Savitri

Isavasyam idam sarvam....dhanam

In the stage presentation of `Savitri' by the Natyavihar Kalakendra, an attempt has been made to examine the deep philosophical significance of the role of each of the major characters of the legend and to bring out the exquisite message of offering hope to the questing spirit of man.

Our story begins with the life and penance of King Ashwapati - the noble king of Madra Desh. As a Yogi of high attainments, he is given to deep contemplative thinking. He propitiates Goddess Gayatri so that She could be born as Savitri. Ashwapati realizes that Savitri will be the answer to the problems of mankind. The birth of the divine child Savitri alerts Trilokasanchari Narad Muni who issues a warning to Yama that Savitri will assume enormous powers in course of time and challenge him in his spheres of functioning. Yama ignores the warning. In the meantime, Savitri grows up into a fine young woman, well-versed in arts and crafts and when the time comes for her marriage, finding no suitor appropriate, she decides to choose her own life companion. It fell to the lot of Satyavan, a prince in exile, to come under the divine spell of Savitri. Although married life is one of ecstasy, Savitri recollects the warning that Narad Muni had issued that her husband Satyavan has just twelve months to live. Undeterred by the calamity she would face, she carries on life in the normal manner but prepares herself for the eventuality. Savitri goes within herself in quest of her soul through a deep meditative process, she is no more agitated by the impending doom. Savitri is now ready to confront Death.

On the fateful morning, Satyavan goes to the forest, cuts some wood, tires unusually and falls asleep. But this was the sleep of death. Savitri now invokes the power of the mantras to choke all directions so that the messengers of Yama are prevented from taking Satyavan's soul away. The Lord of Death annoyed with this resistance descends personally to demand the soul of Satyavan. Savitri stands upto the formidable figure of Yama as he takes Satyavan's soul away and follows him through the dark, desolate and dreadful wilderness which no mortal has ever crossed.

Savitri is in dogged pursuit of Yama. Yama dissuades Savitri from accompanying him. He threatens her, cajoles her, tempts her with boons, but in no way does he succeed in making her return to earth. He takes her through the terrifying worlds of Serpents, Goblins and the Infernal fire but Savitri comes out of each one of these unscathed. The God of Death argues that to give man immortality would be a great folly since he is such an imperfect creature. Savitri is not taken in by these reasons. She is aware of the limitations of Man but she recognises his destiny of transforming himself into the Divine. The God of Death is thus checkmated at every point. He now throws his last challenge at Savitri and asks her "to lay bare the spirit's force", so that he can judge her claims to immortality. Now a change comes over Savitri. The Mighty Divine Mother in her casts off her veil and reveals herself all her glory. This Vishvarupa of Savitri is the final blow to the God of Death. He shudders at the Light. The Light licks him and 'like a moth, the Lord of Death is eaten by the Light'.

Savitri thus vanquishes Death. But this is not the end of her ordeals. She now sees and hears a radiant God who offers her eternal peace and bliss with Satyavan. But Savitri does not want felicity for herself and for Satyavan in a private Heaven. Her life's mission is to bring down the power of the Divine upon earth and to transform all life . It is then, that the radiant God says; 'Thy thoughts are mine, I have spoken with thy voice'. He bids her to go back with Satyavan to accomplish their mission together.

Savitri, the one to challenge the Lord of Death, is played by Hema Malini. Choreographed by Bhushan Lakandri with Music and Lyrics by Ravindra Jain. Playback singers are Suresh Wadkar, Kavita Krishnamurti and Hemlata.