Who are the immortals (Chiranjivi) of Hindu Mythology?
Well lets first start with the meaning of the word Chiranjivi. Chiranjivi or चिरंजीवी in Hindi, are immortal living beings in Hinduism who are to remain alive on Earth through this Kali Yuga till its very end.
Chiranjivis are those people who are believed to be still alive throughout this Kali Yuga until the start of Satya Yuga. Chiranjivis is a Sanskrit word which is a combination of two words “Chiram” which means “long” and “Jivi” means “lived”.
There is a shloka in sanskrit, Known as Chiranjivi shloka
“अश्वत्थामाबलिर्व्यासोहनुमांश्च विभीषण:कृपश्चपरशुरामश्च सप्तैतेचिरंजीविन:।”
“Aswathama Balir Vyaso Hanumanash cha Vibhishana Krupacharya cha Parashuramam Saptatah Chirjeevanam”
Which means that Aswathama, King Mahabali, Veda Vyasa, Hanuman , Vibhishana , Krupacharya and Lord Parashuram are death-defying or imperishable personalities.
Apart from these seven, Markandeya, a great rishi Who was blessed by Shiva, and Jambavan, a strong and wellknown character from Ramayana are also considered as Chiranjivins.
Regarded as the avatar of one of the eleven Rudras, the great “maharathi” who fought in the Mahabharata war was born to Drona as a reward by Lord Shiva for the great guru’s penance. Fighting for the Kaurava side in the Kurukshetra war, Ashwathama committed the sins of foeticide, infanticide and genocide and was cursed by an enraged Lord Krishna to suffer for eternity without the gem on his forehead that protected him from hunger, thirst and fatigue.
2. King Bali:
The legendary Bhakt Prahlad’s grandson, this Asura king, a.k.a Mahabali, who was blessed with immortality, conquered and ruled the three worlds. On a request from Indra, the king of gods, Lord Vishnu subdued King Bali taking the form of a “Vamana” and banished him to the netherworld. But the Asura’s noble deeds on earth helped him acquire the boon of visiting his subjects once in every year. The Onam festival in Kerala is celebrated to mark his annual homecoming.
3. LORD Hanuman:
After performing unparalleled tasks in the course of the epic Ramayana, the great monkey- god requested from his most beloved Lord Rama to stay on earth as long as the holy name of “Rama” is chanted by the people of this land. His wish was granted, and maybe (just maybe), he’s still around here somewhere, filling this world with hope until a time comes for him to serve his Lord once again.
The Kulguru of the Kurus during the time of Mahabharata, Kripa taught the Kauravas and the Pandavas before Dronacharya’s appointment. Kripa was a great “maharathi” who fought on the Kaurava’s side during the Kurukshetra war. His impartiality towards all his students won him the boon of immortality.
When Lord Rama brought an end to the demon lord Ravan, the latter’s brother Vibhishan was crowned the new king of Lanka for his unfaltering righteousness and for being the key to Ravan’s death. Vibhishan, however can not be considered as a true chiranjivi, as his boon for a long life was to stand only until the end of the Treta- yug.
7. VEDA Vyasa:
The great sage who composed the epic Mahabharata, and who is an epitome of true wisdom, lived through the Treta-yug, walked across the complete Dwapar- yug and yet breathed in the early Kali- yug, and who knows if he’s still here?
Devotee of Shiva, undertook penance and was gifted with long life. 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. Lord shiva gave him his own 12 years of life.
There are several other personages known as chiranjeevins,like Jambavantha (Jambavan). However, in Hinduism, “immortal” does not mean eternal. Even immortal things are dissolved at the end of the universe,including its secondary creator Brahma. The only eternals are Vishnu and Shiva ofthe Trimurti, i.e. manifestations of Brahman (the SupremeReality), Sheshanaga (the Eternal Serpent), and the fourVedas.
There are also some other Chiranjeevis which are not as famous or who were killed by Gods.
Ravana: Devotee of Shiva, undertook penance and was gifted long life. Nemesis of Lord Rama in Ramayana and was eventually killed by Rama.
Jambavan: Devotee of Lord Rama.
Hiranyakashyapu: Demon king, undertook penance, got bestowed with Long life and was eventually killed by Lord Narasinha [An avatar of Lord Vishnu]
The Astha-Chiranjivins (“Eight Immortals”):
- Mahabali, a righteous demon king who conquered heaven, earth, and the underworld, but was forced to give it back by Vamana.
- Markandeya, a famous devotee of Lord Shiva/Lord Vishnu
- Parashurama, an Avatar of Vishnu.
- Vibhishana, Ravana’s brother who was made King of Lanka by Rama.
- Hanuman, who served Rama.
- Vyasa, a sage who narrated the Mahabharata, he was also a sage in the epic.
- Kripacharya, a teacher of the princes in the Mahabharata.