We all fear ill health and death. It is a very common and general practice to call out to God in times of distress or when one is on his or her death bed. One such very effective and strong Hindu mantra to conquer death is the Mahamrityunjaya Mantra. This mantra is dedicated to Lord Shiva and has been first referred in the Rigveda (7th mandala, hymn no 59) it is believed that whosoever chants this mantra with complete devotion and dedication can easily remove the fear of death from within them. However, there seems to be a very interesting hidden story which stands testimony to the evolution and inception of this mantra.
The story behind the Mahamrityunjaya mantra:
Once upon a time there was a sage named Mrikandu who dwelled with his wife, Marudmati. They did not have any son and hence decided to take upon deep and long penance to seek the blessings of Lord Shiva for getting blessed with a son. With great devotion, the couple underwent deep penance, as a result of which Lord Shiva got impressed with them and granted them the boon they wished for, but the blessing came backed with a condition. Lord Shiva gave them an option to choose between an intelligent and wise son with a short life span and a foolish son with a long life. Sage Mrikandu happily accepted the boon to be blessed with an intelligent son with a short life. Soon after, they had a son whom they named as Markandeya.
Slowly and steadily young Mankandeya started growing under the love and affection of his dear parents. As his sixteenth birthday was about to approach, the parents started having butterflies n their stomach. They grew sad day by day which Markandeya could sense easily. He asked his parents the reason for their remorse and sadness to which they narrated the entire story to their son and the boon granted by Lord Shiva. Markandeya was very intelligent and devotional. He began his penance in front of a Shivling, chanting along with the Mahamrityunjaya mantra. Lord Yamraj, the God of death, came to take Markandeya on his sixteenth birthday but Markandeya was totally engrossed with his penance. He wrapped himself around the Shivling, embracing it with his two arms, not willing to let go.However, Lord Yamraj was too determined to take the young boy with him. Hence, he threw the noose to catch hold of him but by mistake, it got held around the Shivling. Instantly Lord Shiva appeared and since he got extremely annoyed, he killed Yamraj on the spot.
This incident of Lord Yamraj’s death travelled across all the three worlds. All the devtas came to Lord Shiva and on their earnest request Lord Shiva revived Yamraj but on one condition that Markandeya would now live for life long. He would remain untouched forever. Later on, as time passed, Markandeya became a great sage on whom an entire Purana has been composed by the name of Markandeya Purana. As per the Hindu scriptures, Markandeya is alive even today.
The literal meaning of the Mahamrityunjaya Mantra:
We Meditate on the Three-eyed reality, Lord Shiva
Who permeates and nourishes all like a fragrance.
May we be liberated from death for the sake of immortality,
Just as the cucumber is severed from bondage to the creeper.
The chanting of the Mahamritunjaya mantra is done by sages for overcoming any heath issues that has befallen on the residents of a house.