March 15, 2006

Karadayan Nombu.

She lit the lamp and two incense sticks in front of the smiling Gods and Goddesses, her lips murmered chants almost unconsciously, prayers taught so long ago, at a different time and world, she does not remember when they became a part of her. Her mother had told her that the auspicious time was until eight-thirty that night. She should finish her prayers by then.

In a world very far away, a world that existed in a different place and time, the willful daughter pleaded with her father, "I have given my heart away father, nothing can change its will now. Even if I should convince myself to marry another man, my nuptial bond would just be a lie; a marriage cannot be built on such weak foundations..."

The father for these few moments forgets that he is a King, King Aswapathi, ruler of Mathra. When a daughter's life is in peril, when his daughter, dearer to him than life is convinced that her life is with another man, Sathyavan, who is destined to die before she completes a year of conjugal bliss, how can he remember that he is a ruler, a King? He is just a helpless father, his daughter's strong will and convincing words bending his resolve until he has no strength left to oppose...Oh Savithri, queen of my soul, I hope you are doing the right thing...

She fills a bowl with water and soaks the karamani, she sets aside carefully measured portions of jaggery and rice flour and starts boiling water in a pan just as her mother had instructed.

The marriage takes place as the daughter demands, she smiles happily, her life on the threshold of happy memories yet to be made. Her father smiles too, a smile very different from the one that lights up his daughter's face, a smile so immersed in a strain of underlying sadness, one wonders if the tears in his eyes are that of happiness or impending sorrow...what had Naradha said? That he would die within a year? Oh Shakthi, Oh Gowri, give my daughter strength, hold her hands when he will no longer be there to hold them in his...

She crushes the jaggery until they are a smooth powder and adds them to the boiling water until they form a smooth paste. She then begins to add the rice flour, stirring continuously.

Each day Savithri prays to Goddess Gowri holding her thirumangalyam in her hands, that they remain strong, hanging from her neck, that the day never come when Sathyavan be taken away from her. The month of Panguni follows Masi and brings with it the God of death, Yama. She senses his presence even before he has touched Sathyavan. Tall, strong and proud, his hands carrying a golden Gaja - his weapon, gold earrings, chains and bracelets contrasting with the dark shade of his skin - they seem out of place, happy and glowing with promise as he walks with firm, confident steps towards Sathyavan to claim his soul.
Who is this woman who dares obstruct his way? He is surprised to see her match his glare with confidence and resolve.

"Woman, you know not who I am, please move aside and let me do my duty!", his voice thunders and a lesser mortal would have been terrified of it but not Savithri. She answers back defiantly, "I know who you are, Lord Yama and I know too that you have come to claim my husband's life. I stand in your way to request, to implore, to ask that you not take away my Sathyavan!"

Along with the rice flour and jaggery paste, she adds the karamani - the day is named after the karamani adai that sumangalis make that day. She sends her husband to get vennai (butter) that is to be offered to God with the adai.

Hours later, the frail woman watches with tears rolling down her eyes, as Yama carries Sathyavan away from this world. She follows him resolutely. "Oh Yama, I beg of you to let go of my husband. Take my life instead, for I have none without my husband. I am born to be united with him!"

And although, Yama walks away with determined steps, her words surround him and make his task more and more difficult. What has this devoted, helpless woman done to deserve widowhood? Why should her husband die leaving her so vulnerable? His steps slow down but he continues to walk away from this world. Savithri follows behind, determined to follow him to hell even, if that is what it takes to get her husband's life back...

He returns back with the butter and she offers the adai and vennai to God with a prayer, "உருகாத வெண்ணையும் ஓர் அடையும் நூத்தேன், ஒரு காலும் என் கணவர் என்னைவிட்டு பிரியாமல் இருக்க வேண்டும்" - the same sentiments that a woman echoed several ages back to claim her husband's life back.

Night turns into day and Savithri follows Yama pleading all the way. Yama pleased with her persistence offers her a boon. Savithri says, "Oh Lord, I pray to thee that I be blessed with a hundred healthy sons...", Yama grants her the boon and turns away when Savithri says, "Oh Lord, how am I to have a hundred sons if my husband lies dead in your arms? To uphold your promise to me, you have to grant me my husband's life!" Lord Yama finally gives in to the will and courage of Sathyavan's devoted wife...Savithri having claimed Sathyavan back from the God of death proceeds to earth to lead a happy life with her beloved.

She ties the sacred yellow thread around her neck and prays to Goddess Gowri that she have the strength that Savithri had, that she remain as devoted and admirable a wife as Savithri had been, that her she and her husband stay together happily and forever. How strange that karadayan nombu falls on their six month anniversary? A coincidence or a sign?

And that is how the two worlds meet - mythology and reality. One directs the other and sometimes I wonder if both worlds are indeed real...


kamal said...

Very well written, I like the way you tied the two stories together.

Subha said...

Nice piece of writing, Ramya! Happy 6th month anniversary! :)

Muthukumar Puranam said...

savithri walks seven steps with yaman and as per shasthra anybody who walked seven steps in sync are friends for ever..citing this shasthra she says he being her frnd cannot do her any harm. So yama had to give up. Apdinu than naan padichen.

RS said...

k - thanks, glad you liked the story :)

subha - thanks :)

pb - I read another version where He blesses her saying that she should be a sumangali for life...and she catches him on that, guess there are many versions - as these stories go from mouth to mouth :)

Hellboy said...

so, you wrote the italicized mythological part of the story as well. I thought it was added from some story book, good :)

@MP - "as per shasthra anybody who walked seven steps in sync are friends for ever"

Wow, I like that :)

RTD2 said...

Nice interplay. And congratulations on the milestone! Only 6.95 janams left!

Viji said...

Nice post. You have captured the spirit of kaaradayan nombhu and given out a free recipe as well, without seeming to.
What about uppu adai? Did you make it too? :)

Prabu Karthik said...

topical one! and a very good one too!

reminds me of one of sujatha's story where he blends history with contemporary times.

i think u've tried this technique earlier. was it During diwali? (a flashback of diwali day in india and US)...

Kumari said...

Beautiful weave of the two stories. Happy 6 month anniversary :)

We don't celebrate this nombu in our family but it was nice to read the way you narrated its significance :)

RS said...

hellboy - yup, I wrote that - remember Savithri (the actress) acting the part of Savitri in some old black and white movie...vaguely :)

rtd2 - :)

viji - mom sent me only the sweet adai recipe which came out much unlike sweet adai - oh well, it is the spirit that counts :)

p~k - good memory! Yup, I remember that post - thanks!

kumari - thank you much :)

IBH said...

wow! as usual ur way of writing is the star attraction here :)

beautifully woven stories!

6 monthes ayacha? wow!congrats...the day i started reading ur blog and the day am writing this it seems to me like you guys are married for quite long time now :) *touchwood* :)

An Idiot... said...

Though I have read a few versions of the myth before, I liked your writing this time.
I felt there was one word, that most versions missed and your writing missed that as well. All of them praised Savitri's determination and devotion, but she would not have got him back if not for her clever choice on that one wish. So, inmy perspective, on top of determination and devotion her smartness did count.

RS said...

IBH - Thanks :) I get that feeling too sometimes, that some of the bloggers I visit are people I know well, personally :)

RB - good point :)

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