Shiva rescuing Markandeya from death – from a pillar in Sree Mallikeswara Swami Temple, Linghi Chetty Street, Mannadi, Madras (Chennai)
Mrikandu Rishi and his wife, Marudmati were devotees of Lord Shiva. They were childless for many years and prayed to Shiv to bless them with a son. Shiva offered them a choice of a virtuous and accomplished son who will have short life span or a dunce who will have long life. Mrikandu and wife opted for the former. Soon they were blessed with a son, who was named Markandeya.
Markandeya, too was a great devotee of Shiva. At the age of 16, Yama’s messengers came to take away Markandeya. Undaunted, Markandeya hugged the shivlinga and continued his prayers to shiva. As the messenger was unable to fulfil his task, Yama himself came to take away Markandeya. He threw his lasso to capture the boy. The rope looped around the shiva lingam. Shiva came out of the lingam in all his fury and smote Yama down. Shiva is also referred to as ‘Kaalaantaka’ (destroyer of death) for this reason and this episode is referred as Kaala Samhara.
Realising that there won’t be the natural cycle of life and death without Yama, Shiva revived him on the condition that the boy will live on in his youthful glory as if he is always 16.
The episode is belived to have taken place in Tirukkadayur. (Thirukkadavur). People celebrate their birthdays, shashtiabdapoorthi, Bheema santhi, Shatabhishekam etc in this place to bestow longevity and good health.
Another pillar carving of the Markandeya and Yama episode from Sree Vaidhyanatheswara Temple, Talakad, Karnataka