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Kalantaka is a powerful form of Shiva, the God of destruction. In this form, he remained true to his sacred role of destruction, but only that as Kalantaka, he destroyed none other than the most feared of destroyers, Lord Yama, the God of death himself.
Lord Yama is known as ‘Kala’ and ‘Antaka’ is the one, who ends or destroys. Lord Shiva is referred to as Kala Antaka, as he annihilated none other than Yama in order to save his ardent devotee Markhandeya from the clutches of death. Kalantaka is also known as Kalakala, Kalasamhara, Kalahara and also as Mrithyunjaya. ‘Kala’ also means time, and Shiva remains the timeless Lord, who is beyond the limitations of time.
Mythology of Lord Kalantaka
Legends speak highly about the greatness of Kalantaka. Sage Mrikandu had no issues for long and he prayed earnestly to Shiva for a son. Pleased with his devotion, Shiva acceded to his request, but left the sage with a difficult option of choosing between a virtuous son, who will live only till age 16 or a hundred worthless sons, who will be long lived. Mrikandu chose the good, but short-lived progeny and Markhandeya was born to him. The boy had the markings of a saintly soul right from the beginning, as he was brilliant, well versed in scriptures, performed all the rituals and led a godly life. But time flew and he began approaching 16 in due course. Here it is also said that Lord Brahma taught him the Maha Mrithyunjaya Mantra, the sacred hymn which can help to conquer death.
Markhandeya kept on praying to Shiva with immense faith, while his parents remained deeply fearful of his destiny. When Markhandeya turned 16, messengers of death came to take his soul away, but could not approach this Shiva devotee. Then Lord Yama himself had to descend on earth to take the saintly boy away as per his destiny, but the steadfast devotee surrendered himself totally to Shiva and hugged his Linga tightly. Yama threw his mighty noose at the boy to drag him away, but the fearful weapon fell instead on the Linga itself.
Lord Shiva emerged out of the Linga at once, kicked at Yama, struck him with his trident and killed the God of death. Extremely pleased with Markhandeya’s unwavering faith and devotion, he blessed him with immortality and eternal youthfulness, which enabled him to remain 16, forever. Thus, Markhandeya, lived and is still living, as a shining example for true devotion. Lord Shiva who himself came running to the rescue of his ardent boy-devotee, became Kalantaka, demonstrating that the Lord will go to any extent to honour faith and sincerity.
But, the legend continues. With Yama killed, the world was thrown into chaos, with no deaths and the Earth was burdened with a tremendous load. Acceding to the appeal of the Gods, Shiva resurrected Yama, blessed him and advised him to proceed with his ordained responsibilities. It is believed that Yama will not touch the Shiva devotees and on death, their souls will go directly to Kailash, the abode of Lord Shiva.
This incident of Shiva conquering Yama for protecting Markhandeya is believed to have happened at Triprangode, Mallapuram district, Kerala, where Shiva is worshipped as Kalasamhara Murthy. This is also said to have taken place at Thirukkadaiyur in Tamilnadu (near Karaikal). Kalantaka worship is believed to relieve devotees from the fear of death and bless them with good health and long life. It has become a custom for many to celebrate their 60th birthday at Thirukkadaiyur, praying for a disease-free and good life.
The sacred scriptures prescribe fire ceremony, Abishekam (hydration ceremony), Pooja/Archana (Light and Sound ceremony), Yantra and Mantra (special sounds) as the ways to offer your prayer to the divine. Out of these, fire ceremony is the most evolved spiritual technology on earth to connect with the divine beings. Participate in the remedial services to clear your karma and receive the blessings.