Nilanjana retells the story of the vision of Markendeya from the Bhagavatam. Vishnu manifested to Markandeya in the form of Nara and Narayana. Markandeya was overwhelmed by the grace that was showered on him. When Vishnu insisted on blessing him with a boon he requested that he would like to know the Maya (illusion) that causes ignorance in human minds. Here’s the story, in the weekly column, exclusively in Different Truths.
Markandeya was a great sage of his time. He was very equanimous throughout his life, not getting swayed by emotional turbulences under any circumstances. It is said that once Indra (ruler of divine beings) let free all the beauties of heavens to distract him to a life of pleasure. Markandeya was unperturbed. He also did not curse those who attempted to pull him away from his path of righteousness.
Vishnu manifested to Markandeya in the form of Nara and Narayana. Markandeya was overwhelmed by the grace that was showered on him. When Vishnu insisted on blessing him with a boon he requested that he would like to know the maya (illusion) that causes ignorance in human minds.
Makandeya lived in his ashrama on the banks of river Pushpabhadra. Suddenly one day a strong wind began to blow. This was followed by torrential showers. Markandeya realised that this was no regular rainfall, but the beginning of mahapralaya (great deluge). Eventually, the seas filled up and the earth was hidden under water. Gradually, the highlands and the mountains also went under water. Whirlpools had formed everywhere, sucking up everything around. Sea lions, sharks, whales and crocodiles were roaming all over. With incessant rains, a gloomy darkness had enveloped the world.
Markandeya was engulfed by hunger and thirst. He felt a tingling sensation in his stomach and identified it as fear. He remembered that he had conquered death in the past, but now the fear of death was slowly gripping him. He was tossed around by the waves, tormented by his own fears.
Out of nowhere, he spotted a beautiful Ashwatta tree. It was a big tree. On one of the leaves of the tree, a little child was sleeping peacefully. The handsome child was emanating a divine glow. Markendeya took a closer look at the child, when he got pulled inside the child’s body by his breath.
Once inside, Markandeya found the world as it were. The entire earth, sky, stars and everything was the same as it was before the mahapralaya. Markandeya was getting used to this, but a sudden exhaling breath suddenly threw him out into the waters again. Markandeya saw the child at a distance and wished to hug him. However, the child disappeared along with the Ashwatta tree. The tossing waves receded and Markandeya found himself on firm ground in his ashrama.
Markandeya was still caught in this trance when Parvati and Shiva visited him. Shiva explained that this was the manifestation of the boon to realize the maya of Narayana. As Parvati and Shiva took leave of him, Sage Markandeya kept wondering about the deluge and the child. Was the deluge real? Do turbulences really occur? Is it that we are living within the divine consciousness completely unaware? Is fear for real or is it just an illusion of the mind?
Footnote: Srimad Bhagavatam is often called the Bhagavad Purana. Authored by Ved Vyasa, the stories are about the various avatars (incarnations) of Lord Vishnu, also known as Narayana.
Photo from the internet.
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