Savithri Vratham or Karadaiyan Nombu is a celebration of a woman’s triumph over destiny and Yama, the God of Death through her sharp thinking. With her diligence, perseverance and ingenuity, she brought back her husband from the clutches of death. As legend has it, Savithri is the daughter of Ashwapathi, the king of Madra. After years of having no children, Ashwapathi prayed to the Sun God for a child. The Sun God granted his wish and blessed him with a daughter who was virtuous and beautiful. When she was of marriageable age, she set out to find a husband for herself following the wishes of her father.
During her travels, she came across a boy who was carrying his blind and aged parents on a pole with baskets hanging from his shoulders. The love and care he showed for his parents prompted Savithri to choose him as her husband and her father agreed to this. Upon enquiring further, Ashwapathi came to know that Sathyavan’s horoscope showed that he had only one more year to live. However, Savithri persevered with her demand of marrying him, to which her father had to finally succumb.
Following her wedding to Sathyavan, Savithri lived happily with him and her in-laws in the forest. Exactly a year after, on the day when the Masi month meets the Panguni month, Lord Yama came for his soul as prophesized. Savithri’s pleas for mercy fell on deaf ears and Lord Yama started to leave with Sathyavan’s soul. Savithri persisted and followed Lord Yama through the forest. Impressed with her efforts, Lord Yama agreed to grant her three boons. Savithri jumped at the opportunity and asked for her in-laws’ eyesight to be restored. Lord Yama granted this readily. Next, she asked for her parents to have more children since she had always been an only child. This too was granted. As the third and final wish, Savithri asked for herself to be blessed with many children. In his hurry to finish the task at hand, Lord Yama granted this wish. On contemplation, he realized that this can be possible only if Sathyavan was brought back to life since Savithri was such a chaste woman. Once again impressed with her on-the-feet thinking and purity, Lord Yama gave Sathyavan back his life and blessed the couple.
Savithri offered her gratitude to the Lord by preparing a naivedyam (offering) with the raw materials readily available in the forest. This included wild rice and dal with which she cooked Karayadai. She also tied a mangalsutra again since her husband literally had a rebirth. This day of the Tamil month of Panguni is celebrated by women through observing the Savithri vratam or Karadayin Nombu. On this day, the Karadai is prepared and offered to the Goddess Gowri by married and unmarried women. Married women observe the fast for the well-being of their husbands whereas unmarried observe it to find good men as their future husbands. Women also wear a yellow thread around their neck, keeping one for the Goddess also.