Sixth – Parashurama Avatar – The Warrior Incarnation
Vishnu incarnated Parshurama Avatar in Treta- Yug to exterminate kshatriyas kings who strayed from their path and had become a great burden to Bhoomidevi (Mother Earth) and her children. In treta yug their was a kshatriya king named Arjuna, who had thousand arms. He had appeased Lord Dattatreya and has secured boons from him which had made him invincible. But Arjuna misused his powers and became a merciless tyrant.
To end his bad deeds and avenge all kshatriyas kings who had become evil and were troubling the brahmins, Lord Vishnu came to earth in Parashurama avatar.Parshu means axe and so his name means Rama-with-the-axe. He was born in Brighu clan to Sage Jamadagni and Renuka. They had four sons and Parashurama was the youngest son and the most powerful and aggressive one.
Parashurama always carried an axe which he received from Lord Shiva after pleasing him with his meditation. He was an ardent devotee of Lord Shiva and from whom he learned the methods of warfare and other skills.Though a Brahmin’s son Parashurama had inordinate love for weapons and had kshatriya (warrior) traits in him. He is also referred as ‘Brahma-Kshatriya’ -one who possesses both the qualities of Brahmins and kshatriyas (since his mother was a daughter of kshatriya and his father was a brahmin).
Ashram of Sage Jamadagni was situated on the banks of the river Narmada where he educated his sons and his disciples. Parshurama’s parents were spiritual people, his mother Renuka had command over water elments and his father Jamadgani over fire. Once Sage Jamadagni was performing a yajna in his ashram. He asked his wife Renuka to fetch water from the river to offer oblation to gods.
At that time a celestial singer named Chitraratha was making sport in the river with his wives.Out of curiosity Renuka stood there to see them and missed the time of oblation. Jamadagni was so angry that he ordered his sons, “Cut off her head as she has failed in her duty!” None of the sons came forward.
Parashurama obeyed his command and killed his mother.Rishi Jamadgani was so pleased with his son that he asked him to ask for a boon. Parashurama said,”Kindly bring our innocent mother to life again.” By now Jamadagni’s anger had subsided and with his divine powers he brought back life of Renuka.
Sage Jamadgani and Renuka both were blessed not only for having Parshuram as their son but they also had the wish fulfilling cow – Kamdhenu and her calf- a symbol of abundance. Once when Parashurama & his brothers were away, some Kshatriya warriors entered Jamadagni’s Ashrama.Renuka was alone at that time, she greeted them and offered them with delicious dishes and with tasty milk of their cow Kamadhenu and her calf.
Everyone was amused to see such a magical cow which produced whatever dish they asked for. They thought,”If Kamadhenu can feed so many people in such a short time then our king Arjuna must possess her.” They asked for that cow and Renuka refused.
After their meals they took rest for a while and at the time of departure Kshatriya warriors seized the cow & her calf & forcefully took them to their capital. Renuka loved Kamadhenu and her calf more than her life. When Parashurama returned to his ashram, he saw his mother Renuka crying. He inquired and she said, “My son, what a misery! Arjuna’s men has robbed us of Kamadhenu and her calf.”
“How dare he commit such a sin, do not worry I shall deal with him?” shouted Parashurama . Parashurama stormed into Mahishmati, Arjuna’s capital carrying his axe and challenged him, “You have stolen our Kamadhenu. Return it if you love life.” Arjuna was alarmed at first but then he took Parashurama as a meek boy.
So he insolently said, “Kshatriyas have claim over the best things in this world. You and your father should practice penance only. Kamadhenu will live well in my palace.” Arjuna sent his powerful army to face Parashurama but they were all killed. Enraged at the destruction of his army, Arjuna himself rushed towards him with uprooted trees and rocks but in the air of arrogance Arjuna had forgotten the curse. ***
(***THE CURSE – Arjuna had once burnt to ashes the Ashram of Muni Vashist while destroying a forest and Vashist had cursed him, “You’ll one day encounter with a mighty person who will cut off all your thousand arms.” )
Parashurama attacked him and cuts off his arms just like one cuts off the branches of a tree and then brought his axe down on the tyrant’s neck and killed him. When the king fell, his frightened soldiers began to run away for life. Parashurama then returned with Kamadhenu and her calf after killing Arjuna. At the ashrama Renuka was eagerly waiting for them. Parashurama touched her feet and handed her the beloved Kamadhenu and calf. Jamadagni did not appreciate the adventure of his son. He retorted, “You have developed enmity between the Brahmins and the Kshatriyas. You have to go on a pilgrimage to atone this sin.” And Parashurama obeyed his father’s command.
But on the other side, Arjuna’s sons were hankering for revenge. Once when Jamadagni and Renuka were alone in their Ashrama they invaded the Ashrama and killed Jamadagni. Renuka fainted after seeing this extreme sight. On returning, Parashurama saw this tragedy and asked her mother, ” Who did this?” But Renuka’s agony was so deep that she could not utter a word. He noticed 21 scars on his father’s body and full of grief and anger Parashurama swore to annihilate the entire Kshatriya race.
Outraged by King Arjuna’s sons, and with a terrible axe in his hand he headed straight for Kshatriya prince palace. He attacked and killed all the princes, catching them from their hiding places, and slicing them to death. He killed every male member of Kshatriya king Arjuna’s clan – his sons, brothers, cousins, uncles, even the elderly.
Knowing that people living around that place were all kshatriya, he went around the neighborhood and killed every Kshatriya he found. With a killing spree in his mind he moved in every direction and all over the country killing every kshatriya that confronted him and he made sure no male kshatriya was left. His axe was glimmering in red color.
In a mission to avenge his father’s death, Parashurama had filled five ponds with the blood of Kshatriyas and the place was later on known as Samant-panchaka. He took bath in that lake, washed his axe and performed rituals in honor of his father. The existence of the Kshatriyas was wiped out from the surface of the globe. Parasurama waged war after war for 21 years and destroyed the unrighteous Kshatriyas.
Now when Parashurama revenge was complete, he turned to penance believing that he had made the Brahmins absolutely free from the fears of Kshatriyas. Parashurama is considered ‘Chiranjeevi’ or immortal and is said to rule until ‘Maha Pralaya’ or the end of the world.
OTHER DEEDS IN HIS LIFETIME-
1) Both Parashurama and Lord Rama were the incarnation of lord Vishnu. When Lord Rama took birth on earth, his path crossed with Parshurama at a swyamvar ceremony. As a small boy Rama once went to attend the yagna performed by Vishwamitra. In the meantime King Janak of Mithila had arranged a Swayamvara (choice marriage) for his daughter. Parashurama had presented a Shiva dhanushya, the Pinaka (a bow of Lord Shiva) to Janak, and Sita was to be married to the person who could lift that bow.
Under the instructions of Vishwamitra Rama lifted the bow to string it but it snapped into two while bending it. Parshurama, had a violent temper and when he heard of Rama breaking the bow at Sita’s swayamvara, he became furious.
“Who has broken Lord Shiva’s bow.The bow that was designed by Vishwakarma was given to me by Lord Shiva himself. Speak up who is responsible for this heinous crime? “, screamed Parshurama.
On behalf of Rama, Laxmana replied, “It was an old bow and therefore it was broken. What makes you so angry at it?”
His words infuriated Parasurama more. As he was ready to say more Lord Rama in his humble voice apologized to Parshurama and the deep respect and modesty in his voice took Parasurama completely by surprise. He looked at Rama and realized that Rama was an incarnation of Lord Vishnu and that his duties were over. To confirm, he handed his own bow that slung across his shoulder to Rama, and challenged Rama to string this bow of Lord Vishnu.
Rama bowed and with ease he strung it and notched an arrow. Rama then asked Parshurama that where should he release the arrow. With a smile on his face Parshurama said, “Cancel all my duties on this land of Kashyap. You send this arrow towards the North and I’ll go and live there forever.” Rama obliged him and aimed the arrow on Parashuram’s destiny making him one of the chiranjeevis (immortals). Parashurama then settled on mountain Mahendra.
Parashurama had a prolonged life. He was alive even during the incarnation of Krishna. In this way Lord Vishnu in Parashuram aavatar killed kshatriya kings, who were unrighteous, proud, and cruel to their subjects, and unfriendly to Brahmins.