Women across India celebrate Vat Savitri Vrat in the memory of the powerful female icon Savitri every year. For centuries, her image has caught the imagination of a number of girls across India. Savitri stood for everything which a modern feminist shall strive for. Independent, assertive, devotion, wisdom, intelligence, and a fighting spirit.
Her story appears in the Vana Parva (Chapter of Forest) of ‘Mahabharata’ one of the greatest epic of Hindus.
Savitri is the daughter of Ashwapati, King of Madra. Her father received her in a boon from Goddess Savitri, the divine consort of Lord Brahma. She was one of the most beautiful girls of her time. Further, being raised by a devotional parent, she also had good knowledge and virtues. She was so beautiful that none of the boys of her time even dared to dream of her.
Her father was a wise person. He knew that a girl of such beauty and knowledge cannot get a companion easily. And therefore, he asked her to choose a groom for herself. She goes on a pilgrimage to search for a suitable groom and meets Satyavan during her journey. Satyavan is also the son of a king who has lost his kingdom. Satyavan is good-looking, brave, honest, knowledgable, and a suitable match for Savitri. Savitri falls in love at first sight and chooses him as her life partner. Although Satyavan is not aware of her selection. His father turned blind in his old age and he lost his kingdoms to the enemy. Satyavan’s family were living a modest life in exile. It is astonishing that a good-looking and wise girl like Savitri chooses someone who does not have materialistic pleasure as she has. But isn’t the love all about this? Further, being a Vidhushi, she knows that materialistic pleasure should not be the deciding factor of any relation. It is the nature and character of your partner, which should matter. Savitri sets a good precedent here.
She comes back to her father and shares her choice. Her father becomes happy to know about her choice. He asks various questions about Satyavan. Those questions are also very important. In none of the questions, he has asked about how much money he has or how many palaces he owns. Instead, he inquires about characters, knowledge, wisdom of Satyavan. Like in one question, he asks whether Satyavan has the knowledge, and virtue of forgiveness? Whether he is brave or not?
Sage Narada was present during all these discussions. He also endorses her choice. But he points out one fault. He says that Satyavan has only one year of his life left. He will die after one year. Worried Ashwapati requests Savitri to change her choice. But the answer she gave must be remembered by everyone. She says she had made her choice. Whether she will get pleasure from this choice or not, should be left to destiny. Using her free will, she has chosen someone who is best for her. And love happens only once! She is not going to change her decision due to any reasons. My life my choice! She indeed stuck to her choice. Another notable thing is, she remained calm and polite throughout the discussions. She did not abuse anyone for not respecting her choice. Instead, through her logical, sensible, and polite arguments, she made others to change their minds. Having a choice is a different thing. And to convince others for our choice is a different thing. She displays considerable patience and assertiveness. One must learn how to assert ourselves without hurting other’s feelings from Savitri. She disagreed with her father, but she did not rebel. Probably, this is the reason why his father in the end admired both her and her choice.
Savitri knew that her path is not easy. She had to give up her all comforts when she marries Satyavan. She could have easily chosen someone else who is as wealthy as her and could have lived a life of comfort thereafter. But then, she would not be the roll-model for women empowerment. She stood firm in her choice and she was determined to turn all the odds in her favor. We must highlight firmness of her decision. Many of us make our own decisions. But we are not ready to face repercussions of decisions. If we want the freedom to make our choices, we must have the courage to stick to it firmly and face challenges bravely.
After marriage, she took command of her family and tried to build up the lost glory a brick by brick. She understood the limitations of her husband’s family. She has chosen to live this life and she was determined to turn the tide in her favor. She never complains. And why should she complain? She is a strong woman. Her opinion became indispensable in her house. How did she achieve? She achieved it through immense patience, devotion, sacrifice, and love. When you care for others unconditionally, others will also care for you. She proved it.
Then, the fateful day comes. The day on which her husband is destined to die. But she is a fighter. She has decided to fight against destiny also. She could have easily accepted the destiny as many others do. But a warrior never gives up. She will fight until there is a last hope. She decided to go for work along with her husband. Because today, her husband needs her protection. And she must protect her.
In the forest, her husband dies. Yamaraja comes and takes away the life of Satyavan. But she does not lose her hope. She is a brave girl. She is not frightened to look at the God of Death i.e Yamaraja. Almost all ordinary human being is afraid of Yama. But Savitri is not an ordinary lady. She has courage. She decided to do something which no one else dared. She decides to follow the death, probably the most frightening thing on the earth. She is not crying. She is not begging. She is doing what she believes is correct. She has decided to turn around destiny. She knows that Yamaraja will not grant the life of Satyavan back so easily. After all, Yama has never diverted from his Dharma. There is no such precedent ever. But Savitri does not care. She is not bothered about history. She is determined to make history.
While following Yama, she discusses the various subjects of wisdom and knowledge with him. She does not blame Dharma for performing his duty. After all, he was doing what he is supposed to do. But she is quietly following him. Yama is also impressed by her valor, knowledge, and clarity of thoughts. Both discuss various aspects of Dharma. Yama is so much pleased with her that he grants her three boons of her choice. However, she cannot ask for the life of Satyavan in those boons. In the first boon, she asks for the eyesight and health of her father in law. In the second boon, she asks that her father in the law shall get back his lost kingdom. In the third, she asks for a hundred children for her father.
During these discussions, Yama a number of times ask her to give up and return to her family, accept destiny and cremate Satyavan. But she is not to be convinced so easily. She kept on pursuing the path she has chosen. She keeps on discussing with Yama. Yama grants her the fourth boon. She wants to become a mother of a hundred children of Satyavan. Yama grants! and yeah he is duped. Yama did not know what he has granted. How can a devoted wife like Savitri beget a child when her husband has died? It is impossible. And to keep his words, Yama has to grant a life of Satyavan back. Lord of Death is trapped by a woman. He is overpowered by her humbleness and wisdom. Death has been defeated and a woman has won. She single handly changed her destiny, destiny of her husband, her father, her father in law and probably crores of women who admire her.
Savitri has achieved what nobody else has ever achieved. She made a choice and remained assertive about it. She faced many problems but remained calm and humble. She turned stars in her favor by her knowledge and wisdom. She broke many stereotypes. She is an example of what a determined Hindu woman can achieve. She lived life on her terms. A powerful woman icon we must respect!