We all know that man is mortal. But, there are also people who are immortal. They are called as chiranjeevi in Hinduism. As an example, Lord Hanuman can be mentioned here. He is supposed to be alive even today, though we cannot spot Him.
When I think on this line, Markandeyar Rishi, comes to my mind. He is the one who conquered death.
Sounds interesting… right?
Let me narrate his story here.
A Rishi by name Mrikandu was living with his wife Marudavati. Both of them were ardent devotees of Siva. They were happy on singing hymns on Lord Siva and on spreading the glory of Siva. But they also had something to regret. Their concern was that they were not belssed with children. Time and again they were praying Lord Siva to bless them with children. But in vain.
So they decided to do penance, to draw Lord Siva’s attention and blessings. And of course they succeeded in it. Pleased with their penance and devotion Lord Siva gave darshan to the couple. On having darshan, they first bowed to him and praised him.
Lord Siva now asked, “Mrikandu and Marudavati! Iam pleased with your penance. What do you want? Why is this penance for?”
Mrikandu then answered, “Oh Lord! We have been praying for a child. Please grant our wish and bless us with your grace.”
Lord Siva seemed to be thinking for a while. Then asked the couple, “What type of a child do you want? wise or foolish?”
The couple looked at each other with confusion.
“Why is Lord Siva asking this? Will anyone pray for a foolish child?” With this thought in mind Mrikandu gathered courage and asked the Lord, “Lord! We don’t understand the question.”
Lord Siva cleared his doubt. He asked, “Would you like to have a wise son, who will live only for sixteen years or a foolish son who can live for hundred years?”
Without hesitation, Mrikandu answered, “We would like to have a wise child.”
Lord Siva granted their wish. Though the Rishi couple had asked for the wise son, they were sad, that their son’s life would be only limited.
Very soon they were blessed with a son. They named him Markandeyan. He grew up as an intelligent son. He mastered the Vedas and sacred scriptures with great devotion.He helped his father in performing puja to Lord Siva. In accordance with the family cult, he too, turned to be an ardent devotee of Lord Siva.
As an intelligent boy, he was able to sense the anxiety and sadness that ran through his parent’s mind. But he was not able to find out what troubled his parents.
As he was approaching his completion of sixteen years, he could see anxiety written large, on his parents’ faces. He asked his parents, “Father and mother! I can understand that you are experiencing sorrow. Can I know the reason for it. As a son it is my duty to make you happy.”
Now, Mrikandu told the whole story surrounding his birth and said, “How can we part with you? But it is destiny that your life will end soon.” Saying this, both of them cried a lot.
Though he was intelligent, Markandeyan was taken back. But he gathered himself and said, “Father and Mother! Do not cry. Lord Siva will never leave us in trouble. He will surely bless me with a long life.”
Saying this, he tried to console his parents.
On the destined day, Markandeyan went to the seashore and built a Sivalinga with the sand and started his bhajans and meditation. Soon he lost himself into deep trance.
Lord Yama, God of Death, as usual sent his messengers to collect the soul of Markandeyan. Messengers came to take Markandeyan’s soul. His meditational powers did not allow them to come near him. They went back to Lord Yama and told about their inability. Surprised Yama, decided to go by himself. So, he gallopped in his vehicle, the buffalo and reached the seashore where Markandeyan was meditating.
Markandeyan’s meditational powers did not allow even Yama, God of death to collect the soul. But he has to complete the job. So with the noose of the long rope (pasa kayiru) he tried to catch the soul of Markandeya.
When Markandeyan realised Lord Yama’s intentions, he quickly embraced the Sivalinga. The noose which was thrown to the neck of Markandeya, fell around the Sivalinga too. Now both Markandeyan along with him Lord Siva were inside the noose.
Lord Siva (in the noose), angry at this act of Yama, came out from the Linga furiously. He threw his spear towards Yama. Yama realising his misdeed, begged forgiveness. He also expressed his helplessness. But Lord Siva refused to hear anything. Lord Yama, with great fear mumbled, “Markandeyan’s earthly life has come to an end. This is the God’s boon. I was just doing my duty.”
Now Lord Siva thundered, “This boy Markandeyan shall remain, as sixteen years old, eternally. And you cannot take his soul.” Saying so, Lord Siva killed Yama. This is called as Kalasamharam. The God is also called as Kalasamharamurthy (meaning one who killed Kala/Yama, the death God). On seeing this the Gods and demigods prayed and reminded Lord Siva, the indispensability of God of Death. Lord Siva then gave back life to Yama. But only, on the condition that Markandeyan will have eternal life.
Lord Siva, saved Markandeyan and bestowed on him “ever sixteen years” blessing.
A temple now stands there in Thiukkadaiyur, where Markandeyar was blessed with eternity. The presiding God is Amirthakadeshwarar and His Consort is the Goddess Abirami.
(This temple is also the place where Abhirami Pattar was blessed by the Goddess.)
Sashtiapthapurthy(60th birthday), Bheemarathasanthi (70th birthday) and Sadabhishekam (80th birthday) for couples are performed in this temple. It is believed that Lord Siva blesses the couples with long life.
Markandeyan, being an ardent devotee went on to become a great sage. He is a Chiranjeevi, though not visible to us. His presence was felt even in the Mahabaratha age. The conversation between him and Jamini Rishi in Mahabaratha came to be known as Markandeya Purana.
With full devotion and confidence in the Supreme power, Markandeyar conquered death. Thus there are many lessons to be learnt from this great Maharishi, Markandeyar.
Author’s Website: saintsofhinduism.blogspot.in