“As the son of Mrikanda, Markandeya, found imperishable life, may we be reunited with life and blessed with a hundred autumns.”
Remember the story of Mrikanda Rishi? He was an old ascetic doing tapasya for many years. He called upon Shiva, and finally Shiva gave him darshan. Shiva said, “What do you want?” And he said, “I want a son, who can continue my lineage.” And Shiva said, “You are an old man now, what do you want with a son? I mean you’ve been doing tapasya all these years, now you want a son? I’ll tell you what. I’ll give you a stupid son with a long life or a very wise son with a very short life. Take your pick.”
Mrikanda thought for a moment or two and then he said, “I’ll take the intelligent son.” And that was Markendeya. Of course Markandeya as he grew up, he was supposed to leave his body at an early age, and as the time approached for him to leave his body, his father got more and more dejected. Markandeya went to the father and said, “Father why are you so sad?” And father said, “I didn’t want to tell you this, but since you asked. Shiva said I could have a stupid son with a long life or a smart son with a short life. I chose the smart son and you’re him. And anytime now the ambassadors of Yama, Yamaduta, the God of Death are going to come, and they are going to take you away from me. And I really like having you here.”
And Markandeya said, “Dad no reason to be dejected, Shiva’s the one who gave you the boon, let me propitiate Shiva, and see if he’ll give me a boon too.” He sat down by the Shiva lingam, and said, “Om Namah Shivaya.” And he said it again and again. And Yama was sitting in the kingdom of death, and Chitragupta, his prime minister turned to him and said, “You know its time to pick up that smart kid, the smart alleck down there on earth, he thinks saying Om Namah Shivaya is going to save him, its written here he’s suppose to come to us now.” And Yama called his ambassadors, he said, “Yamaduta, ambassadors of the God of Death, go down and bring me the soul of Markandeya.”
And the ambassadors of the God of Death came, and Markandeya was saying, “Om Namah Shivaya Om Namah Shivaya.” And they said, “Hey kid, come with us.” He said, “I’m not leaving.” They said, “Oh No No No, we’re sent by the God of Death, the power that controls, nobody can refuse his order. He said its time for you to come, so you come with us.” And Markandeya said, “I’m not coming.” And the ambassadors from the God of Death said, “If you don’t come with us peacefully, were gonna take you by force.” And they grabbed hold of the kid.
The kid, Markandeya, grabbed on to the Shiva lingam. And pull as they tried, they couldn’t break him free from the Shiva lingam, he was holding on to that Shiva lingam and they were pulling and pulling and pulling. And finally Shiva came and said, “You better leave him alone. Let him stay. I’m giving him imperishable life. I’m blessing him with Mahamrityunjaya, victory over the Great Death, you go back and tell Yama the God of Death, I said he can stay.”
Well the ambassadors went back to Yama, the God of Death, and Yama said, “Hey! Nobody can resist the order of Yama, but if it’s Shiva’s order, I guess he has to stay.” Of course Markandeya went on to expound the Markandeya Purana from which comes our Chandi Path. He was the first seer of the Mahamrityunjaya mantra. So in the same way that he found imperishable life, may we be united with life and blessed with a hundred autumns, that means a hundred years. Hey, it’s autumn now. And everytime autumn comes around we can count another year.