The Eight Immortals in Hindu Mythology

In Hindu mythology, there are said to be a group of Ashta-Chiranjeevis (Eight ‘Immortals’, Chiran- Long, and Jeevi- Lived). These eight immortals are said to still live on the Earth in flesh and blood today, for various different reasons. Specifically, Chiranjeevis are those born human, but blessed or cursed with extremely long life (perhaps not immortality as we know it, but I’ll use the word immortal for simplicity anyway).

Hindu scripture contains a mantra about the seven immortals, in which their names are recited for luck and longevity: Ashwathaama Balir Vyasaha Hanumanthra vibeeshanaha Kriba Parasuramas cha Saptaitey Chiranjeevinaha Om Namah Shivay It is specified that Markandeya had boon that he will never die and is blessed with immortality. However it is not clear as to why the name of Markandeya has not appeared in above mantra.

 
 

Markandeya

Markendeya is a devotee of the Lord Shiva, and was granted immortality by him when Shiva and Yama (the God of death) fought to decide the Rishi’s destiny. A tale from the Bhagavata Purana states that once sage Narayana visited Markandeya and asked him for a boon. Markandeya prayed to sage Narayana to show him his illusory power or maya since sages Nara-Narayana are incarnation of Supereme Lord Narayana. To fulfill his wish, Vishnu appeared in the form of a child floating on a leaf, and declared to the sage that he was Time and Death. Sage Markandeya entered into his mouth and save himself from the surging water. Inside the boy’s stomach Markandeya discovered all the worlds, the seven regions and the seven oceans. The mountains and the kingdoms were all there. So were all living beings. Markandeya did not know what to make of all this. He started to pray to Vishnu. The sage spent a thousand years with Vishnu. He composed the Bala mukundashtakam at this moment.

 
 

Bali

 

The Asura King Mahabali, who had conquered all the three worlds, had to be subdued by Vishnu on the request of Indra, after having developed an unhealthy arrogance. Vishnu banished Bali to the underworld, but his pious deeds on Earth granted him the boon of being able to visit his subjects once a year- now celebrated as Onam in Kerala.

 
 

Lord Hanuman

Lord Hanuman really needs no introduction, he is devotion personified, and his strength, form and knowledge characterise him. It is said that whilst other characters from the Ramayan achieved their sought-after Moksha, Hanumanji shunned the heavens and requested to remain on Earth as long as Lord Ram is venerated by people, to reside wherever the name of Ram is taken- such was, and is his love for God. Whoever recites the glories of Lord Hanuman is supposedly certain to overcome life’s miseries and obstacles. It is also said that the person who arrives first, and leaves last from a Ram Katha is always Chiranjeevi Hanuman. There is one very interesting story about a pilgrimage in Mansarovar in the Himalayas in 1998. A pilgrim supposedly saw a light in the cave, of which he took a photo. He died shortly after and when his fellow travellers had the photo developed. It depicts a monkey-formed being, studying what looks like the Vedas.

 

Kripacharya

Kripa was the Kul Guru of the Kurus during the Mahabharat, and whilst his status as a Chiranjeevi is disputed, his impartiality towards all of his students is the most commonly documented reason for his immortality.

 
 

Parashurama  

 
 

6th avatar of Vishnu, master of all astras, sastras and divine weapons. The Kalki Purana writes that he will re emerge at end time to the martial guru of Kalki. He will then instruct the final avatar to undertake penance to receive celestial weaponry, required to save mankind at end time.

 
 

Vibhishana

The brother of Ravan, Vibhishan, who fought on Ram’s side in the Ramayan. He was made a Chiranjeevi to maintain morality and righteousness in Lanka and to guide people over the world in Dharma.

 

Vyasa

 
 

A sage who narrated the Mahabharata. He represents erudition and wisdom.He was the son of Rishi Prashar and grandson of Rishi vashist. He was born in almost last of Tretayug, lived to see the whole Dwaparyug and also had seen the initial phase of Kalyug.

 

Ashwasthama

Ashwatthama was the son of guru Drona. He is one of the seven Chiranjivis. Dronacharya loved him very dearly. The rumours about his death in the Kurukshetra war led to the death of Drona at the hands of Prince Dhrishtadyumna. He is the grandson of the Brahmin sage Bharadwaja. Ashwatthama fought on the Kaurava side against the Pandavas in the Mahabharata war.


 

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