Savitri and Satyavan’s story is one of the most touching and inspiring tales in Hindu mythology. Who will not be moved by the tale of a woman whose love and devotion for her husband was such that it made her follow the God of Death and wrest her husband’s life back from him? Even today, people in Tamilnadu remember Savitri’s remarkable tale of courage and her never-say-die attitude, which even Yama (God of death) could not but admire. They remember her by observing Karadaiyan Nombu or Savitri Vratham. It is a fast observed by married women in Tamil Nadu for the well-being and longevity of their spouses.
Karadayan Nombu is mainly observed by married women in Andhra Pradesh, Tamil Nadu, Kerala and Karnataka. ‘Karadai’ actually refers to ‘a special naivedya (offering for God), and ‘nonbu’ means ‘fast’ or ‘vratham’.
The fast is observed on a particular day when the Tamil month of Masi ends and the next month, Panguni, begins.
Story Behind the Karadaiyan Nonbu
Once, there lived a king by the name of Ashtapathi. Savitri was his daughter. When she grew up into a comely young lass, the king, her father, told her that she could choose the man she wanted to marry. One day Savitri was wandering around in the forest when she saw a young man carrying a pole. Hanging from the pole were 2 baskets. Inside the baskets were an elderly couple.
When she inquired who they were, he replied that they were his parents and that they were blind. Savitri was touched to see the young man’s love and devotion to his parents. His name was Satyavan. Then and there, she decided that he would be her husband. On returning home, she went straight to her father and broke the news.
King Ashtapathi decided to fulfil his daughter’s wishes. But he decided to make some enquiries about Satyavan before solemnizing the marriage. He asked Sage Narada about Satyavan’s background. Narada told him that Satyavan was actually a prince and his parents once ruled a kingdom. But they had lost their kingdom to their enemies, who had also chased the family away from their kingdom.
Then Narada dropped the bombshell that Satyavan would not live not more than a year according to his horoscope. The king was shocked, but this did not deter Savitri from her decision. She was adamant and insisted that she would marry only Satyavan. So King Ashtapati arranged the marriage despite his misgivings, for he loved his daughter very much and could not bear to see her sad.
After the marriage, Savitri and Satyavan lived happily. A year passed quickly. Savitri knew that her husband would die soon. She had been observing strict vrat and offering prayers to all the gods to avert her husband’s death.
On the day when Masi month merged into Panguni, Lord Yama arrived to take Satyavan’s life. In no time, Satyavan collapsed and died. Savitri followed Lord Yama as he left with the soul of Satyavan. Lord Yama told her firmly that there was no use following him and that it was destined that Satyavan would die at a certain age. But she continued to follow him. Finally, he said he would grant her 3 boons if she stopped following him. Savitri agreed.
Savitri was a very intelligent woman. When Yama offered her 3 boons, she was quick to see an opportunity. Without further ado, she asked for the following boons.
1. Satyavan’s family should get back their former prosperity.
2. Her father should have a son.
3. She should be blessed with virtuous sons.
Yama readily granted her the 3 boons. To his chagrin, Savitri then asked him how she could have sons if Satyavan were no more. He realized that Savitri had outwitted him. So, to fulfil her third boon, Yama had to restore Satyavan to life. Thus, the virtuous Savitri won her husband’s life back with her intelligence, chastity, and faith in God.
The Nonbu/Vrat has to be done exactly in the time when Masi month ends and Panguni month starts. The fast is observed from the time of sunrise on the day of the transition and concludes with the Pooja. To break the fast, women eat the Karadai, a rice and dal preparation, with unmelted butter, while reciting a Sloka. The fast is usually broken in the late afternoon or evening.
Unmarried women can also observe the fast and pray to Goddess Gauri Devi that they should get good husbands. The women also meditate on Savitri and wear a yellow thread round their necks.
When to perform Nonbu in 2022?
In 2022, Karadaiyan Nombu is on March 14.
How to Do Karadaiyan Nombu Pooja?
The neivedyam for this fast is Karadaiyan Nombu Adai with butter along with betel leaves, betel nuts, banana, and coconut. Savitri supposedly prepared the Adai and offered it to Yama with unmelted butter to express her gratitude for restoring her husband’s life.
There is another significant ritual on this occasion. Women wear a yellow-colored thread, called ‘Karadai Nombu Saradu’ around their necks. They also tie a small flower to this yellow thread. This thread is for their husbands’ well-being.
“Urugadha vennayam oru adayum vaithu nonbu notren oru naalum en kanavar piriyamal irukka vendum”
(Meaning: I observed a fast with one Adai and unmelted butter so that my husband is not parted from me for even one day)
The above words are chanted when the rope is tied around the neck.
Women observing the fast also decorate their houses with kolams or rangolis, as it is a symbol of auspiciousness.