Sunday, November 11, 2007

At the meeting of life and death

The story of Savitri is narrated in the ‘Vana Parva’, or forest section of ‘The Mahabharata’, when the Pandava brothers were wandering in exile, meeting various sages who they found in Ashram retreats in the wilderness. There they meet the mysterious sage Markandeya who imparts spiritual understanding by recounting ancient legends, which have been preserved from primordial times in the oral traditions of forest dwellers. In the section of ‘The Mahabharata’: CCLXLI (Pativratta-mahatmya Parva) Here the sage Markandeya introduces the legend:: “There was a king among the Madras, who was virtuous and highly pious…..the name of that lord of Earth was Aswapati.” The sage continues to tell how this king was unable to have a child, and so practiced many austerities, offering ten thousand oblations to the fire, and reciting Mantras in honour of Savitri, who is also known as Gayatri. Finally, through these pious practices he and his wife were given the boon of an issue, who however, was a daughter, on the grounds that this girl should be named Savitri, and treated in every way as though she were a son.
Savitri is in a way the incarnation of the sun god, who is called Savitr. In fact in the Gayatri Mantra, which is considered the holiest prayer of the Vedic tradition, addressed to the sun, we find the words : Om Tat (that eternal Being) Savitur (light manifested through the sun, awakening the whole creation.)

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