This is a tale of Chandra, god of the moon. He was married to 27 sisters, the daughters of Daksha, because he was 1000% the kind of cool playboy to pull off that kind of hat trick. But alas, even Chandra was not immune to playing favorites, and of all his 27 wives, he especially favored his fourth wife, Rohini, and spent far more time with her than the others.
Needless to say, the other 26 sisters were less-than-impressed by this.
Resentful that they weren't getting their fair share of attention, the other sisters complained to their father about the situation. Not brooking any disrespect toward his other daughters, Daksha cursed Chandra in a fit of pique, that his powers would decline with each passing day.
Pretty quickly, Chandra's other wives realized, "Oh no, we hecked up." They hadn't wanted him to be punished, just made to give them equal time and attention. They, and Chandra, began to worry. What if he just disappeared one day along with his powers?
Chandra begged Daksha to lift the curse. "Yeah.... about that...." Daksha shrugged. "Once a curse is uttered, it can't be taken back. There is nothing I can do about it," he explained. Chandra was crushed. "But, tell you what," Daksha continued, "I can't do anything, but maybe try talking to Shiva. See if he can help you out."
So Chandra went to the shrine of Shiva at Prabhas Patan, and there prayed earnestly to him, begging him to lift the curse. Pleased by Chandra's pious devotion, Shiva appeared to him. "Hey, I appreciate the situation you're in, buddy," Shiva told him, "So, bad news first: I can't lift the curse either. But, good news, I can soften it. From here on out, your power will wane for 14 days, and then it will wax for 14 days. You will fill the world with your radiance on full moon days and disappear on new moon days."
Chandra wasn't exactly happy about this. The crescent moon shape would be a permanent reminder of the curse and his reduced strength. But Shiva said, "Hey, cheer up, little buddy. Don't think of the crescent as a sign of a loss of power, but that you still have some strength left! Glass half full! In fact, I will wear your crescent in my hair so that you will be my constant companion--you can fit me in along with your wives, right?--and show all of my devotees that they are dear to me, even in their lowest moments."
Chandra figured it would have to do. And thus Shiva came to be known as Chandrasekhar, or ‘the one with Chandra mounted on his head’.
And that is why the moon waxes and wanes.
So, the legend of Savitri comes to us from India. The oldest version we know of comes from the Vana Parva, or book of the forest.
It began with the childless king of Madra Kingdom, Ashwapati, who lived ascetically for many years and offered oblations to Sun God Savitr, along with his consort, Malavika. Finally, pleased by the prayers, the God Savitr appeared to him and granted him a boon: he would soon have a daughter. The king was overjoyed at the prospect of a child. She was born and named Savitri in honor of the god. Savitri was born out of devotion and asceticism, traits she would herself practice.
Young Savitri was so beautiful and so pure that she intimidated all the men around her, enough that none dared to ask for her hand in marriage. Worried that she may never marry, when she was old enough and no proposals had come, her father told Savitri that she may go out into the world and find a husband of her own choosing.
Savitri searched far and wide for a worthy suitor, and eventually came across a handsome young woodcutter named Satyavan. As it turned out, he was actually a prince by birth, but his father the king had become blind and was forced out of his kingdom, where they now resided in the forest in exile. Savitri was so touched by his honor, nobility and modesty that she declared him a worthy husband, and they agreed to marry.
Overjoyed with her seeming good fortune, she brought him and his family home to meet her father and have the local sage bless the marriage. There was just one problem. While in almost every way, Satyavan seemed like a perfect choice, he carried with him a dark fate, in that he was destined to die one year from his wedding day.
This, of course, was a bad thing, because tradition dictated that upon her husband's death, a wife must also join him on the funeral pyre. Not wanting his daughter to die so young from such an unfortunate fate, Ashwapati begged Savitri to choose someone--anyone--else. But, she refused. She loved Satyavan and would only choose a husband once. So, finally, Ashwapati agreed to allow the marriage, and the two were united and went to live in the forest.
For a whole year, they were very happy, living in bliss, devoted to the gods, and Savitri was a good and dedicated wife. But, as the fateful day drew near, Savitri took a vow of fasting and vigil. Her father-in-law said she didn't need to perform such harsh measures, but Savitri said she was oath-bound to perform these austerities, and won her father-in-law's support.
Finally, the dreaded fateful day came, and Savitri asked to accompany her husband into the woods. Seeing as she had never asked for anything really during the past year, her in-laws saw no reason to deny her request, and the two went off together. While chopping wood, Satyavan suddenly felt weak and dizzy and laid his head in Savitri's lap, and soon after died in her arms.
Servants of Yama, the god of death, came to claim Satyavan's soul, but Savitri quietly asked for more time. Awed by her purity and devotion, the servants left, empty-handed. Finally, Yama himself came to claim the young man's soul.
Unable to deny Death his due, Savitri let him take Satyavan's soul... but she got up to follow Yama through the woods on his way to the Underworld.
At first, Yama ignored her, figuring she would eventually give up. She didn't. She kept on behind him, following devotedly.
Finally, weirded out deeply by this young woman trying to re-enact It Follows, Yama stopped and asked her what she was doing. Savitri replied that she could not leave her husband, even in the arms of Death. She then praised Yama for his dutifulness, and obedience to Dharma and following the rules strictly, but still she followed him. Hoping to get her to go away, Yama offered to fulfill for her any wish she would like, except to bring her husband back to life. Savitri humbly asked for her father-in-law's sight to be restored. Yama agreed, thinking that was that.
He was wrong.
Yep, Savitri kept right on following at his heels. Even more creeped-out, Yama offered her a second wish, anything she could want. Savitri asked that her in-laws' fortune be returned to her father-in-law, and a hundred more children for her own father, that both kingdoms might be prosperous for generations, and again, Yama agreed, once again thinking that would be enough to get rid of her.
...he was still wrong.
Confused, dismayed and now thoroughly annoyed by Savitri's doggedness, Yama offered her one final wish, but warned her that, as they were near the gates of the Underworld now, she must take this wish and be satisfied and let him claim his due, or else he would take her soul as well. Savitri said she understood and Yama asked her what she wanted, and if there was anything she wanted for herself, since all her wishes so far had been for others.
But again, the caveat was that she could not ask for the life of her husband back.
Humbly, Savitri said that she wanted only to live a long life with many children and grandchildren. Yama agreed it was a good wish, and granted it.
And now, it was Savitri's turn to smile, as she reminded Yama that a widow could not remarry by the laws of the land.
Yama quickly realized her cleverness and that he had been tricked. After all, as she had no children, the only way to grant the wish was to restore Satyavan to life. Which he did, as his promise was law. Satyavan reawoke in the forest, and Savitri went to her husband's side, but not before Yama warned that he did not to expect to see either of them again for a very long time
And so, to the astonishment of all, they went home, no longer needing to live in the forest as exiles, and they were all happy and prosperous to the end of their days.