Narada Rishi is the Triloka Sanchari—the one who moves about in the three worlds. When he once visited the earth plane, there was great misery. He was unable to find a way to relieve human suffering. He at once approached Lord Narayana and related to Him the sad state of affairs on earth. Lord Narayana said to Narada, “O venerable Rishi, let people observe the Satya Narayana Vrata in the evening of Shankranti or Purnima. Let them all hear the story (Katha) of Satya Narayana. All miseries will come to an end. There is no doubt of this. ”Rishi Narada thereupon returned to earth and preached the glory of the Satya Narayana Vrata. Many observed the vow without taking any food during the course of the day and attained what they desired. All were happy and prosperous.
The observance of the Satya Narayana Vrata does not cost much. You need only give a small gift to the pundit who comes to read the story and then distribute some prasad which also need not be very costly. Some wheat flour and sugar will make up the prasad. A little curd and some fruit are required. Even the poorest man can observe this Vrata.
In North India the vow is observed by the vast majority of people. It takes about three hours to complete the whole observance. It is generally observed on the full moon day, particularly the Kartik, Vaisakh, Sravan and Chaitra Purnimas and the Shankranti day. It can also be done on new moon days.
Five stories are connected with this Vrata. They speak about the glory of Lord Narayana and His Grace, His prasad, and of the incalculable benefit derived by observing the Vrata. He who hears these stories with faith, devotion and one-pointedness of mind derives considerable benefit. The first of these is the story of Narada, narrated above. The other stories have great moral lessons in them concerning truthfulness, fulfilment of promises, etc.
2. The Story of a Poor Brahmin
There was a very poor Brahmin. He was living on alms. Lord Narayana appeared before him in the form of an old Brahmin, asked him to observe the Satya Narayana Vrata and gave him His word of assurance that he would be free from poverty, by observing this Vrata. The Brahmin acted accordingly. All his desires were fulfilled.
3. The Story of a Wood-cutter
The same Brahmin then did the Vrata on a grand scale. A poor wood-cutter entered the compound of the Brahmin to drink some water. The Katha of Satya Narayana was going on. The wood-cutter, attracted only by the skill of the story-teller, sat down and heard it with rapt attention. He also was inspired to observe the Vrata in his house. He took some prasad and ate it.
Then he went to the market-place and sold his bundle of fuel. He received double the usual amount for his fuel. He immediately purchased the things that were necessary for the Vrata and observed it along with his family members, with intense faith and devotion. All his desires were fulfilled. He enjoyed everything that was possible on this earth plane. After death he attained the supreme abode of Satya Loka where Truth alone prevails.
4. The Story of a Merchant
Once upon a time King Ulkamukha reigned over the earth. He was a devotee of Lord Satya Narayana. The queen, too, was very pious. One day they observed a fast and performed the Satya Narayana Vrata on the banks of the holy Bhadrasheela.
A merchant named Sadhu came to the king and asked him what he was doing. The king explained to the merchant all about the Satya Narayana Vrata. When Sadhu returned home he narrated to his wife, Lilavathi, the glory of the Satya Narayana Vrata as he heard it from the king. Thereupon, both resolved to observe it, provided they were blessed with a child. Lilavathi soon brought forth a girl whom they named Kalavathi.
Sadhu now thought that he would postpone the Vrata till after his daughter was married. The wedding of Kalavathi took place in course of time, but Sadhu had entirely forgotten his resolve. After some time he went to foreign countries for trade along with his son-in-law.
Lord Narayana felt it was high time He reminded Sadhu of his resolve. One night, while Sadhu was at a place called Ratnasarpur, he was suddenly arrested and imprisoned along with his party by the royal police. The police suspected them to be thieves. At the same time, thieves had robbed the property of Sadhu in his native place.
Meanwhile, poor Lilavathi and Kalavathi were leading a miserable life in the streets. One day Kalavathi went to get alms and it so happened that she received some prasad of Lord Satya Narayana from a temple. She came back to her mother and pleaded that they, too, should observe the Vrata. They thus observed the Vrata and worshipped Lord Satya Narayana.
That very day, the king of Ratnasarpur dreamt that Sadhu and his party were not really guilty of any theft and that they should be released else he would be destroyed along with his relatives. The king at once released Sadhu and his party from prison, giving them double the value for their merchandise.
Sadhu was on his way back to his native village when Lord Satya Narayana appeared before him in the guise of a mendicant and asked him what he had in the boat. Sadhu suspected that the mendicant might ask him for some money. He therefore replied that there were bundles of leaves only in the boat.
The mendicant replied, “Your words will come true, O merchant!”That night, while Sadhu was on his usual round of checking the contents of the boat, he found that the jewels had indeed all turned into leaves! He realised that this was due to uttering falsehood to the mendicant. He quickly went out in search of the mendicant, found him in a secluded spot and begged his pardon.
The mendicant sternly said, “You have not kept up your promise of observing the Satya Narayana Vrata.” Then he revealed his true identity to the merchant, gave him words of solace and disappeared.Sadhu came back to his boat and found that all the bags contained jewels again. He worshipped Lord Satya Narayana with intense faith and devotion.
After five days, Sadhu reached his native place. He sent a message to inform his wife and daughter of his arrival. At the time when the messenger arrived to give the news, Lilavathi and Kalavathi were hearing the Satya Narayana Katha. When they had finished the worship they went to meet Sadhu, but, alas! they had forgotten to take the prasad of the Lord.
Lord Satya Narayana wanted to point out their carelessness in not taking the prasad. The boat with its wealth and their son-in-law sank. The son-in-law struggled in desperation for his life. Sadhu who was on the shore prayed and worshipped the Lord. A divine voice was heard in the sky: “Kalavathi has not taken My prasad. So this has happened.” Kalavathi hurried back to her house and ate the prasad. She returned, and with sheer joy on her face, beheld both her father and her husband who was miraculously saved through the Grace of Lord Satya Narayana. Even the boat and the jewels were recovered miraculously. All rejoiced. Sadhu narrated all that had happened during his travel and how he was saved by the Lord when in distress.Thenceforth, the couple, Sadhu and Lilavathi, regularly observed the Satya Narayana Vrata during Purnima and Shankranti, and lived happily ever after. They attained the blissful abode of Lord Narayana.
5. The Story of King Tungadhwaja
One day King Tungadhwaja went out hunting. After walking a long distance he was overcome by fatigue. He sat under a banyan tree. Some boys of the cowherd class were performing the Vrata of Satya Narayana in the vicinity of the banyan tree. The boys came to know that a king was resting under the tree. One of them respectfully took some prasad and placed it before the king.
The king did not want to attend the function, nor prostrate before the Lord. He did not take the prasad either. In fact, he cast a look of disgust at the offering, and proudly returned to his capital.
The Lord wanted to teach the king a lesson. The king was given the news that his sons and daughters died and his whole property was destroyed. He inwardly understood that this was due to the disrespect he had shown to the Lord and His prasad. He repented very much for his wrong doing.
With a sore but repentant heart, he made his way to the banyan tree where the boys had worshipped the Lord. He himself now performed the worship with intense faith and devotion. Lord Satya Narayana showered His Grace upon the king. He got back his lost property and his children. The king thereafter regularly worshipped the Lord and lived happily.
He who observes this Vrata, which is even being observed by the gods themselves, with faith, devotion and self-surrender; he who hears the sacred story of Lord Satya Narayana with faith and devotion; he who attends the worship and eats the prasad—he certainly attains health, wealth and joy. He is uplifted from the mire of worldliness and the clutches of death. He finally abides in the Truth.In the Kali Yuga, worship of Lord Hari through the Satya Narayana Vrata makes one happy, peaceful and prosperous. This is the truth described in the ancient epics.