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Mahabharata, Book V - Triumph Over Fate - Poem by Veda Vyasa

In the bosom of the shadows rose a Vision dark and dread,
Shape of gloom in inky garment and a crown was on his head,

Gleaming Form of sable splendour, blood-red was his sparkling eye,
And a fatal noose he carried, grim and godlike, dark and high!

And he stood in solemn silence, looked in silence on the dead,
And Savitri on the greensward gently placed her husband's head,

And a tremor shook Savitri, but a woman's love is strong,
With her hands upon her bosom thus she spake with quivering tongue;

More than mortal is thy glory! If a radiant god thou be,
Tell me what bright name thou bearest, what thy message unto me.'

'Know me,' thus responded YAMA, ' mighty monarch of the dead,
Mortals leaving earthly mansion to my darksome realms are led,

Since with woman's full affection thou hast loved thy husband dear,
Hence before thee, faithful woman, YAMA cloth in form appear,

But his days and loves are ended, and he leaves his faithful wife,
In this noose I bind and carry spark of his immortal life,

Virtue graced his life and action, spotless was his princely heart,
Hence for him I came in person, princess, let thy husband part.'

YAMA from the prince's body, pale and bloodless, cold and dumb,
Drew the vital spark, purusha, smaller than the human thumb,

In his noose the spark he fastened, silent went his darksome way,
Left the body shorn of lustre to its rigid cold decay,

Southward went the dark-hued YAMA with the youth's immortal life,
And, for woman's love abideth, followed still the faithful wife.

'Turn, Savitri,' outspake YAMA, 'for thy husband loved and lost,
Do the rites due unto mortals by their Fate predestined crost,

For thy wifely duty ceases, follow not in fruitless woe,
And no farther living creature may with monarch YAMA go

But I may not choose but follow where thou takest my husband's life,
For Eternal Law divides not loving man and faithful wife,

For a woman's true affection, for a woman's sacred woe,
Grant me in thy godlike mercy farther still with him I go!

Fourfold are our human duties: first to study holy lore,
Then to live as good householders, feed the hungry at our door,

Then to pass our clays in penance, last to fix our thoughts above,
But the final goal of virtue, it is Truth and deathless Love! '

'True and holy are thy precepts,' listening YAMA made reply,
'And they fill my heart with gladness and with pious purpose high,

I would bless thee, fair Savitri, but the dead come not to life,
Ask for other boon and blessing, faithful, true and virtuous wife! '

'Since you so permit me, YAMA,' so the good Savitri said,
'For my husband's banished father let my dearest suit be made,

Sightless in the darksome forest dwells the monarch faint and weal
Grant him sight and grant him vigour, YAMA, in thy mercy speak!

Duteous daughter,' YAMA answered, 'be thy pious wishes given,
And his eyes shall be restoréd to the cheerful light of heaven,

Turn, Savitri, faint and weary, follow not in fruitless woe,
And no farther living creature may with monarch YAMA go! '

'Faint nor weary is Savitri,' so the noble princess said,
'Since she waits upon her husband, gracious Monarch of the dead,

What befalls the wedded husband still befalls the faithful wife,
Where he leads she ever follows, be it death or be it life!

And our sacred writ ordaineth and our pious rishis sing'
Transient meeting with the holy cloth its countless blessings bring,

Longer friendship with the holy purifies the mortal birth,
Lasting union with the holy is the bright sky on the earth,

Union with the pure and holy is immortal heavenly life,
For Eternal Law divides not loving man and faithful wife! '

'Blesséd are thy words,' said YAMA, 'blesséd is thy pious thought,
With a higher purer wisdom are thy holy lessons fraught,

I would bless thee, fair Savitri, but the dead come not to life,
Ask for other boon and blessing, faithful, true and virtuous wife! '

'Since you so permit me, YAMA,' so the good Savitri said,
Once more for my husband's father be my supplication made,

Lost his kingdom, in the forest dwells the monarch faint and weak,
Grant him back his wealth and kingdom,Y AMA, in thy mercy speak! '

Loving daughter,' YAMA answered, ' wealth and kingdom I bestow,
Turn, Savitri, living mortal may not with King YAMA go! '

Still Savitri, meek and faithful, followed her departed lord,
YAMA still with higher wisdom listened to her saintly word,

And the Sable King was vanquished, and he turned on her again,
And his words fell on Savitri like the cooling summer rain,

Noble woman, speak thy wishes, name thy boon and purpose high,
What the pious mortal asketh gods in heaven may not deny! '

Thou hast,' so Savitri answered, ' granted father's realm and might,
To his vain and sightless eyeballs hast restored their blesséd sight,

Grant him that the line of monarchs may not all untimely end,
Satya,van may see his kingdom to his royal sons descend! '

'Have thy object,' answered YAMA, 'and thy lord shall live again,
He shall live to be a father, and his children too shall reign,

F or a woman's troth abideth longer that the fleeting breath,
And a woman's love abideth higher than the doom of Death! '


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