Page:A history of Sanskrit literature (1900), Macdonell, Arthur Anthony.djvu/308

From Wikisource
Jump to navigation Jump to search
This page has been validated.

Interesting as an illustration of the mythological ideas of the age is the episode which describes the journey of Arjuna to Indra's heaven. Here we see the mighty warrior-god of the Vedas transformed into a glorified king of later times, living a life of ease amid the splendours of his celestial court, where the ear is lulled by strains of music, while the eye is ravished by the graceful dancing and exquisite beauty of heavenly nymphs.

In the story of Sāvitrī we have one of the finest of the many ideal female characters which the older epic poetry of India has created. Sāvitrī, daughter of Açvapati, king of Madra, chooses as her husband Satyavat, the handsome and noble son of a blind and exiled king, who dwells in a forest hermitage. Though warned by the sage Nārada that the prince is fated to live but a single year, she persists in her choice, and after the wedding departs with her husband to his father's forest retreat. Here she lives happily till she begins to be tortured with anxiety on the approach of the fatal day. When it arrives, she follows her husband on his way to cut wood in the forest. After a time he lies down exhausted. Yama, the god of death, appears, and taking his soul, departs. As Sāvitrī persistently follows him, Yama grants her various boons, always excepting the life of her husband; but yielding at last to her importunities, he restores the soul to the lifeless body. Satyavat recovers, and lives happily for many years with his faithful Sāvitrī.

One of the oldest and most beautiful stories inserted in the Mahābhārata is the Nalopākhyāna, or "Episode of Nala." It is one of the least corrupted of the episodes, its great popularity having prevented the transforming hand of an editor from introducing Çiva and Vishṇu, or