವನ್ನು ಪ್ರಭಾವಿಸುತ್ತಲೇ ಇದ್ದಾನೆ. ಭರತಮುನಿಯ ನಾಟ್ಯಶಾಸ್ತ್ರವನ್ನು ಅರ್ಥಮಾಡಿಕೊಳ್ಳಲು ಇವನೊಬ್ಬನೇ ನಮಗಿರುವ ಆಲಂಬನ. ಇದೇ ರೀತಿ ರಸಧ್ವನಿಸಿದ್ಧಾಂತವನ್ನು...


“वागर्थविस्मयास्वादः” प्रमुखतया साहित्यशास्त्रतत्त्वानि विमृशति । अत्र सौन्दर्यर्यशास्त्रीयमूलतत्त्वानि यथा रस-ध्वनि-वक्रता-औचित्यादीनि सुनिपुणं परामृष्टानि प्रतिनवे चिकित्सकप्रज्ञाप्रकाशे। तदन्तर एव संस्कृतवाङ्मयस्य सामर्थ्यसमाविष्कारोऽपि विहितः। क्वचिदिव च्छन्दोमीमांसा च...

The Best of Hiriyanna

The Best of Hiriyanna is a collection of forty-eight essays by Prof. M. Hiriyanna that sheds new light on Sanskrit Literature, Indian...

Stories Behind Verses

Stories Behind Verses is a remarkable collection of over a hundred anecdotes, each of which captures a story behind the composition of a Sanskrit verse. Collected over several years from...