In an earlier post at this link here, I wrote about various aspects of Lord Shiva which are particularly acknowledged in the history and worship at Arunachala, namely; Lingodbhavamurti, Bhikshatana, Ardhanarishvara and Dakshinamurthi. However as Arunachala and Shiva are regarded as synonymous, all fascinating and inspirational aspects of the Great Lord help us understand the subtleties of the various aspects Lord Shiva represents.
The below legend of Shiva as Kalantaka (the Conqueror of Time and Death) establishes that the true devotee achieves freedom from death and samsara by worship of Shiva. It also demonstrates that egoism and pride (here of Yama) are always humbled.
The legend of Shiva as Markandeya's saviour is a major myth of salvation in Tamil Shaivism. The sage Mrikandu prayed to Shiva and the Lord offered him a choice: a virtuous son who would live sixteen years, or a hundred long-lived, foolish sons. Mrikandu chose the former and accordingly had a son, whom he named Markandeya. As Markandeya neared the end of his fifteenth year, Lord Brahma taught him the Mahamrityunjaya Mantra that is meant to conquer death by giving long life. As per Brahma's advice, Markandeya prayed to Shiva, worshipping the Lingam. The gods pleaded with Shiva to extend Markandeya's life and Shiva consented.
As per his destiny, the messengers of Yama came to take away Markandeya's soul, but failed to approach him as he ceaselessly repeated Shiva's name. Yama came himself to take Markandeya's soul and told Markandeya to stop his worship and come with him as per his fate. Markandeya refused, warning Yama that he was committing an offence against Shiva. Yama, however, proclaimed that not even Shiva could stop him. The wrathful Yama assumed a fearsome form and threw his noose to capture Markandeya, who hugged the Lingam tightly. When the noose touched the Lingam, Shiva emerged from it and struck Yama with his Trishula and kicked his chest, killing the lord of death.
Sages, gods and other beings appeared to praise Shiva, who blessed Markandeya to remain a youth of sixteen. As no one remained in the world to make beings die, the earth became burdened by evil beings. The earth, the gods, and Markandeya invoked Shiva to revive Yama. Once again, Shiva touched Yama with his foot, bringing him back to life. Different myths narrate how Yama promises never to touch Shiva's devotees. Shiva's devotees on death are directly taken to the abode of Shiva, Mount Kailash.
Below is the Mahamrityunjaya Mantra found in the Rig Veda.
"Tryambakaṃ yajāmahe sugandhiṃ puṣṭi-vardhanamurvārukam
Iva bandhanān mṛtyor mukṣīya māmṛtāt"
We meditate on the three-eyed reality which permeates and nourishes all like a fragrance. May we be liberated from death for the sake of immortality.