6. Markandeya – Markandeya is an ancient rishi (sage) from the Hindu tradition, born in the clan of Brigu Rishi. He is celebrated as a devotee of both Shiva and Vishnu and is mentioned in a number of stories from the Puranas. He is known to be of great mental prowess and an exemplary narrator of stories (Markandeya Purana).
His mention also appears in Mahabharata, where he meets the exiled Pandavas in forest and reduces their burden by telling them stories of earlier kings and gods and demons.
One legend relates the story of how Shiva protected Markandeya from the clutches of death (Yama) and how he became a Chiranjeevi:
It is said that Sage Mrikandu and his wife Marudmati worshipped Shiva and sought from him the boon of begetting a son. As a result they were given the choice of either a gifted son, but with a short life on earth or a child of low intelligence but with a long life. Mrikandu chose the former, and was blessed with Markandeya, an exemplary son, destined to die at the age of 16.
Markandeya grew up to be a great devotee of Shiva and on the day of his destined death he continued his worship of Shiva in his form of Shivalingam. When Yamadoots - messengers of Yama – came to take him, he asked them to wait. The yamadoots were unable to take away his life because of his great devotion and continual worship of Shiva.
Yama then came himself in person to take Markandeya's life away, saying death does not wait for anyone and sprung his noose around the young sage's neck. By accident of fate the noose mistakenly landed around the Shivalingam, and out of it, Shiva emerged in all his fury attacking Yama for his act of aggression. After defeating Yama in battle to the point of death, Shiva then revived him, under the condition that the devout youth would live forever.
For the above act, Shiva was thereafter known also as Kaalakalaya, meaning 'one who brought death, to death himself'. Thus Maha Mrityunjaya Stotra is also attributed to Markandeya, which is related to this legend of Shiva conquering death.
As a result of the above, Markandeya continues to live forever and is always the age of 16 – the age he was supposed to die.