For health, wealth, peace, and prosperity of their family, like many other cultures, women of the Hindu culture perform puja alongside fasting also referred to as vrat. Out of the many vrats performed throughout the year, one vrat that women do for the well-being of their husbands in Maharashtra and some parts of northern India is the Vat Savitri.
Held on the full moon day of the third month in the Hindu calendar called Jyeshta, on Vat Savitri, women fast, tie threads to a banyan tree and worship Lord Shiva asking the almighty to give their husbands a long life. Though it has been celebrated for centuries now, the inception of this vrat is believed to be from a story in the monumental epic Mahabharata.
Once upon a time, there lived a king called Asvapati along with his wife Malavi. Blessed with no children, the couple prayed to Lord Savitr or the Sun God to bless them with a son but the Sun God blessed the couple with a beautiful and intelligent daughter instead. Accepting the gift wholeheartedly, the couple named the daughter Savitri in honor of the Sun God himself.
When Savitri grew old enough, the couple decided to get her married but they gave her the privilege to choose her husband. So to choose a right husband, Savitri set out for a pilgrimage. Meanwhile, there was, amongst the Salwas, a virtuous Kshatriya king known by the name of Dyumatsena. Though he was wise, due to ill fate, King Dyumatsena became blind and it so happened that an old enemy dwelling in the vicinity, took advantage of the king’s mishap and deprived him of his kingdom.
Due to this, King Dyumatsena accompanied by his wife bearing a child on her breast, went into the woods. His son, Satyavan who was born in the capital and was destined to be the successor now grew up in a hermitage.
When Savitri arrives at the hermitage in the forest as a part of her pilgrimage, she sees Satyavan and his parents. She likes the young, energetic and valorous prince and intends for him to be her prospective husband. So, returning to her kingdom, Savitri informs her parents about her decision. Consenting to her request, King Asvapati invites many well-wishers and family members alongside the God-sage Narada muni to the marriage.
At the marriage, Sage Narada has a troubling foresight about Prince Satyavan’s future and he tells about it to King Asvapati. The God-sage says that though Prince Satyavan is a perfect match to Princess Savitri, he will not live more than a year. Not wanting his daughter to suffer, King Asvapati asks her not to marry Satyavan but Princess Savitri insists and marries him.
After marriage, the princess even goes to the forest along with her husband and stays with her in-laws in full austerity. Three days before her husband is destined to die, Savitri starts fasting and performing puja near a banyan tree with her husband beside her. She asks him to tie threads to the banyan tree in-order to keep him with her even when the Lord of Death himself arrives.
On the destined day, Lord Yama arrives to take the soul of Prince Satyavan as he lays weak in his wife’s lap and is confronted by Savitri. Hearing her plea, the Lord of Death only mentions that what was meant to happen cannot be altered and saying so, he takes Satyavan’s life as the young prince falls on the ground. However, through her puja and devotion, Savitri acquires the power of following Lord Yama as he takes away her husband’s soul.
Seeing her following him, Lord Yama questions her as to why is she following him and Savitri tells him that she isn’t leaving without her husband’s life. Though impressed with her devotion and sincerity towards her husband, Lord Yama tells her that Satyavan’s soul cannot be given. Instead, he promises to give her three boons.
As her first boon, Savitri asks Lord Yama to give her father-in-law both his sight and his kingdom. As her second wish, she asks Lord Yama to give her father one-hundred sons and as her third wish, she asks Lord Yama that she be given one-hundred sons with Satyavan.
Realising the true intentions behind the wishes, Lord Yama respectfully grants Savitri all her boons thereby giving Satyavan his life too. Not knowing what has happened, Satyavan gets up as if he just woke up from asleep. Later, Savitri narrates what happened to him and her in-laws. Meanwhile, the loyal minister of King Dyumatsena arrives to inform his king that the usurper has died and the kingdom was once more his to rule.
Like Savitri, women from various parts in India offer prayers to a Banyan tree and fast on the 13th, 14th and 15th days in the Jyeshta month. They offer five types of fruits to the Sun God and greet each other saying ‘Janm Savitri ho’ meaning be born a Savitri.
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