Friday, September 18, 2015

Mercury Retrograce II — Sāvitrī - The Greatest Love Story Ever Told

                              Mercury Retrograce II 
Sāvitrī The Greatest love story ever told

As Mercury retrogrades in the star cluster of Hasta, it is always uplifting to remember one of the most important stories related to the presiding deity – Savitṛ.

Over 5,000 years ago the great scribe Vedavyāsa wrote down countless stanzas to guide mankind through the dark ages. Out of the endless encoded lessons, historical accounts, and parables he transcribed, came one of the greatest love stories ever told.

 There once was a great king named Aśvapati, who benevolently ruled over the kingdom of Madra. After several failed attempts to sire a child, he realized that he needed to take more divine measures to help in his problems conceiving. He began performing strict austerities, and everyday he made 10,000 offerings to a sacred fire. Throughout the days and nights he chanted the Gāyatrī mantra, as he continued this regimen for 18 years.

                                                       Gāyatrī Mantra
One day, content with his fervent devotion the goddess Sāvitrī coalesced before him in a cascade of shimmering Sun and moonlight. She was so pleased with his level of sincere worship that she offered him a blessing for his spiritual adulations.

“What are your wishes,” asked the resplendent goddess. 

“Oh sublime goddess  of the divine dawn, please bless me with many sons, so I may pass on my kingdom” the king asked humbly.

“I am sorry oh pious king, I cannot fulfill this wish, but I can grant you a daughter, and she will have the spirit of many sons” replied the goddess.

The king humbly bowed in a jubilant thanks, and the goddess softly dissolved back into waning rays of fractured light.

Many months later, the queen gave birth to a beautiful baby girl, and in honor of the goddess who blessed him the king named the infant Sāvitrī. As she was his only child, the king gave her free reign to pursue any whims she desired. As she grew older she relished studying all the arts and scholarly sciences that any man would endeavor to pursue. She soon became a brilliant young girl and was liked and respected by the entire kingdom. As she flowered into a young lady she transformed into a stunning beauty. The king tried to set up suitors, but after ruling out all amorous possibilities in her vicinity Sāvitrī insisted that she seek and choose her own husband. The king allowed her to take a royal chariot, and a retinue of soldiers, ministers and royal escorts so she could see the world, and maybe even find a husband. Sāvitrī travelled to many kingdoms and was introduced to several rich, handsome and capable princes, but all were intimidated by her elegance, and none sparked her fancy.

 She traveled for many months, but she became increasingly disenchanted with her romantic prospects. After a long unfruitful journey Sāvitrī decided to return home. On her journey back to her kingdom she came upon a captivatingly beautiful forest that was often used by those who wished to enter into spiritual seclusion. Upon her wishes her guards escorted her into the hermitage so she could momentarily take a break from her journey and enjoy the beauties of the seemingly enchanted forest. It was on this occasion that she came upon a meager looking thatch cabin outside of which she encountered an older blind man and his wife. The blind man introduced himself as the exiled King Dyumatsena of the Salvas kingdom. The king had been banished and dethroned by a brutal tyrant, and all his lands and riches were seized, so the dejected king had ventured deep into the forest for refuge. 

As she enjoyed the hospitality of the exiled king, a young man walked out of the forest. He was a modest chap who had just come from foraging for food to provide dinner for his family. He humbly introduced himself, and Sāvitrī soon realized that this young man was actually prince Satyavan, the son of the blind king. The prince graciously welcomed her to the forest, and enthusiastically pointed out interesting trees, plants and flowers that only grew in that particular micro-climate. Enchanted by his gentle demeanor, and his courteous grace, Sāvitrī realized that she was enthralled with a feeling she had never felt before.

She bid farewell to the rustic royal family and journeyed home with a new found hope.  When she finally arrived back to her father's kingdom she entered the king’s court to find her father sitting with the great sage Nārada

Excitedly, she began to narrate her journey to her father and soon announced that she had found the man she wanted to marry. 

“Who is this lucky chap?” asked the king. 

“ His name is prince Satyavan” replied Sāvitrī. A momentary look of shock came over sage Nārada’s face, and he quickly interjected, 

“my dear noble princess, Satyavan is a dignified, brave, refined and wellborn prince, but I am sorry young lass, this is a grave mistake. You see, his family has been levied a very serious curse, they have lost their kingdom and soon Satyavan is doomed to die – exactly one year from today.” 

Though muddled and bewildered by the sage’s words, Sāvitrī was too moved from what she had felt when she met the young prince, and after a few moments of reflection she argued the principle that true love should not be based on conditions, and that transience was a factor that applied to all matters. 

A look of fear came over her father king Aśvapati, and he tried to dissuade her, “Dear daughter, I believe you should listen to the wisest of sages Nārada and retreat from this aspiration.” Sāvitrī retreated inward, she grew perturbed and confused, but trusted the rapturous feeling she felt inside. She emerged from her melancholy resolute, and she implored her father to sanction her marriage.

Reluctantly, king Aśvapati agreed, and within a few days he escorted his daughter to the hermitage in the forest with a troupe of capable priests. When he arrived he asked the blind king to allow prince Satyavan to marry his daughter. Though embarrassed by his fallen status, the blind king agreed to the union. Though the atmosphere was not customary for nobility of her stature, the skilled priests performed a humble wedding in the trees replete with every ritual customary for a royal union. The young love birds walked the 7 sacred steps, and consecrated their union with the proper mantras and formalities.

After her father left the ceremony, The young princess discarded her royal attire and donned the unpretentious rags of a forest girl. Never complaining about a lack of luxuries, she considered the following year spent in the woods with her new husband to be uniquely blissful. No one knew of her inner torment, and she never mentioned a word to her husband about the fate that might befall him, or the sage’s dire words.

 After a euphoric year in the enchanted forest; four days before her husband was to expire, and in the throes of unspeakable angst Sāvitrī secluded herself, and committed her efforts to the Triratra vow – an arduous practice in which she fasted for 3 days and 3 nights while standing erect in one spot like a motionless tree. In those 3 days she vacillated, from a grief-stricken broken heart to profound contemplations about the meaning of time, impermanence and the true meaning of the soul. Though sadness wavered her heart,  she worshipped the Sun and the sacred fire repeatedly. Everyone was perplexed and concerned for her, but they respected her apparent solemnity.

On the fated day that her husband was to die, he went off to forage and gather some roots and firewood. Sāvitrī emerged from her intense austerity and requested that she go with her husband into the forest. Her father and mother in-law tried to prevent her asserting that she was too weak, but she insisted on going with  Satyavan.

  After walking sometime in the forest, her husband acquired enough wood and gathered it to take back to their camp. All of a sudden he felt light-headed and a sharp headache overcame him. He explained to Sāvitrī that he needed to rest, and she urged him to lay his head on her lap. With the gentle caresses of his wife’s fingers he soon drifted into a deep sleep. Torturous tears rolled from the face of Sāvitrī onto the head of her husband as she watched the life force slowly leave his body.

At this time the shadowy messengers of Yama, the God of Death, came with their ghastly hounds to extract the soul of the prince and usher him into the realm of the dead. Her radical love, grief and sincere austerities, coupled with the enchanted energy of the forest created a glowing aura around her, and no matter how hard the couriers of death tried, the servants of the grim-reaper could not penetrate her energy field. They hurried back to the palace of Yama the God of Death, and told him of their obstacles in reclaiming this particular soul. A disgruntled, yet curious Yama got up from his throne and set off to complete his duty of retrieving the souls of the departed.

Yama, the Lord of Death arrived at the area of the forest where Sāvitrī cradled the cold body of her husband. Sāvitrī looked up and saw a smoky figure clad in exotic armor, a foreboding jewel encrusted crown, and holding an ominous noose in one hand and a commanding scepter in the other. 

“Who are you?” asked Sāvitrī

“I am Yama, the Lord of Dharma and Death, I am here for your husband, it is his time.” 

Sāvitrī protested, “Oh great Lord of Dharma, your principles are unparalleled, you have done immeasurable good for all creatures. Your greatness is as unfathomable as the extant of stars in the sky, but I cannot let you take my husband."

Ignoring her, Yama easily penetrated her glowing aura and deftly whisked away the soul of the dead prince.

As Yama was quickly heading back into the realm of the dead he heard leaves rustling behind him. He looked back to find that Sāvitrī was marching after him.

Yama was surprised. Usually people are running away from the lord of death not charging directly at him. “My husband and I are united, wherever he goes I will go as well," said Sāvitrī.

 “This is his time to go young girl, it is not your time, let go of this folly!" replied Yama.

Sāvitrī then tried to appeal to his sense of duty, “you are the god of dharma, and you must uphold that position. That is my husband, our union is the very definition of dharma. There is no higher dharma than the union of true love. If you do not allow that, then you are breaking the very laws of dharma.”

Yama smirked, “good try little one, but that is not how it works, all things are contingent on time, and his time to go is now, your time together has passed.”

She ardently followed the apparition, and began debating the god of death with every law she ever read, every tenant of justice and every principle of dharma from every holy book she had ever learned.

On one hand Yama thought, this must be the peskiest brat alive, on the other hand Yama was amused at her tenacious insistence. Yama sped up, but just when he thought he had ditched the young woman, he would hear her charging at him from behind once again.

“Give this up girl, you look gaunt, and you do not look well, go back to your village,” commanded Yama.

But Sāvitrī insisted, “I have all the energy to follow you wherever you will go, as long as I stay close to my husband.  The very dharma that you espouse to uphold dictates that I must follow love to its very end.”

At this point, half annoyed, and half entertained at the young girls persistence, Yama said to her, “young girl, you are quite feisty. I am impressed you have kept up with me this long. Your arguments are mirthful, but they do have elements of truth which you express eloquently.  Though you are quite unyielding you have given me a good chuckle. I have decided to grant you 5 wishes, but I cannot and will not bring your husband back from the dead, and none of your wishes may be involved with his resurrection".

Keeping a brisk pace with the lord of the dead she said, “thank you Yama great God of Dharma.  First, I wish that my father in-law can regain his sight. Secondly, I want you to allow my father in-law to reclaim his kingdom. Thirdly, I want you to grant my father to have a hundred sons, and my last wish is that I too have 100 sons."

  Relieved to finally get rid of the brilliant yet irksome girl, he addressed her requests, “ok, I will grant you those wishes, but I allowed you 5 wishes what is your last wish?"

 "Well, my 5th wish is that you must resurrect the spirit of my husband, for how else am I to have 100 sons?" Sāvitrī answered.

Beguiled, Yama stopped in his tracks. He thought for a moment in a state of semi-amusement about the riddle this young girl had just entrapped him in.

As the god of death he had to take the soul of this young lad, but as the god of dharma he had to honor his words to grant her the 4th wish.

Tickled by the charm and intelligence of this young girl, he begrudgingly granted her all 5 wishes, and left mirthfully laughing under his breath.

Sāvitrī rushed back to where the body of her husband lay, and again rested his head on her lap. Satyavan slowly awoke, “Uh, what happened, sorry I dozed off dear. I had a dream you were talking to someone I think"? Uttered Satyavan.

Sāvitrī weeped in relief and gently kissed and caressed her husbands head. Now it was tears of joy and not tears of woe that flowed on to the head of the prince. Savitri was overjoyed, but in shock from what had just occurred, and she could not even think of how to express in words what had just transpired.

As the Sun was now setting, prince Satyavan said “oh, the time has passed so quickly, we must return back to our camp, for my parents will worry with great anxiety about us.”

When they returned to the camp, Satyavan was shocked to see his father staring directly into his eyes – King Dyumatsena had regained his sight. As the family was hugging in jubilation over the miracle of the father’s reclaimed vision,  Sāvitrī narrated the events that had transpired and her interlude with the god of death. As wonder and doubt were clashing in the minds of everyone who heard her remarkable tale, a troupe of soldiers rode into the camp. The soldiers officially bowed and greeted the exiled king and explained that a minister and the people of the Salvas kingdom led a revolt and killed the brutal king who had usurped king Dyumatsenas kingdom. The riders were accompanied by a minister who came to convey the message that the people wanted their original king to rule them once again. 

With the blessings that the intelligent young girl won him, the blind king regained his eyesight and his lost kingdom. She went on to gain a hundred brothers, and herself acquired 100 sons.

There are many lessons of Mercury Retrograce in this story:

I : If you bring blessings to a curse, then the curse must bring blessings.

II: Though there are limits to time, there is still time for your limits. 

III: You should always use your intelligence, prayer and devotion to get you out of tight spots. 

IV: Intelligence and prayer are an unbeatable combination.

V:  Nature is the ultimate gift. The princess left the luxuries of the palace life for the humbleness of forest life. Then when she was at her darkest hour she entered prayer in the stance of a tree. Finally, she followed the god of death farther into the forest to reclaim the spirit of her husband. The deeper she went into nature, the more magical and blessed her life became. 

VI: You must always debate on the side of truth,  while simultaneously observing the two sides of a situation.

VII: With love, devotion and intelligence, the young girl retrorected the fate of hundreds of people.

                                                                         ~~  O  ~~

 Sāvitrī convinced her father to marry a throne-less prince through the power of intelligent speech. She argued with one of the greatest sages to have ever lived with intelligence, and like Mercury retrograde incarnate himself,  through sincere intelligence she persuaded the lord of dharma to rescind the contract of death.