The following manthram is known as Mahamrutyunjaya Manthram. This is mentioned in the Rukveda (7.59.12) and in Yajurveda (1.8.6.i; VS3.60) and recited as part of Rudram. Sage Markkandeya is credited with the discovery of this manthram. This is a prayer unto the three eyed Lord Shiva requesting immortality.

Om trayampakam yajAmahE Sugantim pushtivartanam l
urvArukamiva bantanAt mrutyor mukshIya mAmrutAt ll

Word by word meaning:-
Om = Om; trayampakam = O! The Lord having three eyes!; yajAmahE = we propitiate you by yagas; vartanam = as you are the one who make the (following) to grow in abundance; {that is} Sugantim = fragrance (all that is enjoyed by the mind); pushti = nourishment (all that is enjoyed by the body); iva = just like the; urvArukam = cucumber fruit; mukshIya = release me from; bantanAt = the clutches of; mrutyor = death; mAmrutAt = and grant me immortality.

Meaning of the Manthra:-
Om! O! The Lord having three eyes!; We propitiate You by yagas, as You are the one who makes the fragrance (all that is enjoyed by the mind) and nourishment (all that is enjoyed by the body) to grow in abundance; may You release us from the clutches of death and grant immortality, much like it happens to the cucumber fruit.

Explanatory Notes:-
The syllable Om is common to all the manthras. Only Sanyasis (those who have renounced the world) have the right to pronounce it as a single manthra. For others also to get the benefit of chanting this single letter manthra, it is made as a prefix to manthras.

Even though Lord Siva has got many an identifications marks like dress, ornaments etc., here he is specifically called the *‘three eyed’. Because, the one who has got some thing special which no other deity has, can only grant what others can not. This is to emphasize His ability to grant our request (immortality). For the Lord who had burnt to ashes Manmatha, the god of love, with his third eye, it is not a hard task for Him to annihilate Yama, the god of death.

Lord Siva showers his grace even though one does not have devotion and gives him fragrance and nourishment. This is known as ‘compassion with out a cause’. In Sanskrit it is called अव्याज कृपा avyaja krupa. When our devotion increases more and more, His grace also increases. This is what is meant by the word ‘Vardhanam’. ‘Fragrance’ denotes abstract experiences directly enjoyable by the mind and ‘nourishment’ denotes those that are enjoyed at the body level like good health etc., ‘Yajanam’ means sacrifice or pooja. Here it means worship through sacrifice.

A cucumber creeper is allowed to climb a tree. It brings forth flowers and cucumbers. The same ripen and the creeper gets detached from the fruit. What happens to that when it falls on the ground? The same creeper lies on the ground, brings forth flowers and cucumber. When the heavy fruit matures, the creeper gets detached from it without any damage to the fruit. That is what is explained here.

In this manthra we pray that just as the creeper waits for the fruit to mature and then only gets detached, we pray for ‘maturity’ and immortality. We get that maturity through the Grace of God, obtained through the blessings of the Guru. What is immortality? Death is certain for anyone born - nobody is ‘eternal’ in the universe. In that case how it is possible to pray and get immortality? The immortality meant here is not that of the body. It is the possession of the knowledge that Atma (soul) is immortal. Through what we do when we have the human body, we gain the means to attain that state of immortality.

On this auspicious day of 17th February, 2015 – Mahasivarathri day – may we all recite the Mahamrityunja mantram.

The author has published works in Tamil and English on Swami Ayyappan sahasranamam and Marathi Abhangams: this article is an English translation of his original work in Tamil.