The oldest known version of the story of Savitri and Satyavan is found in “The Book of the Forest” of the Mahabharata.
The story occurs as a multiple embedded narrative in the Mahabharata told by Markandeya to the Pandavas
The childless king of Madra, Ashwapati, lives ascetically for many years and offers oblations to Sun God Savitr. His consort is Malavi. He wishes to have a son for his lineage.
Finally, pleased by the prayers, God Savitr appears to him and grants him a boon: he will soon have a daughter. The king is joyful at the prospect of a child. She is born and named Savitri in honor of the god. Savitri is born out of devotion and asceticism, traits she will herself practice.
Savitri is so beautiful and pure, she intimidates all the men in the vicinity.
When she reaches the age of marriage, no man asks for her hand, so her father tells her to find a husband on her own. She sets out on a pilgrimage for this purpose and finds Satyavan, the son of a blind king named Dyumatsena, who after he had lost everything including his sight, lives in exile as a forest-dweller.
Savitri returns to find her father speaking with Sage Narada who announces that Savitri has made a bad choice: although perfect in every way, Satyavan is destined to die one year from that day. In response to her father’s pleas to choose a more suitable husband, Savitri insists that she will choose her husband but once. After Narada announces his agreement with Savitri, Ashwapati acquiesces.
Savitri and Satyavan are married, and she goes to live in the forest. Immediately after the marriage, Savitri wears the clothing of a hermit and lives in perfect obedience and respect to her new parents-in-law and husband.
Three days before the foreseen death of Satyavan, Savitri takes a vow of fasting and vigil. Her father-in-law tells her she has taken on too harsh of a regimen, but Savitri replies that she has taken an oath to perform these austerities, at which Dyumatsena offers his support.
The morning of Satyavan’s predicted death, Savitri asks for her father-in-law’s permission to accompany her husband into the forest. Since she has never asked for anything during the entire year she has spent at the hermitage, Dyumatsena grants her wish.
They go and while Satyavan is splitting wood, he suddenly becomes weak and lays his head in Savitri’s lap under Grand Banayan Tree ( Vat Vriksha) .
The Yamadoots Agents of Death God came for Satyavaan Soul but were not able to approach near the dead body of Satyavan as it was in the protection of his Pativratha wife Savitri.
Then Yama himself, the Death God, comes to claim the soul of Satyavan. Savitri follows Yama as he carries the soul away. When he tries to convince her to turn back, she offers successive formulas of wisdom. First she praises obedience to Dharma, then friendship with the strict, then Yama himself for his just rule, then Yama as King of Dharma, and finally noble conduct with no expectation of return. Impressed at each speech, Yama praises both the content and style of her words and offers any boon, except the life of Satyavan. She first asks for eyesight and restoration of the kingdom for her father-in-law, then a hundred sons for her father, and then a hundred sons for herself and Satyavan. The last wish creates a dilemma for Yama, as it would indirectly grant the life of Satyavan. However, impressed by Savitri’s dedication and purity, he offers one more time for her to choose any boon, but this time omitting “except for the life of Satyavan”. Savitri instantly asks for Satyavan to return to life. Yama grants life to Satyavan and blesses Savitri’s life with eternal happiness.
Satyavan awakens as though he has been in a deep sleep and returns to his parents along with his wife. Meanwhile at their home, Dyumatsena regains his eyesight before Savitri and Satyavan return. Since Satyavan still does not know what happened, Savitri relays the story to her parents-in-law, husband, and the gathered ascetics. As they praise her, Dyumatsena’s ministers arrive with news of the death of his usurper. Joyfully, the king and his entourage return to his kingdom.
Vat Savitri Vrat
The Vat Savitri Vrat falls on the full moon day of the month of Jyeshtha, around May-June.The married Women observe Vat Savitri Vrat with the intention of preserving their husbands good fortune.On this day, women fast and worship the Vat (Bargad) tree to pray for the growth and strength of their husdand and families.All Hindu women observe this festival worshiping and propitiating Savitri as a Devi. On this day, early morning the women take bath and wear new clothes, new bangles and apply vermilion on the fore-head and the hair-parting line. Then Savitri is worshiped.
It is a fasting day for married women. The ritual practiced for Vat Savitri is meant for the well being and long life of the husband. The worship of banyan tree comes in probably because when the moment of death approached Satyavan took shelter under the shade of this tree. Women should make a sankalpa in the form ” I shall perform Savitri vrat for securing long life and health to my husband and my sons and for securing freedom from wildness.
On this day, community worship is performed by married women for the health and longevity of their husbands. Women bathe early in the morning. Then, they gather at the nearest Vat (banyan) tree to pray for the long lives of their husbands.
Images of Goddess Savithri & Brahma with imagesof Satyavan Savitri is made from
wet sand and kept at the roots of the Banyan Tree for worshiping.
In the roots of the Banyan Tree lies Brahma, in the stem/ barks lie Janardan and in the above portion lies Shiva and in totality lies Devi Savitri. Vat (Banyan tree) is worshipped with incense flower and rice. After this, women circumambulate the tree and tie the sacred thread to the banyan tree. They bless each other for long and happy conjugal lives. After returning home, women draw a Banyan tree using a paste made of turmeric and sandalwood. They sit near the drawing and pray & listen the Story of Satyavan Savitri.
After worshipping Vat (Banyan tree and Savitri Goddess) one worships women whose husband is alive. They apply Sindoor (vermilion) Kumkum to these women. To accomplish this vow in totality women offer clothes, fruits, Sindoor (Vermilion) kumkum etc in a copper vessel to a Brahmin. This festival is celebrated throughout India