Yesterday I went to two very old temples in Kerala. First to the Navamukunda temple at Tirunavaya and then to the Triprangode temple a few kilometers from Thirunavaya. At Triprangode I discovered, to my surprise, that these two old temples are connected together by an old story. You may know the story but not its connection to the two temples. This is how it goes:
Long ago, there lived a sage called Mrikandu with his wife Marudvati. Both were devotees of Shiva. The childless couple performed tapasya to be blessed with a child. In time, Shiva appeared before them and asked them if they desired an ordinary and mentally disabled son who would live a long life or an exceptional son who would live a short life up until the age of sixteen. The couple chose the short-lived exceptional son. In due course, Marudvati gave birth to a boy and the child was named Markandeya. Markandeya was an exceptionally gifted child, especially devoted to Shiva, and became an accomplished sage early in his childhood. As the boy was nearing his sixteenth year, Rishi Mrikandu and his wife became sad. On noticing this and asking the reason, Markandeya was told that his life would end at the age of sixteen. When Yama came to take his life, the boy ran to Lord Mahavishnu at the Navamukunda temple at Thirunavaya. Vishnu was helpless and he directed the boy to the Siva temple at Triprangode. On the way to Triprangode temple there was a huge banyan tree that separated into two parts to delay the pursuit of Markandeya by Yama. Markandeya hugged the Shiva Lingam at Triprangode and requested Lord Shiva to protect him. When Yama threw his noose around the boy-sage it also encircled the Shiva Lingam. Lord Shiva appeared in a fiery, angry form, took three steps (each of these steps has a separate small temple in the Triprangode temple complex today) and struck down Yama with his Trishul. There is an enclosed pond in the temple complex with a board saying – ‘This is where Shiva washed his Trishul’. Shiva blessed Markandeya with eternal life and proclaimed that he would remain forever as a sixteen-year-old sage. The assembly of Devas begged Shiva to revive Yama and he did it with the declaration that his devotees would always be spared from the noose of Yama.
Hope you all liked the story. I narrated it in detail to show how the itihaasa of the two temples close to each other is linked together. I was left wondering how these stories connected to the stories of other old temples nearby and also how every old temple would have stories exactly like this, with many Markandeya’s being saved by many Shivas in temples all over India.