Tracing its origins to the very first veda- Rigveda, the chant reappears in the secondary Yajurveda and modern Atharvaveda. Legends associated with the chant go back to the days of Prajapati Daksha – Father to Sati, Shiva’s consort. It is believed Daksha cursed the moon (Chandra) to death. The moon, distraught, pleaded to Shiva who gave him the Mantra to slow down death. Chandra began reciting it and the effects were soon seen. To prevent the inevitable from happening, Shiva then placed Chandra on his head, a position he has assumed since then!
Yet another reference comes from the legend of Sage Markandeya. Born to a sage and his wife, in a forest, Markandeya is cursed with a short life of mere 16 years. On his 16th birthday, when Yama (lord of death) comes to take him, he sees Markandeya deep in penance, holding a Shiva Linga. The reaper extends his hoop over the little one and prepares to pull him, but it also entangles the Shiva Linga within it, thus pulling the Supreme along. Enraged, Shiva rises in his Roudraroop (form) with his third eye open and kills Yama under his feet. Now, Yama being the lord of death, plays an integral role in the world’s functioning. Fearful of the adverse, the other gods and demi gods pray to Shiva. He finally restores Yama to life and grants Markandeya immortality. So as to avoid such a thing from repeating, Shiva gives the MahaMrityunjaya Mantra to the world.
This mantra refers to Shiva in his most destructive form – With his third eye open (Triyambaka means the one with three eyes). Thus the verse loosely translates as:
Oh, the one with three eyes, we adore and worship you
It is you who has granted us the fragrance and flavor of life
(Now it is) you who can relieve those riddled in pain, problems and diseases
(And it is you) who can help theirs souls detach effortlessly from their bodies and gain immortality (like a cucumber from its vine)
Repeated and regular chanting of the MahaMrityunjaya has been found to have multifold benefits. They are as follows:
Since ages, these effects have been recorded and yet continue to do so. Hence, the importance of the MahaMrityunjaya Mantra to our lives can hardly be emphasized!