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Sunday, April 1, 2012

Savitri and Satyavan by Bhaskar Roy Barman

Savitri and Satyavan by Bhaskar Roy Barman

I shall discuss in this paper Sri Aurobindo’s epic poem, Savitri, based upon the Savitri-Satyavan legend in the Mahabharata, one of the two epics that India glories in, the other epic being the Ramayana. Many important and distinguished writers have written in English and in their native languages no mean number of stories, novels and poems, drawing upon a myriad of the legends in the Mahabharata and the Ramayana.

Rabindranath Tagore wrote a few poems centring on particular legends, psychologizing on their human aspects. I could not resist the temptation of touching upon stories Tagore wrote, based upon stories in the Ramayana and the Mahabharata. One of them is his famous collection of verses entitled ‘Gandharis Abedan’ (The Appeal of Gandhari), based on the epic the Mahabharata.  He wrote the verses when he was forty years old, highlighting justice and truthfulness. It is worth mentioning in this context a dance drama called Chitrangada, based on the Mahabharata. Chitrāngadā in the Mahabharata, is one of Arjuna’s wives. Arjuna travelled the length and breadth of India during his term of exile. His wanderings took him over to ancient Manipur, an almost mystic kingdom surrounded by natural beauty.

There he met Chitrāngadā, the daughter of the king of Manipur, and, enamoured of her exquisite beauty, wooed her.  Her father demurred on the ground that, according to the matrilineal customs of his people, the children to be born of Chitrāngadā would be heirs to Manipura, so he won’t allow him to take the would-be heirs to Manipur away from Manipur. Arjuna agreed to this condition and married the princes, Chitrangada. A son was born and named Babrubahan who would succeed his grandfather as king of Manipura.

Tagore wrote the dance drama, Chitrangada, drawing upon this Mahabharata story. His story differs a bit from the Chitrangada story in the Mahabharata. He considerably embellished the character. In his story, Chitrāngadā is the only child of the King of Manipur. As she will succeed to the throne on her father’s death, she dresses like a man and takes it upon herself to protect the people and thus commands their respect. One day, she bumps into Arjuna hunting in the forest and falls in love with him. He is impressed by the valour she displays, believing her to be a man, seeing her manly dress. Chitrāngadā believes he could never love the way she gads about so prays Kamdeva, God of love to change her into a beautiful lady. Kamdeva grants her prayer. . When she meets Arjuna a second time he is so captivated by her paramount beauty he woos her. Though she believes that she has everything she wants in life, there is still deep down her being a wish he love her for her true self. When marauders swarm into her kingdom, Arjuna hears people wondering why the princess has not yet come to protect them from the marauders and is impressed by this murmuring. She longs to see this woman who seems to be his equal when it comes to fighting. At that moment Chitrāngadā appears and saves her kingdom before revealing her true self to Arjuna. Their love culminated in marriage. In course of time is born a son named Babrubahan.

It deserves to be mentioned in this connexion that Rabidranath did not content himself with drawing upon the legends in the Mahabharata only; he also riveted his attention on many legends in the Ramayana, too. Early in his twenties he composed the opera entitled ‘Balmikir Pratibha’ (The Genius of Balmiki), Balmiki being known as Adi Kavi having composed the Ramayanam music dominating the opera. This Bengali libretto is based on the legend of Ratnakar the Thug destined to become Sage-poet Valmiki and composed Ramayana.The music used in this opera is a fusion of classical, folk and European strains. The story tells of how Ratnakara the Thug suffers himself to be metamorphosed into a great poet through the grace of Saraswati, the goddess of wisdom. Rabindranath wrote Kalmrigaya (The Fatal Hunt), a lyrical opera, based on the Ramayanic tale of the King Dasharatha killing the son of Andhamuni (blind saint).

There are many other writers following Rabindranath Tagore who wrote many stories. But the constraint on space won’t allow a slight discussion of them, for my aim in this paper is to deal with the legend ‘Savitri-Satyavan’ which has elongated into an epic poem called “Savitri’ at the hand of Sri Aurobindo. The oldest known version of the story of Savitri - Satyavan occurs in "The Book of the Forest" of the Mahabharata as a multiple embedded narrative in the Mahabharata. In reply to Yudhisthira asking him whether there has ever been a woman as devotional as Draupadi, Markandeya relates the story that has come down to us through the ages as the Savitri-and-Satyavan tale. It is likely for the readers who may have just heard mentioned the name of Markendaya to wonder who Markendeya was. To appease their curiosity it becomes necessary to expend a few words to tell about Markendaya.

Markandeya, an ancient rishi or sage in the Hindu tradition, was born in the clan of Bhigu  Rishi and celebrated as a devotee of both Shiva and Vishnu. He is featured in many a story from the Puranas. The Markandeya Purana comprises, among others, a dialogue between Markandeya and a sage called Jaimini.

Centring on Markandeya there is an interesting legend of how Shiva protected Markandaya from death personified as Yama.

His parents, Mrikandu and Marudmati, devoted worshippers of Shiva, supplicated the God grant them a boon of giving birth to a son, Shiva gave them two alternatives to choose one from between; a gifted son with a short life on earth or a son of low intelligence but with a long life. They chose the former. Thus was born Markandaya foreordained to die at the age of 16 Markandeya grew up to be a great devotee of Shiva and on the day of his foredoomed death he continued worshipping the Shibalingam, the phallus of Shiva. The messengers of Yama, the god of death, who were sent down to  take away his life, dared not,  because he immersed himself in the devoted act of worshipping Shiva; they returned to the abode of death and informed the Yama for their inability to take away the life of Markandeya. Then Yama himself came down to snatch the life off his body. While throwing the noose around Mandakeya’s neck, he let it fall through sheer mistake around the Shivalingam. Flying into a rage, Shiva emerged out of it and challenged Yama to a fight and Yama accepted it, in all his fury attacking Yama for his act of aggression. Jama was defeated by Shiva the point of death, but was revived on the condition that he would grant Markandeya an eternal life.  Because of this act, Shiva thereafter came to be known as Kalantaka ("Ender of Death"). This is said to have happened in Thirukkadavoor in Tamilnadu.

Still another tale about Markandeya is contained in the Bhagabata Purana. The tale goes as that when the earth was on the verge of engulfed by water, the sage Markandeya earnestly appealed to Vishnu rescue him from being saved from drowned in the water. Vishnu appeared before him as child floating on a leaf and declared himself Time and Death. He asked Markandeya to enter his stomach through his mouth. While inside his stomach Markandaya found himself visualizing all the worlds, the seven regions and the seven oceans, all mountains and all living beings ensconced safe there. Bamboozled and at a loss to understand what to do, he abandoned himself to praying to Vishnu. Pleased at his prayer, Vishnu ejected him out of his stomach and blessed him. Markandeya lived a thousand years with Vishnu. He is said to have authored Bala Mukundashtakam.

As I have hinted at, Aurobinda Ghosh (universally known as Sri Aurobindo), considered one of the greatest minds of the twentieth century, presented the literary world with the epic poem Savitri developed on the marrow of the Savitri-and-Satyavan episode. The following is the story, as told to Yudhisthir by Markandeya. I am not giving a gist of the story, but giving it in such a manner that reads like a full-fledged story, for it will, I think, help the readers to delve deep into Sri Aurobindo’s Savitro, if they venture upon it. The true theme of Savrtri is not at all easy to comprehend at one or two readings of the poem.

There lived a king called Arshwapathy, Lord-of-Horses who was virtuous, generous, brave and well-behaved. But he was not happy, because he had no child. With a view to getting a child born to him, he observed sainted vows, conforming to the rules prescribed by hermits. For eighteen years on end he made daily offerings to Fire, recited mantras addressed to Savitri, wife of Brahma, and ate a frugal meal at the sixth hour. Pleased at his austerities, Savitri appeared before him in a visible form within the sacrificial fire and told him to ask the boon. The king asked a boon of many sons worthy of the royal race. Savitri granted him this boon and said to boot that there would be born to him a glorious daughter, as a gift from the grandsire, that is, Brahma. Saying this, the Goddess disappeared. In course of time was born to the great king a girl with lotus eyes. Because she was the gift of the Goddess Savitri, she was named Savitri with all the pomp and grandeur accompanying such grand naming ceremony. She grew up into a woman of such a paramount beauty that she looked the image of a goddess and no one daunted by her beauty dared woo her.

Savitri gradually reached to the marriageable age and no one had come to offer to marry her. This immensely worried the king. Finding no alternative before him, he asked Savitri to choose for herself a husband who would suit her. Thus asked by her father, Savitri mounted a royal car with her attendants and visited the forest hermitages of saints. After worshipping the feet of the revered saints she roamed through the forests until her eyes spotted her lord,

One day she returned to see her father, seated beside the rishi Narada, conversing with his counsellors in open court. She bowed to the feet of Narada and greeted him. Narada asked the king why he delayed in wedding his daughter who had already attained the marriageable age. In reply the king said she had gone forth in search of her husband; now she returned. Then Narada commanded Savitri to tell the king who she had chosen for her husband. Standing before the king and Narada with folded hands, Savitri narrated the following story.

There was a virtuous king of the Shalwas, named Dhrumatsena. He got blind; capitalizing upon his blindness, an enemy of his ousted him from his throne and banished him. He with his wife and a little child started living in a forest and practising austerities befitting the hermit life. The child, his son, grew up in that forest hermitage. After narrating the story she said that she found her to be worthy to be her husband and she had accepted him to be his lord. Narada said that youth, Satryavan his name, though possessed of rare qualities and virtues, was fated to die within a year. Having heard this, the kind tried to persuade Savitri to choose another lord. But she was adamant about her decision to marry Satyavan, saying that once she had chosen Satyavan, she could not choose another lord, no matter what would happen to Satyavan within a year.   Since the rishi Narada supported the marriage, the king had no alternative before him but to consent to this marriage. He bestowed his daughter Savitri upon Satyavan in the forest hermitage of Andhamuni in the presence of the twice-born sages of the forest on an auspicious day.

At length the hour of Satyaban’s death was knocking at the door. She had only four days more to live. Savitri fasted day and night, observing the penance of ‘Three Nights’. She grew faint and weak by the third night and spent the last unhappy night, reflecting on her husband’s death.

On the fatal day she accompanied Satyavan when he went out into the forest to cut wood for sacrificial fire. She forced herself to look all smile lest Satyavan suspect something amiss, for he did not know of his imminent death. Satyavan set to work; when hewing at the branches of a mighty tree he grew faint and sick. He came down to Savitri and rested his head on her lap, saying that his head was racked with darting pains and that he would sleep for a while. Suddenly Savitri saw coming towards them a shining ruddy deity, dark and red of eye and terrible to look upon, in hand a noose. He stood and gazed at Satyavan. Laying the head of Saryavan on the ground, Savitri rose and asked the deity who he was. The deity replied that he was Yama, Lord of Death, and came over for Satyavan, for his span of life was ended.  Saying this, he drew out the soul from Satyavan’s body and bound it in the noose and departed towards the south, leaving the body cold and lifeless.

But Savitri followed him close. Yama tried to desist her from following him, telling her to return to perform her husband’s funeral rites. Savitri showed no sign of returning, rather said that wherever her husband was brought or went she would follow him. The way stood open to her because of her obedience and virtue. The wise said that the friendship is seven-paced She had already effected a friendship with him by walking more that seven paces. On the virtue of this friendship he could not order her to follow another rule than a wife’s, and would not make of her a widow, following not the domestic rule. She also averred that she had attained the true religious merit by fulfilling the duty of a wife alone so did not deserve to be a widow. Pleased at her argument, Yama told her to ask any boon except her husband’s soul. Savitri asked her father-in-law regain his sight and health. Yama granted it. Still Savitri followed Yama on. When asked why she still followed him, she said that friendship with the virtuous must bear fruit. Yama could not deny the truth of her statement and offered to grant her another boon, Savitri asked her father-in-law regain his lost kingdom and Yama promised her that he would see to his father-in-law regaining his lost kingdom. Savitri did not stop at this promise. She  persisted in following Yama on and spoke of the duty of the great and good to protect and help those who seek their help Pleased, Yama offered to grand him a third boon and granted her, at her asking, the boon that her father-in-law would have a hundred sons. Savitri still showed no sign of returning and followed Yama on and addressed him, saying that he is called the Lord of Justice and men even trust the righteous, because it is goodness of heart alone that inspires the confidence of every creature. Propitiated, Yama offered to grant her another boon save the life of Satyavan. Savitri asked for a hundred sons to be born of her and Satyavan. Yama granted it, Still Savitri followed him on. Yama then requested Savitri to return home. Praising the righteous, she said that only the righteous support the earth and protect all. Propitiated by edifying words, Yama asked her to ask another boon. Then Savitri said that what he had already given her could not be fulfilled without union with her husband. Then Yama found himself outwitted and gave back the life of Satyavan.

All the boons Yama had granted to Savitri were fulfilled, suffice it to day, as is evident in the legend, Savitri was a divine grace who  descended on the earth and fights with Yama , the Lord of Death to conquers death for man and triumphed over Yama,  the dark symbol and citadel of Faith and Death, and returns to the forest hermitage with Satavan revived.

Quoted in Essentials of Sri Aurobindo’s Thought: essays in memory of V. Madhusudan Reddy edited by Ananda Reddy and Sachidananda Mohanty, henceforth to be referred to as “Essentials’ the following comment on Savitri by V. Madhusudan Reddy:

Savitri is a cosmic symbol-legend of the Transcendent’s scheme, a cosmic vision of the supracosmic unfoldment. The span of Savitri’s vision encompasses the two distant and most extreme sectors of manifestation – the eternal Night and the Everlasting Day and the subsequent return to [the] earth of Savitri and Satyavan for the work of transformation.

Farther down the passage says Reddy apropos of Sri Aurobindo:

With the characteristic and native power Sri Aurobindo –the poet of liberated Nature and the author of reborn earth – envisions the supra-intellectual essence of all existence, and by the figure of an intent symbol concretises the transforming power of Truth-consciousness and Truth-love, of Grace and Deathlessness into the alchemy of an all-time epic. (P.213)

Nevertheless, the theme of the epic poem ‘Savitri’ is too abstruse and difficult to understand at one or two readings of the poem, for it happens to be too unique a literary phenomenon to command a universal appreciation in the age dominated by science and materialism. The truth related to the abstruseness of the epic poem ‘Savitir is that there is no mean number of scholars who have dismissed it a work shorn of poetic merit and encumbered with vague and fatiguing verbosity. Mangesh V. Nandkarni in his article Savitri: Its Thematic Variety and Richness (Reference ‘Essentials’) throws down a challenge to this stance vis-à-vis Sri Aurobindo’s Savitri, as in the following passage:

Such extreme reactions are characteristically called forth, by a literary work which is bafflingly new and unparalleled as Savitri is; there simply is no other work with which it can be meaningfully compared. As we are about to enter a new millennium, we are also on the threshold of a New Age, and Savitri heralds this new age; it is both modern and spiritual. (P. 215)

To substantiate his argument that this epic is modern Prof. Nandakarni quotes Nalinikanata Gupta, as saying that it is modern in the sense that ‘it has the same nationality, clarity, concreteness of purpose as the scientific spirit has in its domain and still it is rounded off with a halo of magic and miracle.’ (Collected Works of Naminikanta Gupta, 1971 pub by Sri Aurobinda International Centre of Education, Pandicherry)

It is universally accepted that Sri Aurobindo is one of the greatest minds of the twentieth century. I think it is difficult to properly revaluate Sri Aurobindo’s works and vision by separating other aspects from this discussion aiming to establish him as a poet. I think encompassing all the aspects of Sri Aurobindo’s genius will serve to help the readers to dip into the epic poem Savitri. So it is worthwhile to touch in a few words upon the philosophy of Sri Aurobindo.

The surest sign of the profundity of philosophical idea is always manifest in repeated reinterpretations themselves of philosophical value/ ‘Of no idea can this be more fittingly said of the Upanisadic doctrine of the Brahman and its identity with Atman (Fifty Great Eastern Thinkers, P. 158). Sri Aurobindo’s philosophy is considered to be in essence a modern reinterpretation of this belief, combining it, as it does, with an optimistic version of evolutionism. Sri Aurobindo conceives of history as the unfolding of an evolutionary manifestation of Brahman which will end in universal perfection. Behind this thought lies his firm thought based on the religious experiences attained in meditation, which furnished the ground of a philosophy which professes to explain why there is a universe at all and the significance of human existence in it.

The ambitious philosophical  framework fundamental to the whole of Aurobindo’s thought is explained clearly in his Life Divine, his aim being to discover the reality and significance of our existence as human beings in the material universe and in what direction and how far that significance once discovered leads us to what human or divine future. Sri Aurobindo sought to answer in his life Divine the profoundest of philosophical questions why there is a universe at all, why it has properties it has and what is the place of human existence within it. This is not the place to expatiate on Sri Aurobindo’s answers to these profoundest questions and I forbear from dealing with his answers lest the reader’s attention might deviate from the main topic.

His philosophical thought attracted the attention of Rabindranath Tagore and Romain Rolland, both of whom paid tributes to Aurobindo’s spiritual genius and philosophical vision. K.D. Verma quoted in his ‘Indian Imagination’ (page 35) Rabindranath Tagore’s comment to Sri Aurobinda, cited in K.R. Srinivas Iyenger’s ‘Sri Aurobindo’, that follows: ‘You have the Word and we are waiting to hear it from you. India will speak through your voice to the world….’ Romain Rolland characterizes him as the most noble of the Neo-vedantic spirit. He has synthesized the genius of Asia and that of Europe.

Here is a review of Sri Aurobindo’s ‘Collected Poems and Plays’ published in the Times Literary Supplement on July 8, 1944, quoted by K.D. Verma in the second chapter entitled Sri Aurobindo as a Poet: A Reassessment on page 35:

Of all modern Indian writers Aurobindo – successively poet, critic, scholar, thinker, nationalist, humorist –is the most significant and perhaps the most interesting…In fact he is a new type of thinker, one who combines in his vision the alacrity of the West with the illumination of the East. To study his writings is to enlarge the boundaries of one’s knowledge…He is blessed with keen intuition. Like Coleridge and Heine, he displays a piercing and almost instantaneous insight into the heart of his subject; and, what is no less important, his immense and exact knowledge of the thought and feeling of East and West – he is an accomplished scholar in Sanskrit, Greek, Italian, French, English and Bengali – gives his judgments balance and poise. He knows that a man may be right, but not wise. He treats each word of his as though it were a drop of elixir. In all this he is unique –at least in modern India.

The other side of the picture makes itself appear before us. It is not possible for us to deny Sri Aurobindo’s greatest achievement is Savitri, the longest epic poem written in the English language. While the West speaks of Savitri as a work of poetic merit, many Indian writers writing in English have animadverted upon it and other works of his, pointing to their verbosity, superficiality and shrugging off their merits by calling them the Miltonic, Romantic and Tennysonian imitations, the bejewelled diction of the decadent poets and the lack of authentic experience.

As to quote K.D. Verma from ‘The Indian Imagination’ to peep into the second chapter and reproduce below an appraisal of Savitri by Piper cited in Prema Namdakumar’s ‘A Study of Savitri’ quoted in the chapter on page 36.

[Savitri] is the most comprehensive, integrated, beautiful, and perfect cosmic poem ever composed. It ranges symbolically from a primordial cosmic void through earth’s darkness and struggles, to the highest realms of supramental spiritual existence, and illumines every important concern of man. Through verse of unparalleled massiveness, magnificence and metaphysical brilliance…Savitri is perhaps the most powerful artistic work for expanding man’s mind towards the Absolute.

Savitri, hailed as a Miltonic, Romantic and Tennysonian poem, demonstrates Sri Aurobindo’s conception of epic and of poem in general. Besides revealing his keen interest in the epic, both Eastern and Western and, particularly, in the epic ventures of Vyasa, Homer, Virgil, Dante and Milton, he shows that in such badly fragmented and hopelessly flummoxed times, it was possible to write a successful epic. The truth to tell, Sri Aurobindo’s interest in epic poetry dates back to Ilion* Written in the quantitative hexameters. Ilion, a true epic in breadth, depth and height, its greatness lying in its profound epic vision, its uniquely innovative hexameter and its synthetic character, distinguishes Sri Aurobindo’s most successful experiment in naturalizing, in the words of K.D. Verma ‘the power of the ancient hexameter to gain certain effects of modulation, intonation, and, hence, of power and harmony, that correspond with the movement of thought and feeling.’ (P. 38). In contrast to Ilion, truly a Homeric epic based on Homer’s theme in the Iliad, Savitri is a philosophic epic written in blank verse. Let us hear what K. D. Verma says about the significance of Ilion which has sort of influenced Savitri. ‘The significance of Ilion, although a fragment, is two-fold: first, it was Aurobindo’s first great epic poem in which he exhibits his genuine interest (in) attempting a modern epic on a convincingly ambitious scale, an epic that could be successfully adapted to the theme and meter of Homer; second it was a poem where Aurobindo provides us with a clear conception of the tenets of a classical epic, and of a progressive basis for a modern epic.’ (P. 38) ‘Although the structure of Savitri is intricate, self-defiant and elusive,’ he goes on to say, ‘the poem is extremely well-unified and tightly knit.’

The central myth in Aurobindo’s poetry, the myth of freedom, based, as it is, upon the dialectical struggle between the worlds of appearance and reality, matter and spirit, evil and good, and death and divine life, presses home the evolutionary value of human life and points up, as well, the quest of the soul for the state of being to be realized through an intuitive process of self-discovery and awareness of the infinite. It aims to ascend from the inconsistent state to the wakeful state through spiritual journey up the stairs of the world, the manifold planes of existence, the states of becoming, thus to experience, while ascending the stairs of the world, complete identity with substantive reality and the totality of being through inward expansion and synthesis. This Indian and romantic view of the soul’s ability to experience infinitude and to attain liberty from the deterministic order of lower nature inaugurates the core of Savitri. In fact Sri Aurobindo’s imagination foreglimpses and conjures up the idea of earth being a humankind’s ideal home, where one’s soul, by eschewing its egotistical selfhood in order to completely surrender itself to, and, by merging through common humanity with, universal consciousness, experiences joy and fulfilment.

Hence, Sri Aurobindo’s Savitri is often described as quintessentially an epic for the modern man, as it epitomizes his primary concerns and his existential angst. By ‘modern man’ is universally meant humanity which has reached a stage where he has achieved the highest and best consciousness; but he has not found himself rid of the age-old problems of death, suffering, inadequacy and ignorance. The inadequacy and the ignorance of man manifest themselves in the display of inequality, corruption, terrorism which brings about their suffering. Born out of Sri Aurobindo’s concern for humankind and its future, Savitri portrays the precise nature of the crisis humankind has come to grips with and suggests a way to tackle it. It is often said of Savitri with immunity that it deals with such a vast and grand theme –the revelation of the ranges of consciousness - as no other epic before has ever attempted.

Savitri is both a legend and a symbol. The legend, as it appears in the Mahabharata, tells of the penance of the childless king Ashwapathy, the Lord of Horses, who practised severe austerities, observed celibacy, periodically fasted, performed sacrifices, jojnas, and resorting to askesis** in order to get sons born to him, the birth of Savitry, her marriage with Satyavan, Satyavan’s preordained death and finally of Savitri’s bringing back the soul of Satyavan from the hand of Yama. Thanks to her Dhumatsena regained his eye sight and got back his lost kingdom. We have already got to know the story.

The legend, though it appears as a simple story, symbolizes the virtue of conjugal fidelity. Sri Aurobindo saw in this myth, this legend a repertory of a great and significant experience of the Aryan race in an earlier age, ‘a bygone Yuga, a forgotten cycle of human existence’, in the words of V. Madhusudan Reddy, reference his article Savitri and a Symbol (Essentials. P, 245), and opens and makes it relevant to the needs of the resurgent soul of humanity.

This legend, when delved deep into, directs one’s mind quite unconsciously towards the following unique aspiration expressed in the Brihadakaranya, which sums up the theme of Savitri.

asato mā śad gamaya
tamaso mā jyotir gamaya
m
tyor mā amta gamaya
o
śānti śānti śānti
(Brihadārayaka  Uupaniad 1.3.28)

 Its English translation is:
Lead Us From the Unreal To the Real,
Lead Us From Darkness To Light,
Lead Us From Death To Immortality,
Let There Be Peace Peace Peace.

This aspiration typifies the eternal craving of humankind for emerging out of the dark that engulfs him to journey forward to light. This human journey, the story of dreationg that characterizes the Savitri-and-Satyavan legend is itself the story Sri Aurobindo has dwelt with in Savitri.

Savitri here is a symbol of love and light and saves Satyavan from the cobweb of ignorance. He, ignorant of his own truth and devoid of celestial kingdom, finds himself caught in the plexus of the forest life and is struggling to find a way out of it. But the way opens before him that incarnates itself in Savitri. ‘It is not so much of the soul struggling in  the half-lit woods and wastelands of life that finds the way,’ says Alok Pandey in his article ‘A Vedic Image and Sri Aurobindo’s Savitri’ (reference ‘Essentials’, P. 237). ‘It is Savtri, the Grace Incarnate that seeks out the soul that is ready.’ Satuavan responds to Grace and the power of Love, the symbol of union, which is greater than death, the symbol of separation, rescues Satyavan. All that unites itself with Love’s divine origin retrieves and discovers Immortality.

The theme of the story is the retrieval and discovery of Immortality, the immortality of the soul as it is journeying from darkness to the dawn and thence to a greater dawn on a pilgrimage to achieve a union of the divine with the human.

Hints:
* Ilion (λιον) or, Latinized, Ilium, an antique name for the legendary city of Troy, hence the title of Homer’s Iliad
**The adjective "ascetic" derives from the ancient Greek term askesis meaning practice, training or exercise.. Originally associated with any form of disciplined practice, the term ascetic has come to mean anyone who practises a renunciation of worldly pursuits with a view to achieving higher intellectual and spiritual goals.
Askesis is a Greek Christian term, the practice of spiritual exercises, rooted in the philosophical tradition of antiquity. Originally introduced as the spiritual struggle of the Greek Orthodox Church as the style of life where meat, alcohol, sex and ostentatious clothing are prohibited, the term is now used in several other relations.

References:
1.      Bhaskar Roy Barman: Tagore’s Play: A Study incorporated into Rabindranath Tagore: A Retrospection edited by P. Gopichand and P. Nagasuseela and published by Aadi Publications, Jaipur, 2011.
2.      Sister Nivedita and Ananda K. Coomarswayi: Myths and Legends of the Hindus and the Buddhists(Indian edition) published by Adwaita Ashram, Kolkata. 2001.
3.      K,D, Verma: The Indian Imagination: Critical Essays on Indian Writing in English; Published by Macmillan India Limited, New Delhi, 2000.
4.      M.K. Naik (Ed)  Aspects of Indian Writing in English, published by Macmillam India Limited, published in 1979. twice reprinted, 1999.
5.      Ananda Reddy and Sachodanandan Mohanty: Essentials of Sri Aurobindo’s Thought: Essays in Memory of V. Madhusudan Reddy, published Institute of Human Study, Hyderabad, 1997.
6.      Ananda Reddy and Sachidananda Mohanty (Ed.) Essentials of Sri Aurobindo=s Thought: Essays in Memory of V. Madhusudan Reddy, published by Institute of Human Studies, Hyserabad, 1997.
7.      Diane Cikkinson, Kathryn Plant and Robert Wilkinsin: Fifty Great Indian Thinkers, published by Routledge, London, UK, Indian Reprint 2004.
8.      M.P. Pandit: Legends in Life Divine, Published by Aurobindo Ashram, Ponicherry, 1985, reprinted 1994.

Author’s Bio
Dr Bhaskar Roy Barman is a writer, poet and critic.
 To download in PDF, click  Criticism by Bhaskar Roy Barman

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