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in her plighted faith, fearlessly replied that, despite the ominious prediction which is suggestive of the appalling horrors of premature widowhood to the mind of a Hindoo female, she could not retract her pledge and surrender her heart to any other being upon earth.
Narada then exclaimed ; "O king, I see your daughter is true to her promise, firm in her faith and constant in her love and attachment to Satyavana. No one will be able to lead her astray from the path of righteousness. Let the unrivalled pair, therefore, be united in the sacred bond of wedlock.” The king replied, “O great Rishi, unalterable are your words; what you have now said is just and right. As you are my Gooroo (spiritual guide) I will do what you have ordered me to do." "Heaven's choicest blessings be upon you all," said Narada, and departed.
The king now directed his attention to the solemnisation of the nuptials of his beloved daughter with becoming pomp and éclat.
The fair daughter of Aswapati was thus married in due form to Satyavana, the son of the blind old king, Dyumutsen. For a while the happy pair continued to enjoy all the blessings of conjugal life in their blissful and retired cottage, remote from the busy throng of men and quite congenial to religious meditation, though Sabitri knew full well, as predestined by Bidhátá, that this short and transient happiness would be soon followed by long and painful suffering which would very nigh destroy them both.
Thus week after week and month after month rolled away, when at length the prophetic day on which the terrible doom was to be pronounced upon Satyavana drew nearer and nearer, and when Sabitri saw that there remained only four days to complete the terrible year, perhaps the last year of Satyavana's life, at the end of which the fatal torch of Yama would appear before her beloved husband, her heart recoiled at the idea. To avert the dreadful doom she undertook the performance of an austere vow, which strictly enjoined three days of continuous fasting and prayer, pouring forth at the feet of the Almighty all the fervours of a devotional heart. Her father-in-law, Dyumutsen, though overwhelmed by the surging wave of grief, endeavoured to dissuade her from undertaking so trying a vow, but his admonition was quite ineffectual. She persistently adhered to her resolution and calmly resigned herself to the dispensations of a wise. and merciful Providence.
Mental conflict, internal perturbation, and continuous fasting made her weak and emaciated, and the prophetic words of Narada incessantly haunted her mind like some fatal vision. It is quite impossible to describe the violent struggles that passed within her when that terrible day at last arrived, and when the inevitable decree of fate by which her dear husband should for ever cease to live would be fulfilled. After bathing in the sacred stream she made burnt offerings to the gods and prostrated herself on the ground, as a mark of profound homage to the honoured feet of the old Rishis, and those of her revered father-in-law and mother-in-law, who in return heartily pronounced their sincere benedictions upon her When the hour for dinner came, she was desired to partake of some refreshment, especially after three days' continuous fastings, but animated by a fervent spirit of devotion she declined to take any food before sunset.
Presently she saw her husband going to the forest with his axe and a bag, to procure fruits and dry wood. Sabitri begged to accompany him, but from the prescience of imminent danger as well as from the warmth of affection he would fain keep her at home, being assured that her tender feet were not fittted to wander in the “brambly wilderness" in her present enfeebled state of body; but regardless of all admonition she thus exclaimed: "O my beloved Lord, I am not at all weary with fasting, your very presence is my strongest support. I can never be happy without you, so do not turn a deaf ear to the earnest entreaty of an already disconsolate wife, whose fate is bound with yours in a gordian knot which no earthly force can break or cut.” Satyavana was at last constrained to yield to her solicitations, and bade her take his father and mother's permission before her departure. It was with the greatest reluctance that their permission was given. Obtaining their benedictions and being armed with the panoply of divine grace, the unhappy pair quitted their sweet home for the dreary forest. On the way, Satyavana, half conscious of what would soon befall him, addressed his loving wife in the following affectionate words: “O dear Sabitri, behold how nature smiles in all her beauty, how the fields are adorned with fragrant flowers, shady groves, and a wide expanse of living verdure, how slowly and smoothly runs the murmuring brook with soothing melody, how the warblers of the forest pour
forth their wild but sweet notes without fear of molestation, how merrily the peacock is dancing, how cheerfully the stag is frisking about, and above all, how the stillness of the scene invites the mind to contemplation."
While Sabitri was attentively listening to her husband's descriptive illustration of nature, her heart swelled in her throat, but her eyes were not sullied with even one tear-drop. She continued to follow her husband as a faithful, obedient wife.
At length they entered the forest, and Satyavana after having filled his bag with various kinds of fruits began to cut with his axe the withered branches of the trees. The effort soon overpowered him and he felt some uneasy sensation about his head. He slowly walked down to his dear wife and observed: "O much beloved Sabitri, suddenly I feel an acute headache which, becoming more and more painful, makes me quite insensible and almost breaks my heart. I cannot stand here any longer, but I trust by the aid of balmy sleep, soon to regain my health and strength."
On hearing her husband's heart-rending words, she sat down upon the ground and placed Satyavana's head upon her lap. But as fate had ordained he soon became perfectly insensible. When Sabitri saw this, her wonted presence of mind did not fail her; trusting, however, in the boundless mercy of an overruling Providence, she calmly and composedly waited for the ill-fated hour, when the shadow of death would hide for ever her beloved Satyavana-a doom she was herself prepared to share. Suddenly, after a short while, she believed she saw a grim figure, clothed in red and resplendent with lustre like the sun, slowly approaching her with a chain in his hand. This was not a figment of her imagination. The veritable Yama stood beside Satyavana and looked steadfastly upon him.
No sooner did Sabitri see him than she, taking her husband's head from her lap and placing it upon the ground, with trembling heart thus addressed him.
God-like person, your heavenly form and majestic appearance bespeak unmistakably that you are a god among gods.
Vouchsafe to unfold yourself and break your mind to me."
Yama replied ; “O Sabitri, thou art chaste and constant in thy devotion and meditation, I, therefore, feel no delicacy in satisfying your eager inquiry. I am Yama (Pluto), I am come here for the purpose of carrying away thy dead husband, , as his days upon earth are numbered.” To this, Sabitri said, "O king, I have heard that your imps carry away the dead bodies from the earth; why are you then come yourself?”
Yama replied, "O amiable Sabitri, while living, your excellent husband possessed many good qualities and was justly remarkable for his righteousness. It was improper, herefore, to have sent my imps to carry him away. With
this view I am come myself.” So saying Yama forcibly drew out the finger-shaped soul from Satyavana's body. Being deprived of the vital spirit, the dead body became motionless, pale and pallid ; and Yama went towards the South. The chaste Sabitri, in order to obtain the fruit of her vow, followed him with sad looks and a heavy heart. Seeing this,
, Yama remonstrated with her and ordered her to return home and perform the funeral obsequies of her husband. Sabitri said she would go wherever her husband was carried, and that by her unceasing prayer to the Almighty, by her firm faith in her spiritual guide, by the solemn fulfilment of her sacred vow, and by his (Yama's) grace, her course would be free and unrestrained. "O king of the infernal regions," said she, “kindly deign to lend a listening ear to a suppliant's prayer. He that has not obtained a complete mastery over his senses should not come to the forest to lead there either a domestic life, or a student's life, or the life of a devotee. Those who have effectually controlled their passions are fit to fulfil the necessary conditions of the four different modes of life. Of these four modes, the domestic life is decidedly the best, being most favourable to the acquisition of knowledge and wisdom, and to the cultivation of piety and virtue. Persons like myself do not desire to lead any other than a domestic life.”
"Now return home, O fair Sabitri ; I am much pleased with your wise observations; I am willing to grant you any boon save the life of your husband,” exclaimed Yama. Sabitri replied, “O king, be graciously pleased to restore eyesight to my blind father-in-law, and make him powerful as the Sun or the Fire, that he may be enabled to regain his kingdom and rule it with vigour.” Yama granted the boon, and directed her to return home after the fatiguing journey. Sabitri answering said, "O virtuous king, I feel no trouble or fatigue while I am with my husband, for a husband is the strength