The English word for long lived is immortal but in Sanskrit there
are three words Ananta, Amara and
Chiranjeevi which are used almost like synonyms;
there is in fact a slight difference. The word Chiranjeevi is a combination of Chira
(long) and Jeevi (lived) This
word is often confused with Amarattva (Immortal) and Anatattva (Infinitity).
The following classification of beings will make this clear:
1. Martya (Mortals) – Who undergo separation of Subtle Body
and Gross Body. All beings on this earth plane Humans, Animals, Birds,
Reptiles, Amphibians etc. Also you and me.
2. Chiranjeevi (one who lives long) – Who live a very long
life in the minds of humans and make them feel that they live for eternity. It’s
not that the Gross Body of that individual is not separated from Subtle body
but they received the boon /curse of eternity. Anyone can become mortal by good
deeds etc., but cannot become Amara. Puranas cite many as chiranjeevis of who
seven are discussed below.
3. Amara (Immortal) -- Who never experience death at all. This
includes Devas, Apsaras, Gandharvas. Even in war when they are wounded, they
recover and continue to live. Puranas give credit to the ambrosia for Amarattva.
4. Ananta (Infinite) – Who live forever. All the above three mentioned get dissolved at
the time of Pralaya (deluge), including its secondary creator Brahma. The only
real Eternal is Maha Vishnu and the four Vedas.
Vedas are considered Eternal in that they do NOT get destroyed at the
end of time its talks about way of Life which applies to any aeon.
While those born on this earth plane face the uncertainty
and finite span of human life, every being yearn for some form of immortality.
If not immortality at least they wish to live a little longer in a hope to gain
an indirect continuity of their existence to have the glimpse of their great
grand kids wedding. While many live a life where they are mortal only through
the period of their physical existence, very few aim to remain mortal by means
of their achievements in their field through fame in the memories of future
generations. In fact this is called Chiranjeevi (Immortal) status.
In our ancient culture there are stories about immortal beings
and methods to manifest immortality. Hindu mythology mentions seven
Chiranjeevis who have achieved indefinite prolongation of life along with a
deed that they have performed which stays as long as sun and moon exists.
Asvattama Bali Vyasohanuma cha Vibhishana: |
Krupa Parasursmascha Saptaite Chiranjivinah: |
They are the Ashwatthama (the son of Dronacharya), Mahabali
(the saintly demon King), Vyasa (the composer of Mahabharata and Puranas),
Hanuman (the ardent devotee of Sri Rama), Vibheeshana (the brother of Ravana),
Kripacharya (the Vidya Guru of Pandavas and Kauravas) and Parashurama (the
slayer of immoral kings).
Lets us know what were the deeds performed by those seven
individuals to be conferred with the status of Immortality.
Ashwatthama is the only one among the seven who attain the
so called Chiranjeevattva not due to any noble deed. It was a curse from Sri
Krishna after he killed all the sons of Pandavas with his Brahmastra and trying
to kill Parikshit, the only inheritor of Pandavas who was in the womb of Uttara
the wife of Abhimanyu. He was overpowered and destined to live for ever with
festering wounds all over the body. This was a warning to generations ahead of
a great personality living without virtue and good conduct which amounts to
eternal suffering. In a sense a karmic reckoning which is a harsh reminder of
the consequences of immoral behaviour. It is believed that even today some have
seen Ashwatthama wandering near Asirgadh fort in Madhya Pradesh asking for
butter to apply on his wounds.
Mahabali is a Chiranjeevi because of his surrender to Lord
wherein he does not daunt to offer his own head as the pedestal when Maha
Vishnu asks him a place to keep his third step. It is believed that Mahabali
visits his subjects now in modern Kerela on Onam day.
Vyasa, the great scholar and author of Mahabharata and
Srimad Bhagavatam is an immortal and radiating flare of wisdom. A weaver of
mysterious stories in mythology he is a depiction of the creativity that even
now some great scholars and writers exhibit. He is immortal as long as the
great epic Mahabharata is told and retold. It is believed that Vyasadev is
still residing in Badarikashrama on the Himalayas.
Hanuman is just the reflection of modesty, selflessness,
valour, devotion, power, might and virtues. He stands tall amidst all the
characters in Ramayana. It was Sitadevi who bestowed on him the boon of
remaining ever-youthful, energetic and immortal. There is a belief that Hanuman
is still the caves near Manasarovar.
Vibheeshana is immortal for his steadfast conviction in what
he believed. He was a great analyst of righteousness; he would listen only to
his inner voice and never succumbed to the praise of his sycophants. He was
conferred the immortal status by Lord Rama.
There are people in Kelaneeya, Sri Lanka who believe he is alive even to
this day and there is a Vibheeshana temple there.
Kripacharya stands as an example of being impartial to
Pandavas and Kauravas. He was Vidya Guru for both the families. He was a strict
follower of ethics and standards which many would forgo citing the reasons of
rules changing from location and generation. Rules may change but ethics and
standards should not.
Parashurama the Guru of martial arts and the knower of all
Astras (weapons), Sastras (weapons with program) and tactics of warfare. Though
he was such a great warrior he never wished to be an emperor instead used all
his strength to eliminate unlawful kshatriyas around the globe. It is believed
that he is still alive on Mahendragiri in Kerala.
The six of the seven immortals except Ashwatthama epitomize
certain basic truths, laws and standards of ethical behaviour which transcend
Time, Space and Causation. They are eternal and universal therefore it should
not be considered as mere deathlessness. It echoes their attitude to remain
constant on the divine principles even at the time of hardship and stress.
I have to specially thank Shri B. K. Jagadish for putting a
seed in my mind for the blog to sprout. Thank you Sir......!