Death is one of those subjects that no-one wants to deal with head on, so since time began humankind have been using the safe space of stories to explore their relationship with the end of life. One genre of traditional stories that feature in myths from all cultures is the ‘bargain with death’. Mythstories completed its Indian Gods constellation featuring two ‘bargain with death’ stories centering on Yama, the Hindu God of Death and Justice, they have parallels with tales from other cultures and again make the case that we are united by our stories and part of one close human family despite outward differences.
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The acrylic ‘The Wishes of Savitri’ was painted in 1988 by Dez Quarréll and is part of the original bequest to the museum. Fearlessly Savitri followed Yama as he led her husband into the realm of death and in admiration the God granted her three wishes – excluding, of course, her husband’s life. However, for her wishes to come true her husband had to be restored to life and Yama, did just that.
The comic strip below shows another Yama ‘bargain with death‘ story. It was displayed in the museum alongside ‘The Wishes of Savitri‘. Pupils from Southfields Primary School Coventry, in a workshop led by Dez Quarréll and photographer Denis Kelly, created this tableaux of the story ‘From the Grasp of Death’ in 1991 at Lanchester Art Gallery as part of the Amnesty International Art Auction. In the story a Prince gives up half his life to gain his bride back from death.