Sage Mrikandu prayed to Lord Shiva for a son. Lord Shiva appeared before him and asked, "Do you want an ordinary son or a perfect son who would not live more than sixteen years?"
Sage Mrikandu thought, "If I ask for a perfect son, he would die at sixteen, but if I ask for an ordinary son, he would not be great." He chose a perfect son.
Soon his wife gave birth to a son whom they called Markendeya. He was a handsome, wise, and kind boy, perfect in every way.
A few days before his six teen birthday, Markandeya's parents told him that he would soon die. Markendeya said, "I will not die. " I will pray to Lord Shiva." He worshiped Lord Shiva every day. On his sixteenth birthday, Lord Yama, the god of death, came to take him. Markandeya said, "Let me finish my prayer ." Lord Yama got angry and threw the noose over him. Lord Shiva appeared and ordered Lord Yama back to his kingdom saying, "Don't return to earth."
Lord Yama went away. Nobody died on earth after that. The earth became overcrowded Goddess Earth went to Lord Shiva and said, "I am not able to carry this huge burden. Please send Lord Yama to earth." When Lord Shiva refused, she went to Goddess Parvati for help. When Goddess Parvati repeated the request, Lord Shiva said, "Lord Yama has insulted my devotee." Goddess Parvati said, "Maybe you meant that Markandeya will always remain sixteen, but that foolish Lord Yama misunderstood." Lord Shiva was happy. He sent Lord Yama to earth again. Sage Markandeya always remained sixteen.