SAVITRI BY AUROBINDO: DR. HARESHWAR ROY
Sri Aurobindo Ghosh is one of the greatest personalities in modern
He is a multifaceted genius. He
was a profound thinker and a prolific writer. He was essentially a nationalist,
a yogi, a guru, a
scholar, a philosopher, and above all, a great poet. He gained a deep insight into Indian culture and civilization. His
creativity and inspiration came from his practice of yoga. He
began his public life as a political activist. It was he who pushed the agenda
of complete Independence of India from the British rule. He was one of the most
distinguished spiritual leaders of India .
As a spiritual reformer, he introduced his visions on human progress and spiritual evolution. India
Savitri, an epic poem in blank verse, is Aurobindo’s masterpiece. It is based upon the story of the Mahabharata. Here Ghosh expresses his mystic experiences. It is a means of ascension. Its richness of imagery, beauty of expression, and sheer number of memorable lines remind us of Shakespeare. But in terms of depth and width of spiritual experience it has no equal in the English language. Savitri is the most valuable texts ever composed. Sri Aurobindo tried to lift the level of the poem higher and higher and that’s why Savitri was published only after he left his physical body.
The Plot of Savitri
The story woven in this epic is based upon the Mahabharata. This is the story- There was a king named Aswapathy. He was the king of Madra. He was childless. In order to have a child he worshiped gods and goddesses for eighteen years. Simultaneously he performed a hundred thousand sacrifices. The goddess savitri became happy with him. She appeared before him out of the sacrificial fire. She declared herself pleased. She said that his desire for having an issue would be satisfied. She bestowed upon him a daughter. As she was a gift of the goddess Savitri, Aswapathy gave her the name of Savitri. She was beautiful like Laxmi. She was of golden colour and she had heavenly beauty.
In course of time, she became young. Her parents became anxious for her marriage. But it was very difficult for them. She had so strong and brilliant personality that no prince dared to come forward to ask for her hand. Aswapathy was pained at this. And thus he asked her to go round the country and choose her own partner. He sent her out to travel with an old minister as an escort. Savitri wandered here and there for more than two years.
After completing her journey, she returned to her father's place. At that time the great seer Narad was there. She disclosed her choice of Satyavan who was the son of king Dyumatsen. Dyumatsen was living in exile because his enemies had taken advantage of his blindness and driven him out of his kingdom. Satyavan along with his family was living in a hermitage in the forest. The young prince Satyavan was brave, intelligent, generous, forgiving. The parents therefore approved of her choice. But Narad disapproved of the choice because he knew that Satyavan was fated to die after one year. But savitri was adamant. She said that one makes the choice once only. The parents consented to her choice and she was accordingly married to Satyavan.
Immediately after marriage she betook to the simple and hard life of the hermitage where Satyavan lived. She was extremely happy to find Satyavan as her husband, the man of her choice. But she could not for a moment forget the dire prophecy of the great sage, Narad. She was preparing herself for the great crisis.
On the fateful morning, Satyavan wanted to go to the forest in order to bring fuel for the sacrificial fire. Savitri insisted on accompanying him to the forest. In fact, she did not want to undertake the risk of letting him go alone to face his death. She got permission. She argued that she wanted to see the forest. They reached a certain place well known to Satyavan and stopped there to cut wood. After cutting some wood, Satyavan complained of a severe pain in the head and Savitri offered her lap for him to rest his head. After a short time, Satyavan fell asleep, and Savitri saw the God of Death standing before her. He declared that he had come to take the life of Satyavan and accordingly took it. Savitri followed the spirit of Satyavan separated from his physical body and captured in the noose of the God of Death. She conversed with Yama, the God of Death. Her conversation so pleased him that he granted her several boons, the last of which was the restoration of the life of Satyavan. Thus Savitri triumphed over Death as well as Fate and returned to her hermitage.
Savitri is the most comprehensive, integrated, beautiful and perfect cosmic poem ever composed. Its range is vast - earth to heaven. It illumines every important concern of man. The theme is not merely Satyavan’s death; rather it is the suffering, misery and death. Death of Satyavan means defeat of Truth and invasion of darkness. But Savitri armed by the power of her love, struggles with Death and secures her husband. The Mother says that ‘…everything is there: mysticism, occultism, philosophy, the history of evolution, the history of man, of the gods, of creation, of Nature. How the universe was created, why, for what purpose, what destiny - all is there. All that nobody yet knows. You can find all the answers to all your questions there. Everything is explained in clear words so that spiritual adventurers may understand it more easily.’
Legend and a Symbol
Savitri is considered as a legend and a symbol. Sri Aurobindo exploited the action for subtle and symbolic purposes. The tale of Satyavan and Savitri is recited in the Mahabharata as a story of conjugal love conquering death. But this legend is one of the many symbolic myths of the Vedic cycle. Savitri is goddess of the supreme. She is a savior spirit. She is light of love that defeats darkness and achieves the recovery of Truth. She is the vanquisher of evil. She is the symbol of power or shakthi and love. Savitri is the symbol of struggle, redemption and the incarnation of divine mother. She is both the response and the resulting transformation. She redeems the universe from the tyranny of Yama and restores to earth the paradisal vision of life. But in her victory, there is affirmation of the spirit. There is ascent from lower consciousness to the next higher level of consciousness and this is a precondition for the progress of civilization. There is continuous and upward progress of the human race.
Satyavan is the soul carrying the divine truth of being within itself but descended into the grip of death and ignorance. Aswapati is the Lord of Tapasya that helps us to rise from the mortal to the immortal planes. Still this is not a mere allegory. The characters are not personified qualities but incarnations. They take human bodies in order to help man and show him the way from his mortal state to a divine consciousness and immortal life. The symbolic significance of the poem is brought out by focusing on the development of the inner life of Savitri.
Commenting on the symbolic significance of the poem, Sri Aurobindo remarked that “Savitri is an experiment in mystic poetry, spiritual poetry cast into a symbolic figure.”
In Savitri, the central myth is the myth of freedom. This myth emphasizes on the evolutionary view of human nature. It focuses on soul’s ability to experience infinitude and to attain freedom from a deterministic order of lower nature. Thus the mythic conflict between Savitri and Yama not only reflects the myth of individual freedom but also it reflects the myth of social or collective salvation. Savitri is also a cosmic epic as it denies private and personal salvation as an end in itself. Aurobindo’s conception of the evolutionary progress implies cosmic consciousness. Cosmic consciousness concerns humanity as a whole.
was one of the greatest mystics and visionaries of modern history. It may be observed that mysticism is embedded in Sri Aurobindo’s poems. He says that man should transcend the conscious level and realize the super conscious level through the medium of yoga. The union with God can transform a person into a worthy human being. Savitri is perhaps the most powerful artistic work in the world for expanding man’s mind towards the Absolute. Like the two Indian epics, Ramayana and Mahabharata, Savitri, has a romantic inwardness and an insistent emphasis on the mystical. The marriage of Savitri and Satyavan fits in with a definite stage in the spiritual evolution. Savitri is looking for inward expansion of her spiritual energy. Satyavan is looking for the transcendent power. They find the fulfillment of their quest in each other. The two lovers were born to realize the words of Divine Mother. Together, they are able to assert the victory of love over death.
His mystical thought can illuminate the world and destroy ignorance and fanaticism. It can also enhance the toleration level in an individual.
Sri Aurobindo revolutionized the human thought and had tremendous impact on the people all over the world. He evolved a writing style of his own that would be in line with his spiritual thought. Sri Aurovindo is a skillful craftsman in the use of blank verse and felicity in poetic expression. He shows a piercing and instantaneous insight into the heart of his subject. He came under the influence of poetic movements of his time like Decadence and Modernism. Sri Aurobindo’s monumental epic, Savitri, reflects the consummation of the many poetic styles.
Savitri is an epic of universal significance. In this context he can be compared with Dante and Milton. Like Goethe, he chose an ancient story from mythology and molded it into a legend. It is concerned with the destiny of man and his relations with the Divine. It is an inner drama, the inner epic of man. K.R Srinivasa Iyengar says that Aurobindo was not merely a writer who happened to write in English but really an English writer.