Ashta Chiranjeevi: Eight Immortals of Epics and Puranas

Ashta Chiranjeevi, the eight immortals: Hindu Dharma, or Hinduism, and its diverse, vibrant Vedic Story narrate thrilling stories of human birth cycles. It is believed that the human body takes birth on Earth after taking birth at 84 lac different yonis or species to get liberation and merge with the advait param pita, mata, guru, and sakha—our Krishna. All the species, even the organisms, must meet the balance of good and bad karma to achieve the highest state with the Lord himself at the Gokul or Golok.

However, some of the most interesting yet destructive humans have been born on Earth and are immortal by boon or curse. Let’s find out the stories of Ashta Chiranjeevi or the eight immortals of epics and Puranas who are still living with us.

What is the Meaning of Ashta Chiranjeevi?

Ancient Hindu texts are in Sanskrit. Ashta means eight, and Chiranjeevi means a long-lived person. Chiram means long, and Jivee means lived. You can even find the word–Amaratva, which means immortality, in the epics and Puranas.

Who are the Eight Immortals?

Sanatan Dharma mentions over 15 Ashta Chiranjeevis, but the most famous are eight immortals due to their extraordinary lifestyles and stories.

They are:

  1. Asura King Mahabali, Emperor of Pataal Loka
  2. Maha Rishi Markandeya, a devotee of Lord Shiva
  3. Lord Parashurama, the 6th avatar of Lord Vishnu
  4. Vibhishan, brother of Demon King Ravana
  5. Hanuman, the greatest devotee of Lord Rama
  6. Ved Vyasa, one of the incarnations of Lord Vishnu and grandfather of the Pandavas
  7. Kripa-Charya, an unbiased teacher of the Pandavas and Kuru Clan
  8. Ashwatthama, the cursed villain of the epic Mahabharata

Indian mythology mentions that the eight immortals, or Ashta Chiranjeevi, would remain alive on earth till Kali Yuga and may wait for the next Satya Yuga.

Asura King Mahabali

Mahabali, the king of Pataal Loka, was the great-great-great-grandson of Rishi Kashyapa. He was the great-grandson of Hiranyakashipu, the grandson of Prahlada, and the son of Virochana. Bali, the first Ashta Chiranjeevi did great penance during his kingship, and his kingdom was filled with peace and prosperity. Therefore, he thought of maintaining his dominance over the three worlds—heaven, earth, and Pataal—by arranging Ashwamedha Yagna.

This news created tension and insecurity in heaven. Indra, the king of heaven, requested that he step in to help the Devas.

Lord Vishnu took Vamana’s avatar and visited Mahabali at the rite. He asked the Asura King to grant him land. Vamana, the avatar of Lord Vishnu, asked the king to offer him land that could cover his three steps.

Without knowing about the Vamana, he granted the boon. Vamana covered all the earth and heaven with his two steps by becoming a gigantic Brahmin boy. After the two steps, there was no place to land the third step for Vamana. Mahabali offered his head for the last step. Vamana shifted Bali to the underworld and restored security and peace among the gods.

However, due to the devotion and instant act of surrender, Vamana, the avatar of Lord Vishnu, was pleased. He blessed Mahabali to be the Indra of the Next Satya Yuga during the period of the Manu Savarni. Bali even got a blessing to pay a visit to his land once a year due to his selfless devotion, dharma, and fixed word. Thus, the Onam festival is enjoyed in Kerala to welcome Asura King Mahabali to his land every year.

Maharishi Markandeya

Rishi Markandeya was a great devotee of Lord Shiva and Vishnu. He was the son of Rishi Mrikandu and his wife, Marudmati, and belonged to the Bhrigu clan. They wanted to have a son and worshipped Lord Shiva. As a result, Lord Shiva gave them two choices: either a knowledgeable and highly intelligent son with a short life on earth or a child with low intelligence with a long life.

Rishi Mrikandu accepted the first son with intelligence, and thus he was blessed with Markandeya, a flawless son destined to die at 16.

Soon, Markandeya grew up and became a great devotee of Lord Shiva.

One day he was worshipping the Shivalingam, and the messengers of Yama, the god of death, came to take away his life; however, Markandeya continued his worship without fearing his death.

Due to the imbalance of the life cycle, birth, and death, Lord Yamraj had to come to take him personally. He threw a rope and sprung a noose around Markandeya’s neck. However, the noose mistakenly landed on the Shivalingam. He emerged in fury and attached Yama to his aggression. Lord Shiva defeated Yamaraj and asked him to leave the young sage to live forever. Thus, Markandeya rishi became the second Ashta Chiranjeevi.


Parashurama, the 6th avatar of Lord Vishnu with the parashu, or weapon, and a destructive temper, was born into a Brahmin family. He was a warrior and carried many Kshatriya traits, such as aggression, bravery, and warfare.

Thus, he was known as Brahma-Kshatritya due to the skills of both clans.

Parashurama is not like other avatars of Lord Vishnu. He is an Avesha avatar who still lives on earth and the third Ashta Chiranjeevi.

As per the ancient texts, once a king named Katavirya Sahasrajuna and his army tried hard to take away a magical cow called Kamdhenu, owned by Parashurama’s father. As a result, Parashurama killed the king and his entire army.

In revenge, a son of Kartavirya killed Jamadagni, father of Parashurama, in his absence. Furious Parashurama killed his sons and all the leaders who were corrupted—the Haihaya Kings and other warriors on earth—27 times.


Vibhishana, a true holder of dharma and younger brother of Demon King Ravana, is the third immortal among the Ashta Chiranjeevi. Though a demon himself, Vibhishana was a great person with knowledge of dharma and a well-established character. He advised King Ravana to return Sita to Lord Rama and maintain peace.

Vibhishana tried his best to lead his brother down the right path; however, Ravana did not listen to his advice. Thus, he joined the army of Rama and helped him defeat Ravana. Later, Lord Rama, the 7th avatar of Lord Vishnu, crowned Vibhishana as the King of Lanka.

King Vibhishana enlightened his people with good deeds and turned their path from evil to righteousness. Queen Sarama, wife of Vibhishana, helped him in his initiative, and their daughter, Trijata, took care of Sita during her capture by Ravana. Before he departed from the earth, the Rama avatar of Lord Vishnu ordered Vibhishana to stay on earth and help people follow the path of dharma.


As per Indian scripture, Lord Hanuman, the fifth Ashta Chiranjeevi, was born to Mata Anjana and Kesari. However, he is also known as Pawan Putra, or the son of Vayu, the Wind God, and Lord Vishnu.

According to the legends, once Mother Anjana was worshipping Lord Shiva, King Dasharatha was also performing the same Putrakama Yagna to beget a son.

Dasharatha received sacred sweets from the Agni Deva from the Yagna, which he shared among his three wives, Kaushalaya, Kaikai, and Sumitra. Suddenly, a kite snatched a fragment of the payasam and dropped it while flying over the jungle where Anjana was praying.

Vayu, the Lord of Air, delivered the sweet to the hands of Anjana. She consumed it and gave birth to Hanuman.

Sunder Kand, the most famous book of the Ramayana, narrates the story of Hanuman and how he meets Sita in the Ashoka Vatika and burns the Kingdom of Ravana.

Several renditions of the Ramayana state that Lord Rama blessed Hanuman to be Chiranjeevi or immortal. Rama, 7th the avatar of Lord Vishnu, also ordered him to wait for his Kalki avatar to help him restore righteousness on Earth in the Kali Yuga.

Ved Vyasa

Ved Vyasa is also known as Krishna Dvaipayana Veda Vyasa due to his birth on the island. He is the son of Satyavati and Parasara. Vyasa is the author of the great epic Mahabharata and the Srimad Bhagavatam. He is also among the eight immortals or Ashta Chiranjeevi. Vyasa is the father of Pandu, Dhritarashtra, Vidhura, and Shuka. He continued spreading true wisdom among humans through his scholarly writing and vision. Veda Vyasa also compiled 28 Vedas and Puranas.

According to the Vishnu Purana, Veda Vyasa is a glorious title given to the people who compiled the Vedas and avatars of Vishnu.

He helped scholars and Vedic Scripture readers understand the meaning and wisdom behind the divine knowledge of the Vedas.


Sage Kripacharya is one of the main characters in the Epic Mahabharata and the seventh Ashta Chiranjeevis. He developed the Kauravas and Pandavas through his unbiased teaching. He taught warfare to the young princess of the Kuru Clan. He even taught warfare to Parikshit, the son of Abhimanyu and the grandson of Arjuna, after the Kurukshetra war.

The author of the Mahabharata, Ved Vyasa, describes the power of Kripacharya. He says Kripacharya could handle 60,000 warriors on the battlefield alone and is only comparable to Lord Kartikeya, son of Lord Shiva.

Kripacharya has amazing traits such as truth, impartiality, and righteousness and thus stands out as the noblest among all men; therefore, Lord Krishna blessed him to be immortal.


Ashwatthama, son of Guru Dronacharya and Kripi, is considered one of the avatars of the eleven Rudras and Ashta Chiranjeevi. He is the only living survivor of the Kurukshetra war with his uncle, Kripacharya.

Guru Dronacharya and Kripi did great penance for several years and pleased Lord Shiva to beget a son with the same valiance as the Lord himself. Thus, Ashawatthama was born with a diamond on his forehead, representing the third eye of Lord Shiva. It gave him the power to overpower all living beings other than humans. The gem even protected him from disease, hunger, thirst, and any fatigue.

However, during the Kurukshetra war, he disgustingly killed the innocent children of the Pandavas while they were asleep after the last day of war.

Why Did Krishna Curse Ashwatthama to be Immortal and Wait for the Kali Yuga to End?

Ashwatthama even invokes Brahmastra, the deadly weapon that can destroy the whole universe. However, when Krishna asked to call back his weapon, he could not, and he diverted towards Uttara’s womb to kill the last lineage of Pandavas.

Krishna, at the request of his sister Subhadra, saved the baby and cursed Ashwatthama.

The Curse of Ashwatthama

  • Lord Krishna asked Ashwatthama to surrender his gem from his forehead and cursed him to roam the forest for 3000 years with blood and pus oozing from his injured forehead and crying for death.
  • He didn’t fear death during the war, so Krishna cursed him to be immortal, stay in pain, and wait for the end of Kali Yuga.
  • Krishna cursed him for not getting the hospitality and accommodations to cure his injuries and for staying isolated from society.
  • He even cursed Ashwatthama for suffering from incurable diseases and forming ulcers and sores all over his body.

Thus, the stories of the Ashta Chiranjeevi, or the eight immortals, end with Ashwatthama.

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Archana Das
Archana Das
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