The story of Marakandeya does not begin from his birth.
He has an eternal relationship, of many prior lifetimes with Lord Shiva.
Lord Shiva praises Markandeya
Once, while Sage Markandeya was meditating, with great focus, Lord Shiva, seated on His great bull Nandi riding beside His eternal consort, Mother Parvati, arrived at the scene.
Seeing Markandeya in his great state of meditation, mother Parvati addressed Her Lord thus: “My Lord, this Muni is a great ascetic, full of Vairagya (renunciation). Please give him the fruit of His meditation.
You are All-capable.”
Then Lord Shiva said: “Oh Devi, Markandeya is a dedicated Bhakta.
Markandeya had the Divine Vision of Maya, after seeking a boon from the 2 Lords, Nara, and Naryana.
So, such devotees or Bhaktas have no desires whatsoever.
He is a self-realized sage.
They desire nothing but the total satisfaction of the Supreme Lord.
To be able to have an association with such devotees is extremely rare.
What to talk about the association, even having sight of such devotees is extremely rare.
Considering the tall nature of Markandeya, I shall meet him.”
Saying thus, Lord Shiva went near the sage.
Markandeya gets vision of Lord Shiva
The Muni engrossed in deep meditation could not notice Lord Shiva.
Markandeya had lost sense of his body and mind even, in the love of the Lord.
Lord Shiva, through the power of His Yoga-Shakti, entered into the heart of Markandeya.
In his heart, the Muni saw, the camphor-colored, three-eyed Lord Shiva.
This awakened the Muni was lost himself, in meditation.
He opened his eyes, beholding, the great Shankara.
He became overjoyed to see the Lord along with His consort and offered prayers to the divine couple, Uma-Maheshwar.
The Lord asked Markandeya to seek a boon.
Sage Markandeya Seeks a Boon
The great sage replied, “Hey, Shankara, the very personification of mercy and love, grant me this boon that my Bhakti towards the Lord remains unshakeable and I remain without expectations.
May I always be devoted to you in an undivided manner.
Let me be totally attached to the Lord and lose myself in Bhakti.”
Lord Shankara thundered “So be it. May you remain eternal.
You shall become renowned as the foremost Acharya of the Puranas.”
Following this benediction, Markandeya became famous as the foremost teacher of the Puranas.
Blessed with the mercy of Lord Shiva right from his childhood, Markandeya falls in the list of the most powerful Shiva Bhaktas.
Story of Markandeya’s birth
Markandeya was the son of the great ascetic Mrikanda and mother Marudamati.
It is stated in the “Uttar Khanda” of the Padma Purana that, Markandeya’s parents performed great austerities and desired a son from Lord Shiva.
As a result of those austerities, they became parents to the great Muni.
But Lord Shiva warned the expecting couple about the short-lifespan of their offspring.
He said: “Your son, Markandeya shall only live till 16 years of age.”
When Markandeya entered his 16th year, he became very worried due to the distress of his parents.
He often saw his parents weeping.
It was in such times that Markandeya came to know of the truth about his own life from his parents.
Markandeya then reassured them and filled them with new hope.
He said “Father, I shall seek the blessings of Lord Shiva and ensure that I shall remain untouched by Death.
What to talk of dying at the age of 16?
I shall undertake severe austerities to please Lord Shiva.”
Taking leave of his parents, Markandeya set forth towards the Indian Ocean in the south.
Markandeya Defeats Death!
At the shore of the great ocean, Markandeya established a Shiv Lingam and started worshipping it with one-pointed dedication and intense attention.
A few days passed and Death personified appeared before him.
The Lord of Death said, “Your time is up, come, follow me.”
At that time Markandeya was reciting the famous Mahamrityunjaya stotra, to conquer death.
This was Lord Shiva’s favorite stotra.
Markandeya told Death, “I shall very well follow you.
Let me just finish offering my prayers to the Lord.
Can’t you wait until such time?”
Death roared back.
He said “This is not possible. I wait for none.“
Having been dedicated to Lord Shiva, depending on the Lord’s might, Markandeya scolded Death.
Latter now became anger personified and forcibly tried grabbing Markandeya with the “Death noose”.
The 16-year-old boy called out to Lord Shiva and held tightly to the Shiva Lingam.
The Lord is never away from one loving call of his devotees.
Immediately Lord Shiva appeared on the scene.
He kicked Death personified on his chest and threw him back.
Looking at the pitiable state of the God of Death and the fury of His cherished Lord, Markandeya immediately composed a beautiful hymn.
Markandeya composes song for Lord Shiva
The meaning of the hymn goes like this.
“He has his abode on the highest pinnacle of Mount Kailash.
Lord Shiva used the great bow which was the very mountain of Meru, the string of which was the great snake king Vasuki himself.
He used Lord Vishnu Himself as the arrow and destroyed the three grand cities of the demons known as Tripura.
The whole race of the Devatas and celestial beings are at the feet of my Mahadeva.
I am under His perfect protection.
What can Death, who is known as Yama, do to me?
My Lord’s feet are fragrant with the five types of celestial flowers.
The one who has burnt Kamadeva with his third eye is my Lord.
His body is smeared with the ash of the crematorium.
This is His greatest ornament. He is the destroyer of Death even.
Meaning of Chandrashekhar
I am at the mercy of that Chandrasekhar (one who bears the Moon on His head).
What can anybody do to me?
He is the one who has no beginning and has no end.
What can Yama do to me?
He covers His body with the hide of the elephant and is an epitome of unending beauty. He is the Lord even of Vishnu and Brahma.
The two Lords consider Maheshwar as their all.
He wears serpents as his earrings.
He rides the most handsome wild bull known as Nandi.
Narada and the holy ascetics praise His prosperity and style.
He is the Lord of the three worlds and the destroyer of demons such as Andhakasura.
Yama has no answer to the bearer of Chandra, Chandrasekhar.
He is the friend of the Yaksha known as Kubera.
He has burst the eyes of the Devata known as Bhaga and wears snakes as His dear ornaments.
Also, He has seated beside Him, on his left side, the mother of the Universe, Srimati Parvati Devi.
He consumes the poison of all poisons known as Kalakuta effortlessly, as it emerged during the churning of the ocean.
Meaning of Neelakantha
He is known as Neel-Kantha (one with the blue throat), because the poison went and settled in His throat. I am at the mercy of that Chandrasekhar.
What can Yama do to me?
He is the elixir to those who want to cross the ocean of birth and death.
Lord Shiva, has the solution to the greatest of problems and is the destroyer of the Yajna of Daksha Prajapati.
He is the very basis of Sattva, Rajas, and Tamas.
He is three-eyed and can grant boons for Bhoga (Sense-enjoyment) as well for Yoga (Liberation).
His eyes are large and terrible and yet He is pure, kind-hearted, and free of all malice.
I bow to that Shiva who is my protector and benefactor.
What can Yama do to me?”
Such was the greatness of Lord Shiva as chanted by the great ascetic Markandeya.
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