Markandeya: He defeated death
By KK Shanmukhan
Lord Shiva and Parvati are always at the beck and call of their devotees. An ardent devotee is always protected by them. They keep him or her on their palms.
Saint Mrikandu did not have a son. The saint undertook severe penance which lasted for several hundred years. Finally the Lord appeared before him and said: “Saint Mrikandu, I am highly pleased of your meditation. Please ask me any boon that you wish.” “Lord, I want a son,” he said.
“Do you want a son who will be very bright and have a short life or else you want one with long years of life but a wicked one?”
The saint pondered over a while.
“Oh Lord,” said the saint, “Bless me with a son who shall be bright, even though his life would be short.”
“So be it. You will have an excellent son, who will make you proud and happy but will expire at his sixteenth of age.” And the Lord disappeared.
Mrikandu’s wife eventually bore pregnancy and delivered a boy. He was very bright, intelligent and that he stole the hearts of not only his parents, relatives and friends but that of the neighbourhood and the whole surroundings with his discipline, regard for the elders and his incomparable wit.
As the boy grew year the pangs of grief of his mother also grew up.
Markandeya, for that was the name he was conferred with, studied all Shastras in no time. There was no pundit who could defeat him in a scientific argument.
The boy was observing the shadow of sorry accumulating on his parents face.
He quite often enquired for the reason of his mother’s torment. She did not give a straight forward answer. Whenever he asked, she somehow managed to escape from a direct answer.
His sixteenth birthday was nearing. A new set of clothes was made. A good feast, with all nice dishes was prepared. He was given an oil bath. The oil lamp was lit. The saint, his father sat beside him.
A large leaf was placed before him and boiled rice as white as pearls along with side dishes were served on it. But well before the rice fell on the leaf, tears from Markandeya’s mother blessed the leaf.
The boy upraised his head and looking pointedly on his mother’s face asked peremptorily for the reason of her tears. It should have been the happiest day for her because her son was completing his sixteenth year, Instead of that she was crying. He was stubborn to know the reason.
Unable to contain her grief and unable, yet, to avoid his insistence, the mother told with tears flowing over her cheeks:
“My dearest son”, she said: “If you take the first ball of rice from your served food, you will meet with your life’s end.”
Then unable to continue, she fell into a swoon.
His father, the saint who was sitting aside continued: “Having had no progeny, I undertook penance for a long while and thus we got you, my beloved. Now that, we have to part with you right today. Look towards the south. Yama, the king of death himself has appeared with ropes in hand on his vehicle buffalo.”
Markandeya looked at the direction his father had pointed out. He saw Yama in the sky. Leaving his food then and there, he ran towards the east where the temple of Shiva whom he worshipped daily was located.
Yama addressed him from behind: “Son, Markandaya, don’t run away. Nobody can run away and escape death so far. Your life ends today. That was the boon the Lord had granted. Come. Since you are of a noble birth I have come personally to take you.”
But by then the boy had reached the temple. He pulled the doors opened and embraced the idol of Shivalinga. Right then Yama knotted his death-trap and flung it on the boy. The knot befell around the neck of the boy and the idol, simultaneously. Yama started pulling his tug. He pulled it heavily.
Alas! There emerged the Lord from out of the idol with eyes red with wrath and spike in his hand. The Lord darted his deadly spike against Yama who instantly fell dead.
Without Yama, there was no death on any part of the world. It was a difficult situation. Then all the gods unitedly appealed to the Lord, who resurrected Yama and restored him into his duties. The Lord and all other gods including Yama blessed Markandeya to live forever.
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