Known as cleanser of the earth and the sixth incarnation of Lord Vishnu, Parasurama is believed to be immortal.
WORDS: MADHURI. Y
IT is said that the earth was ruled by kings who neglected their true duties and who were destructive and sinful.
It is also said that Lord Vishnu came down to earth as Parasurama, his sixth incarnation, to eliminate these kings and lighten the earth’s burden.
PARASURAMA, SON OF SAGE JAMADAGNI
Born to sage Jamadagni, one of the saptarishis, and Renuka, the daughter of king Prasenjit, Parasurama was a warrior sage. He is said to have been born in the Haihaya kingdom, which was ruled by Kartaviryarjuna from his capital Mahishmati on the banks of the river Narmada.
His name was Rama, and the name Parasurama comes from his battle axe, which is known in Sanskrit as ‘parasu.’ Parasurama was a devotee of Lord Shiva and it is Shiva who gives him the axe.
One day, his mother Renuka, who goes to the river to collect water, is distracted when she sees a Gandharva. She has a fleeting attraction towards him. Filled with remorse and unable to return to the sage, she remains at the river bank.
Jamadagni comes to know of this through his powers. He is furious and asks each of his five sons to kill their mother.
When the first four refuse to do so, he turns them to stone. Parasurama, his fifth son, kills Renuka. A pleased Jamadagni grants him two boons.
As the first boon, Parasurama asks for his mother to be brought back to life, showing his dedication to both parents. For the second boon, he asks his father to bring his brothers back to human form. A pleased Jamadagni does so.
JAMADAGNI’S DEATH AND THE KSHATRIYA MASSACRE
Once, Kartaviryarjuna, the Haihaya king, visits Jamadagni. Because of his divine cow, Kamadhenu, the sage is able to serve a feast to the king. An impressed Kartaviryarjuna asks the sage to give him Kamadhenu.
When Jamadagni refuses to do so, the king forcibly takes Kamadhenu with him. When Parasurama comes to know of this, he goes to battle with the king, kills his army and brings Kamadhenu back.
The king’s three sons become enraged and they in turn stab Jamadagni 21 times before they cut his head off and take it with them.
Parasurama kills the three brothers, brings his father’s head back and performs the last rites. His fury unabated, he kills 21 generations of kshatriyas for the 21 times that his father was stabbed.
It is said that Parasurama performed his destiny of ridding the earth of sinful rulers in this manner.
This Jayanti falls on the Shukla Paksha Tritiya, (third day of the bright half of the moon) during the month of Vaishakha.
Parasurama was born during pradoshakaal (one and a half hours before sunset to half an hour after sunset). Hence, Parasurama Jayanti is celebrated on the tritiya during pradoshkaal. This year it occurs on April 18.
On the day of ParasuramaJayanti, devotees undertake a fast and worship Lord Vishnu. Many stay awake through the night and recite the Vishnu Sahasranama. They donate food to brahmins. The day is considered auspicious and work undertaken on the day is believed to give good results.
PARASURAMA IN PURANAS
It is said that Parasurama is immortal and continues to live on earth. The bow in Sita’s swayamvar was given by Parasurama and when Ram tries to string the bow, it breaks in half. Parasurama is said to have heard the great sound all the way at the hills of Mahendra where he was meditating.
He then stops Rama and Sita’s journey to Ayodhya after their marriage and challenges Rama. Rama wins the challenge but tells Parasurama that since he is a brahmin and related to Vishwamitra maharshi, he will not kill him. He simply destroys the merit that Parasurama has earned through penance. Parasurama then returns to the hills of Mahendra.
Parasuramais also the martial guru of Bhishma, Dronacharya, and Karna, the first three chiefs of the Kaurava army in the Kurukshetra battle. When Amba asks him to interveneto make Bhishma marry her, he fights Bhishma, but it is the latter who has the upper hand.
Meanwhile, the spirits of Parasurama’s ancestors tell him to make this battle his last and that he does not need to fight to protect brahmins any longer.
To be taken as his disciple, Karna tells Parasurama that he is a brahmin. One day, when Parasurama is asleep on Karna’s lap, a scorpion bites Karna. Karna bears the pain so that his guru’s sleep is not disturbed. But, the flow of blood from the wound wakes Parasurama.
Realising that Karna, who could bear the pain of the scorpion sting, was not a Brahmin, Parasurama curses him that when he most needs his divine weapons, he will forget how to use them, which takes place in the Kurukshetra war.
Kalki Purana states that Parasurama will be the martial guru of Kalki, Lord Vishnu’s 10th avatar.
LEGENDS AND TEMPLES OF PARASURAMA
Parasurama is believed to have lived on the west coast, in the Konkan, Karnataka and Kerala regions. He is said to have reclaimed Kerala from the sea and settled a community in the region.
Parasuramais depicted with the matted locks of a sage and sometimes, with two arms, with an axe in one. At other times, he is depicted with four arms, carrying an axe, a bow, an arrow, and a sword.
This 2000-year old temple near Thiruvananthapuram in Kerala, is on the banks of the river Karamana at the sangam of the rivers Karamana, Killi and Parvathiputhanar. It remains closed during the solar and lunar eclipses. Parasurama is said to be the founder of northern Kalaripayattu, the martial art that uses weapons.
After killing kshatriyas, Parasurama washes his axe in the river Malaprabha, turning it red with the blood of those that he had killed. The location is Aihole in present-day Badami taluka in Karnataka.
Built on the lower regions of the Lohit river in Arunachal Pradesh, it is said to have been established by Parasurama himself.