Lord Vishnu plays a significant role in Hindu dharma as he is known for ten incarnations (dashavatara). All those incarnations he took were for the welfare of the universe and dharma. Among the ten incarnations, Lord Parashurama or Parshuram is the sixth avatar.
Lord Parashurama is the greatest Brahmin warrior as well as a sage. According to Hindu mythology, Bhagwan 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 Rama’s devotion, Lord Shiva himself educated him and offered a 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 Saptarishi Bhrigu lineage. His father was sage Jamadagni, and his mother, Renuka Mahar, was a Kshatriya princess. Based on Devi Bhagwati Puran’s chapter 6, Lord Parashurama was born from the thigh with a blazing light that blinds all the 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 Rcika sage 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 Puran, Lord Parashurama came on this earth after his mother Renuka consumed an offering given to almighty Shiva and Vishnu. As a result, he gained the qualities of both gods.
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. However, she saw Gandharvas (the celestial beings) bathing in the river. Watching them, she got sexually excited. As a result, she lost her power to hold water in a wet clay pot.
When she returned to sage Jamadagni, the Rishi found out about all the incidents and her desires through his austerity powers. Maharishi, in a rage, ordered his four sons to behead their disloyal mother, which four of them rejected. Sage Jamadagni turned his four sones to stone for disobeying his order. Finally, the maharishi commanded 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 the 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 Bhagwata Purana describe him as a man with four hands carrying an axe, arrow, bow, and shield.
Bhagwan 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 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 a 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 the Mahendra mountain for penance. Everyone failed during Sita’s swayamvar, even to lift the Shiva Dhanush. But Lord Ram was not only able to lift the bow but also able to string the bow. He broke the bow in half since he was almighty Vishnu’s 7th avatar. As a result, lord Parashurama heard the sound of broken Shiv Dhanush, which made him furious.
While Lord Ram, Devi Sita, and his family members returned to Ayodhya, Parashurama blocked the way and challenged Rama to lift and string the Sharanga bow (God Vishnu’s bow). Lord Rama quickly lifted and strung the Sharanga bow, making Parashurama realize that they are incarnations of the same being. Finally, he gifted the Sharanga bow to Lord Rama and left for penance.
God Parashurama plays a vital role in Mahabharata. He was the teacher 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.
According to Brahmanda Purana, after killing Kartavirya Arjun, Bhagwan Parashurama went to Mount Kailash to visit Lord Shiva to thank and obtain blessings. But Lord Ganesh 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 came to know Ganesha was defeating him, he immediately threw his axe onto 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 to be 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 almighty Shiva. Finally, Kalki will appear on earth on a celestial white horse (the avatar of Garuda) to end Kali Yuga and begin Satya Yuga.
Throughout the Indian Sub-Continent, there are numerous temples in his remembrance. It includes;
- Chiplun, Maharashtra
- Udupi, Karnataka
- Athyarala, Andhra Pradesh
- Parashurama Kunda, Arunachal Pradesh