Lord Krishna has said, whatever takes birth, is sure to die. Everything is mortal. Good deeds and karma will relieve one from the cycle of birth and death, but will not make him immortal.
There have been many greedy and ambitious demons who have tried their best to overcome mortality. However, despite the best efforts, they have achieved only failure. Similarly, there have been some gods, the good souls, who were blessed with the boon of immortality.
There are eight such souls, who are sharing this world with us. These souls are collectively known as the Ashta Chiranjeevi, which means the eight immortals.
These eight immortals are - Lord Hanuman, Lord Parashuram, Rishi Vedvyas, Rishi Markandeya, Kripacharya, Ashvathama and Vibhishan. Important to be mentioned, not all of them were Gods.
The list includes some demons too. Today, we are going to talk about those immortal souls who were either from the family of demons, or who contributed towards them, and hence were either blessed or cursed to be immortal. Read on.
Ashvathama was the son of Dronacharya, and was fighting in the Mahabharata on the side of the Pandavas. Arjuna as well as Ashvathama badly enraged, once used the Brahmastra.
Brahmastra had the power to annihilate the whole Earth. Maharishi Vyas ordered both of them to take the astras (weapons) back. While Arjuna could do it, Ashvathama failed to take it back, for his father had not taught him to do so, limiting him to use it only once in a lifetime.
Enraged Krishna, as he could not take the astra back, cursed Ashvathama that he will never attain moksha (salvation) and his soul will keep wandering on the Earth until the end of time.
It is said that Ashvathama lives until today, and comes to worship Lord Shiva in a temple in the Burhanpur district of Madhya Pradesh.
Mahabali was a demonic king, who became too proud when he had acquired a major portion of the whole wealth in the universe. He invited all the revered and divine souls to a holy ceremony, and declared that he would fulfill one desire each of all those present in the ceremony.
Lord Vishnu incarnated himself as Rishi Vaman, a dwarf sage. When it came to his turn to ask for a blessing, Rishi Vaman asked the king Mahabali for three pieces of land. The king laughed and asked him to step his feet on the piece of land he wanted.
Rishi Vaman grew into a big giant and covered all the three - the Prithvi Loka (Earth), the Aakash Loka (sky) and the Patal Loka (the netherworld). Later, impressed by his generous nature; and the desire to donate, Lord Vishnu made him the King of Patal Loka, giving him the boon of mortality.
Vibhishan hailed from the family of demons. He was the brother of Lanka King Ravana. Ravana, who abducted Sita in the disguise of a sage, had made the mistake of having told his brother, the secret to his own death. Vibhishan was inclined towards the divinity in Lord Ram. He kept warning Ravana that his misdeeds are not going to get him any good.
When Ravana did not stop his misdeeds, Vibhishan gave away the secret to his end, to Lord Ram. Despite being from the family of demons, he contributed for righteousness. Lord Ram gave him the boon of immortality.
Kripacharya was a sage and a teacher, who fought in the battle of the Mahabharata on the Kouravas' side. He was the grandson of Rishi Gautam and the son of Rishi Shardwan. Because he had the boon of immortality, he was not killed in the Mahabharata war, and hence, was one of the eighteen warriors who survived after the battle.
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