ASWAPATI, the righteous - souled monarch of Madra, spent his days in lonesome forest performing many sacred rites that he might be blest with a son and heir.
His holy penances and pious prayers moved the powers Immortal and the goddess of Savitri appeared before king Aswapati, in all her divine splendor, to assure him that in the fullness of the season his royal consort would give birth to a child, worthy of his noble race.
Aswapati returned to his palace bearing the gladsome news. His loving wife and loyal people kept high festival and at the appointed hour, a noble offspring was born to the royal house bearing the sacred primal signs thirty-two.
The hope of her royal sire - the joy of her royal mother - the child was named Savitri, in grateful remembrance of the bounteous promise given to king Aswapati by the goddess of Savitri.
With the passage of years, the child Savitri grew up to be a maiden of exceeding beauty and withal, a maiden, rich in maidenly virtues - rich in holy lore. Her fame spread far and near and the belief gained ground that she was a divinity in mortal guise.
Thus, it came to pass that none sought her hand in marriage and none ventured to accept king Aswapati's invitation to her Swayamvara. What mortal could aspire so high as to wed a goddess - a Deva Kanya?
Therefore, Aswapati took counsel and decided to send Savitri on a tour of pilgrimage - wearing the simple robes of the common people - "that love might choose with love's own eyes".
So she rode into a land of wells and gardens, far in pleasant woods and jungles, unto ashramas, hermitages, tirthas, and temples, till her eyes fell upon Satyavan, the son of the exiled and sightless Dyumutsena, and his upon her.
Thus it was that love chose with love's own eyes and Savitri's wayfaring came to an end.
The news, most lightsome and delightsome, was carried to Aswapati by those who had watched Savitri and Satyawan at their first meeting. The fond king smiled: "Look. We have found a lure: let messengers be sent to ask the youth in marriage to my daughter."
But the portents troubled Rishi Narad. For had it not been ordained that on this day, a twelve-month hence, this ill-fated Satyavan would die!
So the king and Rishi Narad tried to persuade Savitri to choose another happier lord but they tried in vain.
"Father! A maiden chooses but once - only once. Her heart cannot be twice given." pleaded Savitri and she won.
Thus, when all the signs were propitious, the marriage feast was kept and Savitri was given unto Satyavan, a willing bride and the two straws floating on the reddened milk came close together to proclaim love till death, and Savitri left the royal palace to make her home in the cottage abode of her lord Satyavan.
The seasons came and the seasons went and Savitri and Satyavan loved and lived in a prison house where love was the goaler and delights the bars. But the shadows still lurked in Savitri's bosom and remembering what Rishi Narad had foretold she secretly fasted and prayed to avert the sad disaster.
The fated twelve-month drew to a close and on a fateful morning Savitri accompanied Satyavan to the forest vowing that "tomorrow the Sun God shall not smile upon the earth unless Satyavan still lived to greet him."
Thereafter it befell as had been prophesied: Satyavan slept the sleep of death on the lap of his beloved Savitri.
In the bosom of the shadows rose Death to carry out his mission. He drew out the vital spark from the prince's body and fastening it in his noose silently went his way.
Savitri followed him. Ignoring his protests and warning, waiving aside his pleadings and persuasive eloquence, Savitri ran after him over hills, across dales, across rushing torrents. Boon after boon he granted her, except the life of her lord, but she followed him still: since Eternal Law divided not a loving man and his faithful wife.
At last, Yama was vanquished: "Return, Savitri," spoke Dharmaraj, "Thy Satyavan shall live again! He shall live to be a father, and his children too shall reign!"
True to her vow, on the morrow, Savitri stood with Satyavan to greet the Sun - God as he emerged from his eastern mountain home. Not only Savitri and Satyavan but the aged Dyumutsena, with his sight restored and his kingdom returned to him, was also there to share their joy with his loving consort by his side.
[from the official press booklet]