By Nirooshitha Sethuram, Yogaratna
Graphics by Sheralee (Shambhavi) Hancherow
Savitri’s father didn’t have any other choice but to agree to her marriage with Satyavan. The marriage happened in a grand scale and the couple went back to the forest hut to start their life together.
Savitri cared for her husband lovingly, wearing the clothing of a hermit and living in perfect obedience to her in-laws. After living happily for almost a year, a few days before the predicted death of Satyavan, Savitri took a vow and performed severe austerities.
On the last day, when Satyavan picked up his axe to go into the forest, Savitri rose early and requested him to take her along with him to the forest. While he was cutting wood, she made garlands sitting under a tree. After a while Satyavan felt a little tired and came and lay down resting his head in Savitri’s lap. Suddenly there was darkness and Savitri saw Yama, the God of Death, taking the soul of her husband.
As Yama was leaving, Savitri ran after him pleading for the return of her husband. At first, Yama was surprised, wondering how she could see him. But then he understood the power of her devotion and chastity. So he explained to her that giving her husband’s life back was something that he couldn’t do. So, she asked Yama to take her life, too, along with her husband’s. Yama said that her time has not come yet and for her to go back to her hut.
Savitri was so adamant she refused to return without her husband. She continued following Yama. Yama was amazed by the power of her love and determination. He offered to grant her any boon, except Satyavan’s life. Savitri wisely asked for the boon of sons. “So be it,” replied Yama. Then Savitri asked, “But how can I have sons without my husband?”
Yama knew that he had to return Satyavan to Savitri if she had to have sons. So, Yama gave Satyavan his life back. Satyavan’s body came back to life. He slowly woke up as though he had been in a deep sleep.
The couple returned to the hut and to their surprise Satyavan’s father Dyumatsena had regained his eyesight. Savitri told them all about what had taken place in the forest. As they were praising her, Dyumatsena’s ministers arrived with the news of the death of his enemy. Jubilantly, the king and his entourage return to his kingdom.
Thus, by telling the story of the great Savitri, whose devotion won the life of her husband, Sage Markandeya answered Yudhishthira’s question.
Another of the many stories recited to Yudhishthira and the Pandavas is the story of King Harishchandra.
There once lived a king named Mathithayan who ruled his kingdom righteously. He was a handsome, kindhearted, brave king. Even though he was blessed with a mighty kingdom and happy citizens, he didn’t have a child to continue his legacy and dynasty. So, he prayed and gave alms to sages. After all these good deeds he was blessed with a baby girl who shone like a beautiful full moon. Thus she was named Chandramathi.
There are no words to describe the happiness of the king & queen. Right at that moment there was a voice from the heavens, stating that the child was born with a wedlock necklace in her neck, and whomever who was able to see this would be her husband. The puzzled parents looked at her neck and obviously couldn’t see any necklace.
Everyone treated her as a divine child. Chandramathi grew up to be a beautiful, bright, wise and humble princess. When she attained the age for marriage, the king invited all the kings for a svayamvara, where the princess would choose her husband.
On the day of the svayamvara, the Kings from all corners of the world arrived. They were all dreaming that they were going to be the chosen ones to marry the princess. Chandramathi walked into the hall with a garland in her hand with her best maid. The maid introduced each King and announced their bravery and glory.
While passing many kings and proclaiming their greatness, the maid stopped in front of a king and announced, “My dear Princess, the gentlemen in front of you is the king of the Kosala kingdom, Harishchandra. He is ruling from the capital city of Ayodhya, righteously. He is famous for his Truthfulness. Never has he lied in his life. He protects his kingdom like a parent protecting his children.”
Chandramathi was taken by this introduction and paused in front of him. King Harishchandra looked at her and couldn’t believe what he was seeing. He was so furious, his eyes turned red. He jumped out of his seat and yelled at the King.
“This is very wrong and unrighteous. How could you have a married woman choose another husband, pretending to be a maid? I have never seen this happen ever in my life. I can see her wedding necklace shining brightly in her neck. Another marriage for her while wearing this? Shame on you for inviting all of us and insulting us this way. Is this the way you rule righteously?”
The king rose quietly from his seat and challenged the audience, including the kings who attended, asking them if they could see any necklace on his daughter, the princess’s neck. Except for Harishchandra none of them could see the wedding necklace on her neck.
When Harishchandra thought that he was losing his mind, the king revealed the secret of Chandramathi’s divine birth. Chandramathi threw the garland in the air, and it landed on Harishchandra’s neck. Harishchandra was taken by all what had happened and was very happy to marry Chandramathi.
The marriage happened in a very grand scale with the blessings of all who attended. The newlyweds returned to Ayodhya and lived happily. Chandramathi was a very devoted wife to her husband, and followed his truthfulness herself. After some time, she gave birth to a beautiful baby boy. The parents were delighted to welcome him into the world and named him Devadasan. The glory of Harishchandra and his wife spread all over the earthly realms and to the heavens.
One day the King of the Devas, Indra, was listening to the stories from earthly realms. He asked everyone in the assembly a question, if there is any king who rules the earth, not only with righteousness, but also with honesty. Sage Vasishtha immediately stood up and shouted Harishchandra’s name and started praising his glory, including his truthfulness and his vow of loyalty to his wife.
Hearing this, his long-time rival, Sage Vishvamitra stood up and challenged what Vasishtha said. The angry Vasishtha asked Vishvamitra to prove him wrong and promised, if that would happen, Vasishtha would give away all his powers of penance. Seeing all this, Sage Narada provoked Vishvamitra to take up the challenge. Vishvamitra then said if Harishchandra succeeded, that he would give half of the powers of his penance to the truthful king.
Vishvamitra visited the earthly realm planning to fail Harishchandra. At first, he asked Harishchandra for wealth to perform a yaj~na. The king delightfully gave everything the sage needed. Then Vishvamitra sent wild animals to destroy everything, but the king was able hunt them and chase them away. Next the angry sage sent a wild boar, which the king successfully got rid of too.
Now the sage decided to allure him with beautiful women. He sent two beautiful, heavenly looking women to the king’s assembly. They were singing and dancing beautifully Infront of him in a very provoking manner. The King rewarded them with gifts for their talent, but they refused to accept the gifts and asked the king to marry them. The King humbly refused their request and rewarded them with more gifts. Refusing to accept gifts, they were adamant that the king should marry them. The king got really irritated and angry, and ended up chasing them away.
Then Vishvamitra came, claiming that the women were his daughters and demanded the king to marry them. He said to the king, that he had insulted his daughters by his refusal. The king explained to the sage about his vow of loyalty to his wife. The king offered to give all his land and his kingdom.
The angry sage accepted all of that, but only as an initial payment, asking for more. The king requested time to fulfill the payment. The citizens were devastated to see their beloved king leaving the kingdom with his wife and son. They begged the king to stay with them, but Harishchandra was able console them and left the kingdom anyway.
After a long difficult journey, Harishchandra with his family reached Kashi, the holiest city. He lived there in poverty with his family. After a month’s time, Vishvamitra presented himself again and demanded the donation that was promised to him. He suggested the King should break his promise, so that the misery would end.
But Harishchandra upheld telling the truth as the highest principle and told the sage that he still had time to fulfill his promise. The sage agreed and said that he will return soon to collect the debt.
Harishchandra was so worried as to how he was going to pay his debt. He didn’t even have money to feed his own family. His child was starving, with no food to have for days. Seeing her husband suffering, Chandramathi suggested that Harishchandra should sell her as a slave. Hearing this Harishchandra’s heart broke into pieces. But Chandramathi insisted that it was the only way to uphold satya/truthfulness.
With great hesitation, Harishchandra accepted her proposal and sold her to a grumpy old man. As their son refused to leave his mother, he was sold along with Chandramathi.
More to come…
- 1. Satyavan & Savitri – https://soundcloud.com/dan-scholz/savitri-and-satyavan?in=dan-scholz%2Fsets%2Fwhere-your-favorite-princess
- 2. Yama, Satyavana & Savitri – https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Savitri_and_Satyavan#/media/File:Savitri_and_Satyavan.jpg
- 3. Svayamvara ceremony – https://discover.hubpages.com/relationships/Swayamvara-the-Ancient-Hindu-Marriage-Custom
- 4. The Wedlock Necklace – https://www.exoticindiaart.com/product/paintings/ornamented-bride-canvas-painting-miw839
- 5. Sage Vasishtha – https://glorioushinduism.com/2021/01/25/vashishta-the-rishi-of-three-lifetimes
- 6. Vishvamitra & Harischandra – https://en.wikipe – dia.org/wiki/Harishchandra#/media/File:What’er_though,_Great_sage.jpg
- 7. King Harischandra, Chandramati & Devadasan leaving kingdom – https://mythgyaan.com/harishchandra-story
- 8. Harischandra, Devadasan & Chandramathi – https://mythgyaan.com/harishchandra-story