Lord Parashurama, or Parshuram, is the sixth avatar of Lord Vishnu in a Dashavatara order. Vishnu plays the role of protector and sustainer of the world in Hindu dharma. For this role, he has taken many avatars; his ten incarnations (dashavatara) are well-known in Hindu Dharma.
Lord Parashurama is a brahmin, a sage, and a well-known warrior. According to Puranas, Parashurama is one of the Cheranjeevis (the immortal ones). He was born in the Treta Yuga, and it is believed he will appear again in the Kali Yuga to guide the tenth avatar of Lord Vishnu, Kalki.
Since his childhood, he has been a great devotee of Lord Shiva. Pleased with Parshurama’s devotion, Lord Shiva himself educated him and offered an Astra (special weapon) called Parshu. That’s how he got the name Parashurama. Apart from that, Lord Parashurama has various names: Rama Jamadagnya, Rama Bhargava, Bhriguvanshi, Bhrigupati, and Veera Rama.
It was prophesied that the birth of Parashurama will be when the earth is buried by evil. He was born in a Brahmin family, which belongs to the Bhrigu lineage. His father was sage Jamadagni, and his mother was a Kshatriya princess, Renuka Mahar.
Based on Devi Bhagavata Purana’s chapter 6, Lord Parashurama was born from the thigh with a blazing light that blinds all evil warriors. All those warriors promised to live a moral life if their eyesight were restored, which the baby Parashurama accepted.
Another story of Lord Parashurama’s birth, as mentioned in Vishnu Puran’s chapter 4, writes, once Richika Rishi prepared two meals. One was ordinary, and another was special, and whoever ate this special dish would conceive a child, which Renuka Devi ate and gave birth to Parashurama.
In another story based on Vayu Purana, Lord Parashurama came to this earth after his mother Renuka consumed an offering given to Shiva and Vishnu. As a result, Parshurama gained the qualities of both gods.
Renuka Devi Incident
King Prasenjit’s daughter, Renuka, was a Kshatriya princess with five sons. They were Rukamavan, Sushen, Vasu, Vishvasu and Rama. Their mother, Renuka, was a virtuous wife. She used to carry water even on a wet unbaked pot due to her devotion to her husband.
One day Renuka saw Gandharvas bathing in the river. Watching them, she got sexually excited, which caused her to lose the ability to hold water in a wet clay pot. When she returned to Jamadagni, the Rishi learned about all the incidents and her desires through his austerity powers. Sage Jamadagni, in a rage, ordered his four sons to behead their disloyal mother, which four of them rejected. He turned his four sones to stone for disobeying his order.
Sage Jamadagni commanded his fifth son, Parashurama, which he accepted and took no time to kill his mother. Feeling satisfied with his actions, Rishi Jamadagni offered him a boon. In response, Parashurama asked him to bring back his mother and stone-turned brothers, which Rishi accepted happily.
Describing the physical features, Goswami Tulsidas writes he has a body covered with ashes and has a fair complexion, a broad forehead with a Tripunda (3 horizontal lines), and carries an axe to vanish evils from the earth. Texts like Srimad Bhagavata Purana describe him as a man with four hands carrying an axe, arrow, bow, and shield.
Lord Parashurama possesses a vast knowledge of celestial weapons, dharma, karma, and war skills. From his childhood, he was courageous and had all the traits of Kshatriyas. After winning the entire earth, he donated everything and went to Mahendra Parbat (Mahendragiri) for penance. He was so obedient that he once beheaded his mother as ordered by his father. Most people think Parashurama is hot-headed, but that’s not the fact. He also possesses qualities like patience, benevolence, and righteousness.
The ultimate purpose of Lord Vishnu’s sixth avatar, Parashurama, was to free the earth from sinful Kshatriya kings. Rishi Jamadagni had a wish-fulfilling cow Surabhi – the daughter of Kamadhenu. Once a King called Kartavirya Arjuna, who Lord Dattatreya blessed to have a thousand hands, got his eye on Surabhi. But the Rishi refused to give him. However, the King forcefully took the cow and destroyed Rishi’s ashram. When Parashurama returned and saw the plight of the ashram and heard the kidnapped news of Surabhi. Lord, in anger, held his axe and went to kill Sahastrabahu Arjuna.
The children of King Kartavirya murdered the Jamadagni Rishi as retaliation. When Bhagwan Parashurama learned about his death, he took an oath to vanish all the sons of Kartavirya, which he succeeded. However, his thirst for revenge did not quench because of anger and sorrow. Thus, he kept killing the sinful Kshatriyas Kings of the earth 21 times.
Lord Parashurama gave the Shiva Dhanus (bow) to the King of Mithila, Janak, the father of Devi Sita, to check the worthiness of Devi Sita’s husband. Then, he went to Mahendragiri mountain for penance. Everyone failed to lift the Shiva Dhanush during Sita’s Swayamvar. But Lord Rama was not only able to lift the bow but also able to string the bow. He broke the bow in half since he was Vishnu’s 7th avatar.
The sound of broken Shiva Dhanush (Pinaka) also broke the penance of Lord Parashurama, which made him furious. While Lord Rama, Devi Sita, and his family were ready to return to Ayodhya, Parashurama arrived at Janaka’s palace and blocked the way.
Parshuram challenged Rama to lift and string the Sharanga (God Vishnu’s bow). Lord Rama quickly lifted and strung the Sharanga bow, making Parashurama realize they were incarnations of the same being. Finally, he gifted the Sharanga bow to Lord Rama and left for penance again.
Lord Parashurama plays a vital role in Mahabharata. He was the Guru of Bhishma, Drona, Rukmi, and Karna. He taught them war skills and provided them with all the knowledge of divine celestial weapons like Brahmastra, Vaishnavastra, Pashupatastra, and many more.
Conflicts with Lord Ganesh
According to Brahmanda Purana, after killing Kartavirya Arjun, Parashurama went to Mount Kailash to visit Lord Shiva to thank and obtain blessings. But Ganesha blocked him on the way as Mahadev was resting, and no one could meet him at this moment. However, Parashurama got furious and challenged Ganesha to a battle. When Parashurama knew Ganesha was defeating him, he immediately threw his axe at Ganesha. But on the other hand, Ganesha took that weapon on his left tusk as the weapon was given to Parashurama by Mahadev himself. From that day, Lord Ganesha was called Ekadanta.
As per Kalki Purana, Lord Parashurama will reappear as the teacher of God Vishnu’s 10th avatar, Kalki. He will teach Kalki all the concepts of dharma, karma, wisdom, and war. Moreover, he would advise Kalki to do severe penance to please Lord Shiva (His Guru). Finally, Kalki will appear on earth on a celestial white horse (the avatar of Garuda) to end Kali Yuga and begin Satya Yuga.
There are numerous Parshuram temples throughout the Indian Sub-Continent, mostly in India and Nepal. It includes;
- Chiplun, Maharashtra
- Udupi, Karnataka
- Athyarala, Andhra Pradesh
- Parashurama Kunda, Arunachal Pradesh
- Parashuram Dham, Dadeldhura, Nepal