Video and Audio

The Story of Shivabhakta Markandeya and the Sacred Mahamrityunjaya Mantra

Murali Venkatrao
June 27, 2022

Told by Seattle-local, Bangalore storyteller extraordinaire Murali Venkatrao, who will carry you to ancient and sacred India.

The timeless tale of Shiva Bhakta Markandeya teaches us that fear of death is worse than death itself – but is no match to the power of devotion (bhakti). The great God Shiva has decreed that Markandeya would only live for 16 years. Refusing to accept his destiny, Markandeya defies the summons of Yama, the god of death. Deriving great power from the ancient Mahamrityunjaya Mantra, he stares fearlessly at the face of impending death. When the angry Yama tightens the noose of time around his throat, Shiva himself emerges from within the Lingam and grants him immortality.

Note on sources: While Markandeya’s story appears in Srimad Bhagavatam Canto 12, Mahabharata’s Vana Parva, and Brahma Purana, they all describe his life after he attains immortality. The tale of how he achieves immortality is described in Narasimha Purana; but in this version, it is Vishnu (in the form of Narasimha) who grants him immortality, not Shiva as in the popular tale. The popular tale of Shiva Bhakta Markandeya comes from the poetry of Tamil saint Appar, one of the most revered of the sixty three Nayanar saints. His beautiful verses refer to Shiva as “Kalantaka”, which means Conqueror of Time (and hence death); this form of Shiva can be found in many temples in Tamil Nadu and Kerala.

Recorded during Spiritual Renewal Week 2022 at Ananda Village (June 27th).

Watch the footage of the beautiful kirtan from the same evening program here (with introduction by Murali)