Mârkandeya had a miraculous birth and would never grow older than sixteen years old. His father was the sage Mrikandu, whose worship pleased S´iva. Appearing with a boon, S´iva asked Mrikandu whether he wanted a son who was brilliant but short-lived or dull with a long life.
Mrikandu chose the brilliant son. Mârkandeya surpassed all his expectations in his knowledge of the Vedas and S´âstras, but the years passed all too quickly. When Mârkandeya learned that he would soon die, he began practicing severe austerities (tapas).
When Yama’s helpers came for Mârkandeya, they could not approach him because of the great heat from his tapas. So Yama came and threw his noose, which encircled both Mârkandeya and his idol of S´iva.
S´iva angrily arose from the idol and killed Yama to save Mârkandeya, his devotee. Mârkandeya practiced severe austerities through the first six manvantaras. Then in the seventh manvantara Indra tried everything to stop his devotions but could not. The Purânas state that Mârkandeya is still alive, sixteen years of age, and a great devotee (bhakta).