Asvapati was the king of the Madra kingdom. He was a popular king. He had one worry. He had no children. He was growing old and there was no one to be heir to his kingdom. So he prayed and observed tapas and offered every day ten thousand oblations in the sacred fire repeating the Gayatri mantra. For eighteen years, he repeated this performance. The goddess Savitri, the presiding deity of Gayatri mantra was pleased with Asvapati's devotion and appeared before him, "Tell me, what boon do you want?"
"If you are pleased with my prayers, please bless with many sons worthy of my clan."
"No", said Savitri. "You shall have only a daughter. But she will be equal to many sons."
The goddess disappeared. Before the end of the year, the queen gave birth to a female child. The child was named Savitri. The king was very fond of her; gave her full freedom to do what she liked. Savitri grew up as a beautiful girl and became the darling of the entire kingdom. She became an expert in all the games in which boys normally excel. She was intelligent, courageous and had been given by her parents full freedom to shape her own career. When the time came to marry her, the king left the choice to Savitri. So he asked her to go and select a prince who would be worthy of her.
Savitri traveled with an escort and visited many capitals of many countries. She finally chose Prince Satyavan who was living in a forest hermitage with his father, the blind king Dyumatsena of the Salvas. Dymatsena had lost his kingdom.
When Savitri returned home, she found her father in the company of the famous sage Narada. Narada asked, "O King! When are you celebrating Savitri's marriage." The king replied, "Savitri has gone on a search tour for the same purpose. Savitri, have you selected your husband?" The princess replied, "Yes, father, I have." When Narada heard the full story of her choice of Satyavan, he looked into the future with his supernatural powers and exclaimed, "Alas, King, your daughter has committed a mistake without knowing everything about Satyavan."
"Why, what is wrong with Satyavan?" asked Asvapati.
"Satyavan is a noble prince with excellent qualities, full of energy and wisdom. He is truthful, generous and modest. He respects his gurus and elders. He is a handsome man and a warrior. He has only one defect. He does not have long life. A year from this day, Satyavan is destined to die."
All were stunned at this pronouncement of the sage Narada. Asvapati said in panic: "O Savitri, Satyavan is no good for you. Choose someone else."
Savitri was deep in thought. After a few minutes of prayer, she looked up and said in a firm tone: "Father, I have given my heart to Satyavan. Short-lived or long-lived, good man or bad, he shall be my husband. This is my resolve."
Narada admired her steadfastness and counseled Asvapati to trust in the mercy of the gods and go ahead with the marriage. "May this marriage bring all peace and happiness," said Narada before departing.