After Yama left, Sāvitrī returned to the place where her husband’s lifeless body lay. She placed his head on her lap once again and Satyavān slowly came back to life. His eyes were filled with deep love as he looked at Sāvitrī again and again, as though he had come back to her after a long voyage. As he looked at her, he said – “Seems like I have slept for too long. Why didn’t you wake me up? Where is that dark-skinned man who pulled me along with him?” Sāvitrī said – “Yes, my dear. You slept for a long time on my lap. Yama, the controller and master of all living beings is now gone. It is as if you have woken up from a deep slumber. If you can, please get up. Look, it is gotten very dark!”
Thereafter, Satyavān got up as if he had had a long peaceful sleep and looked around the forest. “I came to the forest to fetch fruits and firewood. I recall having slept with my head in your lap as my head was reeling. I fell asleep. I remember seeing a person whose skin was as dark as the night. He looked scary but was brilliant. If you know who it was, pray tell me. Was it merely my dream or was it real?”
Sāvitrī – O Prince! There is darkness enveloping us. I’ll certainly narrate everything as it transpired tomorrow. Get up, let us go now. Let us show our faces to your aged parents. I can hear the rākṣasas moving about speaking terrifying words. I can also hear the rumbling of dry leaves fallen on the ground as animals move over them. Foxes are howling and is causing me great fear
Satyavān – The forest looks scary. You don’t know the path to get back and you won’t be able to walk that far.
Sāvitrī – Look here! There is a tree caught in the forest fire and burns ablaze. It burns brighter when the wind blows and the light illuminates the path. I will bring fire from the tree and light up a twig. Don’t worry. If you are still tired and you are not able to see the path, we can travel tomorrow morning. We can stay back here tonight if you like to do so.
Satyavān – Sāvitrī! I no longer have any pain in my head! My body feels light; let us go and see our parents. I have never stepped out of the āśrama at such odd hours; My mother stops me from heading out after evening. She gets anxious if I step outside the house even during the day. Dad would come looking for me with the other āśramites. Their worries would see no end until I got back home. They would ask me – ‘Why did it get so late, my child!’ I have parents who have so much of concern form me and I wonder what they will be thinking due to my long absence this evening. Their anxiety will see no bounds when I get away from them. One night, they were in tears and said ‘Child, we will not be able to survive even for a moment without you! You are our sole support during our old age. You are like a walking stick for the blind; You should help our family lineage grow and should take care of us here and hereafter!’ I wonder what would have happened to my parents who had spoken to me with so much of sorrow. My recklessly long sleep might cause harm to their lives! If something happens to them, I don’t think I will survive. My blind father will constantly ask the āśramites if I have returned home. I am not feeling sorry for myself, Sāvitrī! I am in pain because my blind father and weak mother are going to be greatly concerned about me. I am alive only to take care of them.
With these words, Satyavān threw up his hands in the air and started crying out loud. Looking at her husband overcome with so much of sorrow, Sāvitrī wiped off tears from his eyes and said ‘If I have ever performed austerities and dhārmic activities, I pray God to take care of the well-being of my husband and parents-in-law this night! I don’t remember having lied in the past, even by slip of tongue. My parents-in-law will survive the night because of the dhārmic strength I have got, out of my honesty!” Satyavān said ‘Let us go, Sāvitrī! We should go and see our parents before anything evil befalls them. If you trust dharma and wish for my long-life, let us take the shortest path to the āśrama!’
Sāvitrī got up immediately and tied her hair. She helped her husband up and held him by his arm. Satyavān got up, stretched his body and looked around. Sāvitrī said ‘Let the fruit basket remain there. We can fetch it tomorrow. We will need the axe for some work at home. I will get this’. She let the basket full of fruits hanging to a tree, held her husband’s arm and started walking slowly towards home. Satyavān said “I am figuring out the path out of practise. I am able to see the full-moon light between the trees. This is how we came here in search of fruits. The path forks into two hereafter. Take the path that leads to the North. Walk fast. I have recovered well, out of my eagerness to see my parents. I feel stronger now” The two walked together to the āśrama at a good speed.
Back in the āśrama, Dyumatsena had got his eyes back and could see everything around him. He went around the āśrama with his wife looking for his son. He looked for him by the lake, near the forest and all around the āśrama. Even a slight sound would make him curious to see if his daughter-in-law Sāvitrī and son Satyavān had returned home. He roamed around frantically like a mad man and his feet got wounded due to thorns and sharp stones. The āśramites brought the aged couple back home and tried consoling them. Yet, the couple recalled the incidents of Satyavān’s childhood and cried ‘My dear son! O pious girl! Where are you gone?’ By then, Sāvitrī returned to the āśrama, happily with her husband. Looking at them, the brāhmaṇas who had gathered there said ‘Dyumatsena! Look here, your son is back home! You have got your eyes back, see him. You daughter-in-law Sāvitrī is back too! It is all your puṇya. Your prosperity will only increase hereafter!”
The brāhmaṇas asked Satyavān – “Why did you delay so much? Why did you not come earlier? Where were you roaming in the middle of the night? Your aged parents were very anxious about you both and so were we! There must be some reason. Pray, tell us!”
Satyavān – I informed father and left with Sāvitrī to fetch firewood. As I was axing wood in the forest I felt immense pain in my head. I slept with my head in her lap and fell into deep slumber. I don’t remember having slept that long ever before. I knew that you would all be very concerned and came home as soon as I woke up. That is it!
Hearing his words, a brāhmaṇa named Gautama said –‘Your father has suddenly gotten back his sight. You don’t seem to know the reason. Sāvitrī might be able to tell us. Sāvitrī! You know what really transpired! You please tell us. You have the brilliance of the goddess Sāvitrī in you. You know the real story. You don’t need to hide anything. Tell us the truth!”
Sāvitrī – What you say is true. There is nothing to hide here and I will speak the truth. Nārada had told me that my husband would die young. I always stayed by my husband because of this. While Satyavān was asleep, Yama came with his attendants and tired pulling him away from me. I prayed to Yama with honest words and spoke highly of his qualities. He offered me five boons. I prayed for my father-in-law’s eyes and kingdom – these were two. I also asked him to grant my parents a hundred sons and a hundred sons to us too – these were two more. I finally prayed for four hundred years of life for my husband and me. I had taken a vow to make sure that my husband lived. I have narrated everything as it actually transpired; In this way, my agony turned into happiness.”
Everyone was very happy listening to Sāvitrī’s words. “O mother! You are a pious lady and of noble character; You held up your in-law’s family which had drowned deep in the sea of troubles!” They praised her, offered their respects and headed back home.
The night passed and the sun rose the next morning. The ṛṣis in the āśrama finished their daily rites and spoke highly of Sāvitrī’s qualities before Dyumatsena. By then, the citizens of the Sālva kingdom came there and said that their minister had killed the enemy king in a battle and had caused the enemy forces to fled. All the citizens were of the opinion that Dyumatsena should occupy the throne irrespective of him having good vision or being blind. They had come there with their army and carriages to take him back to the kingdom. They were thrilled looking at Dyumatsena who had got back his sight. Dyumatsena’s family took leave of the āśramites and headed back with pomp.
Sāvitrī eventually gave birth to a hundred children and also had a hundred brothers. In this way, Sāvitrī helped her parents, in-laws and her husband overcome great difficulties.
With these words, the sage Mārkaṇḍeya finished narrating the story. He said “Draupadī too is of noble character just like Sāvitrī. She is from a great family and is pious by nature. She will help you cross your ocean of troubles”
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.