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Offline JR

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— D. A. Ghaisu.

(This story is taken from Vana-Parva of Mahabharat and is told by Sage Markandeya to Yudhishthira when the latter broods over the fate of Draupadi and wishes to know from him whether there was any great lady comparable to Draupadi. We give below a free adaptation of the original story, for the readers of our magazine, in the series "Stories from Mahabharata"—Editor.)

The King Ashwapati ruled the Madra-Desh in the old days. He was very pious, popular, efficient, intelligent, noble, truthful, self-controlled, and ruled with justice and equanimity. He was very dutiful and devoted to God. His wife was very austere and god-fear¬ing. They had one daughter, who was very beautiful from childhood. The daughter was a boon given by Goddess Savitri after propitiation by Savitru- Mantras was done by sacrificial fires. The daughter was, therefore, named after the same Goddess, and was called Savitri.

Gradually, the little baby left behind her playful childhood and grew to be a very attractive young lady. Seeing her youthfulness and beauty, the King was happy as well as worried as the problem of finding a suitable bridegroom for her was imminent. He one day called her by his side and said: "Dear one! You are now grown up .and are intelligent. I very much wish that you should be able to
choose for yourself the hand of the most suitable young  man.

It is always said that the father who does not arrange for the marriage of his daughter though she is adult, is a sinner, the husband who does not fulfil his duties is a sinner and a son who does not protect his -widowed mother is a sinner. Now, as a father, it is my duty that you should be married soon. Please choose the best match for you and relieve my anxiety regarding your marriage". Thus addressing his daughter, the king advised his old ministers to accompany her in her sojourn for finding out a good match.
Savitri bashfully obeyed her father's orders and accompanied by the veteran ministers of the court, climbed into a golden chariot and went out on the errand. First she went to the Ashrama of the Rajarshis, paid homage to them with her natural humility and pro¬ceeded to wander in the various beautiful forests in the country.

One day, when Ashwapati was seated in his court, filled with all the courtiers, the great sage of Gods, Narada came there. Savitri had just then returned after her travels. When she saw the respec¬table sage Narada, she came forward to bow before him. Narada, seeing her thus returning from her journey, asked the king, "O The wise king! From where does your daughter return? She has grown up into a very youthful girl and why are you not thinking of her marriage?" The king replied: "I had sent her out on that errand but she has returned today only. You may yourself ask her whether she has been successful." After thus being introduced by her father, Savitri told Narada:

''In the Shalva-desh, Dyumatsen was ruling some time back. He lost his sight and his son was still minor. Taking this oppor¬tunity, a neighbouring king attacked his kingdom and the king, "with his wife and son, went into exile and started doing penance. His son, whose name is Satyawan, has now come of age. He is handsome and I feel he will be the suitable bridegroom for me. I have really lost my heart to him and taken a silent vow that I will marry him only."

Thereupon Narada said, "It is a tragedy that Savitri has off-hand decided upon this Satyawan, His parents always speak truth and they have named him SATYAWAN." The king asked—"May be; but is he not a good bridegroom with all virtues?"

Narada said, "He is as bright as the Sun, clever as Brihaspati, brave as Indra, tolerent as the Earth, benevolent as Rantideva, truthful as Shibi, beautiful as the moon and godly-looking as Ashwini-Kumaras. He is self-controlled, soft-spoken, polite, valiant, amicable, modest, non-envious, brave and true of word. Great learned Brahmins call him the most straight-forward and innocent."

The King asked, "If you describe all his good qualities, why do-you say it is a tragedy to choose him?"
Narada revealed, "Though he is good in all respects, there is only one defect in him and nobody can remove that defect. There is a prophesy that he is to die exactly one year from today, because his life-span is short."

The king then immediately called his daughter and said-"See, my dear daughter! Better go again and find out some other person. The sage Narada says that Satyawan will live only for one year more.'"

Savitri replied, "As the wood once cut is not joined, a stone broken is not joined again, so a daughter once given or a vow once taken is not revoked. Once I have chosen my husband. He may have long-life or he may be destined to die soon, he may be good or bad, he will be my husband. There will be no change."

Narada intervened: "The mind of Savitri is fixed. She will not change her decision. Except this danger of untimely death, Satyawan is the best person for her hand in marriage. I, therefore, think that she should be given in marriage to him alone."   The king accepted his advice with respect.

The king then did not waste time. He went into the forest where Dyumatsen was in exile. Many courtiers were also accomp¬anying the king Ashawapati. Dyumatsen was sitting on a matting under a Sal tree. Ashwapati introduced himself with proper dis¬cretion. The blind exiled king offered him what simple things he had and enquired about the purpose of the royal visit. The king requested him to accept Savitri as the bride for his son Satyawan.

Dyuraatsen said, "We are usurped from kingdom and leading a very hard life here in this forest. She will not be able to bear this strain."

Ashwapati said, " Sir, pain and pleasure are but passing phases in our life. She and myself are well aware of what we are doing. You are really under-estimating us when you put before me the difficul¬ties."
Dyumatsen said, " I had a desire to have this relationship, but after the loss of kingdom, my wishes were a mirage to me. It seems-now the wish is being fulfilled by God. Let it be so. "

Then all the Brahmins in that Ashram were called and a marriage ceremony was duly arranged. The usual presents were given to the daughter and the king Ashwapati returned home satisfied.

The young couple was happy with each other. Savitri donned the simple forest dress and began to live in the new house with her dear husband, pleasing all by her good manners and prompt service. She served the blind king and the queen with all her heart, and created an atmosphere of happiness in the new house.
Time elapsed like a flying bird and all these days Savitri never forgot the words of Narada. She was counting every day and when .at last the year of the happy young Satyawan's life came near its end she observed a fast for the last three days. The night before the fatal day she did not sleep. She kept overnight vigil and on that decisive day, she finished all the religious duties very early in the morning. She bowed before the inmates of Ashrama and they blessed her with auspicious words for a long married life. She received the blessings with all her soul and life. Satyawan with his axe on his shoulder and Savitri by his side went that day to the forest for cutting wood-nay-towards his destiny. He at first declined to take Savitri with him, "because of her observance of the fast and weakness, but she insisted that he should not go alone. At last he agreed and both of them went for collecting wood. She took permission from the old king and queen also, and they gave it, remembering that this was the very first time that she was making a request.

She was happy to be allowed to go with him. Outwardly she smilled and put on a bright face, but her heart was full of pangs of foreboding danger. She had no alternative but to suffer the inner fear herself. Satyawan started to cut wood and while he was able to fell wood enough to pile a bunch, he was feeling tired and began to sweat and had headache. He told her that he felt sleepy and had no strength even to sit or to work. Savitri came near him and putting his head on her lap, she gave support to his head for sleeping. He was fast asleep. She remembered the prophesy of Narada. While she -was thus brooding, a strange figure appeared before her.

The dress of this Being was crimson and he was wearing a coro¬net of exquisite beauty. He shone with rare brilliance and though dark-skinned, looked like a Deva of a very high order, powerful and majestic. He brandished in his hand a queer-looking rope. Seeing him standing by side of Satyawan, Savitri put down the head of her sleeping husband and stood before him, mustering all her bravery.

[To be continued]
सबका मालिक एक - Sabka Malik Ek

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