The oldest and probably the most authentic version of the legendary tale of Savitri and Satyavan is found in the Vana Parva of the Mahabharat narrated by rishi Markandeya. As the story goes, Yudhishthira the oldest Pandava prince once visited rishi Markandeya and asked him if there had ever been a woman whose devotion to her husband could equal Draupadi. The sage replied to the prince by narrating the story of Savitri and Satyavan.
1. King Ashwapathi was blessed with a Daughter
The king of the Madra kingdom Ashwapathi was childless for several years. He and his wife Malavika were pious, God-Fearing people. Disappointed at having no children, the king lived an aesthetic life for many years. He was extremely devoted to the Sun God also called Savitri. He would pray to his Ishta Devata every day, offering obeisance and begging the Lord to grant him the boon of a child. Finally pleased with his devotion. Lord Savitri appeared before him and granted him the boon that the king would soon have a beautiful daughter.
The couple was overjoyed at the prospect of welcoming a new member into the family when their daughter was born, they named her Savitri in honor of lord Savitri, who had blessed them with their child, having been born by the grace of the Sun God Savitri was well behaved, soft-natured, devoted, and pious. Beautiful as she was, she intimidated all the men in her vicinity so when she reached the marriageable age, the men did not dare to come anywhere near her and ask her for her hand in marriage.
2. Savitri Chose Her Groom
Fed up with the situation, Savitri’s father asked her to choose her groom. For this purpose, she set out on a pilgrimage. During her journey, she found Satyavan the son of a blind king named Dyumatsena belonging to the Shalwa kingdom.
Having lost everything his eyesight included, Dyumatsena was living in exile in the forest, along with his wife and son. Returning to her palace, Savitri found her father speaking with sage Narada, who announced that she made a bad choice, though the groom was perfect in every sense of the term.
3. Savitri weds Satyavan and went to Forest
Narada explained that it was Satyavan’s destiny to die exactly in one year. From that day alarmed the king asked Savitri to change her mind and select a different groom, but she was adamant and refused to change her decision soon. After Savitri and Satyavan got married and she went to live with him in the forest.
She gave up all her luxuries, silk, clothing, and jewelry and instead wore the apparel of a hermit. She lived a simple life exhibiting complete respect and obedience to her parents-in-law and husband. One year flew by and soon there were only three days left before the prophecy death of Satyavan, Savitri decided to undertake severe fasting and penance.
4. Day of Satyavan’s Death
To please the gods and save her husband from his assured death, her father-in-law told her that she was being too harsh on herself, but she did not change her decision. Finally, Dyumatsena gave in to her wishes and offered her his full support. On the morning of Satyavan’s four-told death, Savitri requested her father-in-law to allow her to accompany her husband into the forest.
She was never the type to ask anything from anyone and so Dyumatsena immediately granted her wish. As Satyavan was cutting wood in the forest, he suddenly felt overwhelmingly weak and lay his head on Savitri’s lap. He then saw the messengers of Yama coming to claim his soul.
He knew his time was almost up. The messengers of Yama saw Savitri and were awestruck with her divine aura. They quietly left without taking her husband’s soul, infuriated that his messengers could not bring Satyavan’s soul with them. Yama decided to go there himself as he proceeded to carry his soul away, Savitri kept following him and refused to turn back. She then sweetly talked Yama into giving up his hold over Satyavan’s soul. She praised Yama as the greatest one, the just one who always adhered to dharma.
5. Savitri lured Yama to not take Satyavan’s life
She hailed him as dharma raj the king of dharma and the one who rules above everyone else. Pleased with her general persona and her wisdom Yama told her to ask for any boon except the life of Satyavan. Savitri first asked for her father-in-law’s lost eyesight and the lost kingdom to be restored to him.
She then asked for a hundred children for her father and then another hundred children for herself and Satyavan, while Yama granted her the first three boons. He was in a dilemma about the last one granting her that boon would mean having to bring Satyavan back to life, impressed with Savitri’s purity and complete devotion to her husband. He told her to ask for one more boon this time he missed the condition, except for the life of Satyavan Savitri, immediately asked that Satyavan’s soul be restored inside his body and that he can come back alive, smiling Yama granted that boon too, bringing Satyavan back from the dead and blessed the couple to have a long happy married life lasting 400 years. After Yama left, Satyavan woke up as though from a long deep sleep surprised that he was still alive. He asked his wife about what happened when he was asleep. Savitri merely smiled and told him that it was time for them to return home when they reached their cottage Dyumatsena had already regained his eyesight Savitri, who had kept silent till then narrated.
6. Savitri Vrata
All that happened when they were in the forest hearing this her husband, father-in-law, and all the ascetics present there were astounded at her feet, filled with joy and gratitude. Dyumatsena proceeded to regain control of his kingdom. He ruled as a king keeping his subjects happy and contented. The story of Savitri and Satyavan has been told and retold through many mediums, including books, poems, songs, plays, and films. Savitri is regarded as the greatest embodiment of purity and devotion. Even today, married Hindu women from most parts of India conduct the Savitri Vrata once a year.