Parashurama

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Parashurama
Member of Dashavatara and Chiranjivi
Parashurama with axe.jpg
Parashurama by Raja Ravi Varma
Other names
  • Bhargava Rama
  • Jamadagnya Rama
  • Ramabhadra
Devanagari परशुराम
Sanskrit transliterationParaśurāma
Affiliation Vaishnavism
Weapon Axe named Vidyudabhi (Parashu)
Personal information
BornThird day of Vaishaka Shukla Paksha or Parshurama Jayanti
Parents
SiblingsṚumaṇvān, Suhotra, Vasu, and Viśvāvasu [1]
SpouseDharani (Lakshmi) [2]
Dashavatara Sequence
Predecessor Vamana
Successor Rama

Parashurama (Sanskrit : परशुराम, romanized: Paraśurāma, lit. 'Rama with an axe'), also referred to as Rama Jamadagnya, Rama Bhargava and Veerarama, [3] is the sixth avatar among the Dashavatara of the preserver god Vishnu in Hinduism. He is believed to be one of the Chiranjeevis (Immortals), who will appear at the end of the Kali Yuga to be the guru of Vishnu's tenth and last incarnation, Kalki.

Contents

Born to Jamadagni and Renuka, the Brahmin Parashurama was foretold to appear at a time when overwhelming evil prevailed on the earth. The Kshatriya class, with weapons and power, had begun to abuse their power, take what belonged to others by force and tyrannise people. He corrected the cosmic equilibrium by destroying the Kshatriya warriors twenty-one times. He is married to Dharani, an incarnation of Lakshmi, the wife of Vishnu. [4] He is present in the Ramayana due to the conflict with Rama (the protagonist of the Ramayana) over Shiva's broken bow. He is mentioned in the Mahabharata as the guru of Bhisma, Drona, Rukmi, and Karna. [5] [6]

Parashurama meet his Pitaras (Ancestors) after his mass killings. Parashurama meet his pitaras after killings.jpg
Parashurama meet his Pitaras (Ancestors) after his mass killings.
Parashurama returning with the sacred calf with Jamadagni cautioning him to not be controlled by anger Jamadagni telling Parasuram about kartyaveerarjun.jpg
Parashurama returning with the sacred calf with Jamadagni cautioning him to not be controlled by anger

Legend

According to Hindu mythology, Parashurama is born to the sage Jamadagni and his Kshatriya wife, Renuka, living in a hut (Believed in local tradition to be located at Janapav). [7] They had a celestial cow called Surabhi, which gives them all that they desire (Surabhi is the daughter of cow Kamadhenu ). [6] [8] A king named Kartavirya Arjuna (not to be confused with Arjuna, the Pandava) [9] [note 1] – learns about this cow of plenty and wants it. He asks Jamadagni to give it to him, but the sage refuses. While Parashurama is away from the hut, the king takes it by force. [6] When Jamadagni pleads his case and seeks for the return of the cow, the king strikes him with his fist, killing him. Parashurama learns about this crime, and is upset. With his axe in his hand, he challenges the king to battle. They fight, and Parashurama defeats and kills the king, according to the Padma Purana. [3] [4]

The wicked-minded one lost his valour due to his own sin. The mighty son of Reṇukā, being angry, cut off his head, as mighty Indra did the peak of a big mountain, and he who was brave and angry, killed Sahasrabāhu and all the kings with his axe in the battle. Seeing Rāma, the very fearful one, all kings on the earth, struck by fear, ran away as elephants do on seeing a lion. The angry Rāma killed the kings even though they had fled due to the resentment against his father’s murder, as the angry Garuḍa killed the serpents. The valorous Rāma made the entire (world) clear of the kṣatriyas, but protected (i.e. spared) only the very great family of Ikṣvāku, due to its being the family to which his maternal grandfather was related, and due to his mother’s words.

Padma Purana, Chapter 241

The warrior class challenges him, and he slays every single member of the class, save for those belonging to the lineages of Manu and Ikshvaku. The mighty son of Jamadagni, having rid the world of the Kshatriyas, then performs the Ashvamedha sacrifice. He grants the earth with the seven islands to principal rishis belonging to the Brahmin class. Having renounced the earth and his violent deeds, he retires to the hermitage of Nara-Narayana to engage in penance. The legend likely has roots in the ancient conflict between the Brahmin varna, with knowledge duties, and the Kshatriya varna, with warrior and enforcement roles. [5] [6] [10]

Parashurama in Geographical Myths

Parasurama,surrounded by settlers, commanding Lord Varuna, God of the waters to recede to make land known as 'Parasurama Kshetra' from Gokarna to Kanyakumari for the Brahmins. Parshuramsaraswats.jpg
Parasurama,surrounded by settlers, commanding Lord Varuna, God of the waters to recede to make land known as 'Parasurama Kshetra' from Gokarna to Kanyakumari for the Brahmins.

There are legends dealing with the origins of the western coast geographically and culturally. One such legend is the retrieval of the West Coast from the sea, by Parashurama, a warrior sage. It proclaims that Parashurama, an Incarnation of Mahavishnu, threw His battle axe into the sea. As a result, the land of the Western coast arose, and thus was reclaimed from the waters. The place from which he threw his axe (or shot an arrow) is on Salher fort (the second highest peak and the highest fort in Maharashtra) in the Baglan taluka of Nashik district of Maharashtra. There is a temple on the summit of this fort dedicated to Parshuram and there are footprints in the rock 4 times the size of normal humans. This fort on a lower plateau has a temple of goddess Renuka, Parshuram's mother and also a Yagya Kunda with pits for poles to erect a shamiyana on the banks of a big water tank.

According to the Sangam classic Purananuru , the Chera king Senkuttuvan conquered the lands between Kanyakumari and the Himalayas. [11] Lacking worthy enemies, he besieged the sea by throwing his spear into it. [11] [12] According to the 17th-century Malayalam work Keralolpathi , the lands of Kerala were recovered from the sea by the axe-wielding warrior sage Parasurama, the sixth Incarnation of Vishnu (hence, Kerala is also called Parasurama Kshetram 'The Land of Parasurama' [13] ). Parasurama threw his axe across the sea, and the water receded as far as it reached. According to legend, this new area of land extended from Gokarna to Kanyakumari. [14] The land which rose from sea was filled with salt and unsuitable for habitation; so Parasurama invoked the Snake King Vasuki, who spat holy poison and converted the soil into fertile lush green land. Out of respect, Vasuki and all snakes were appointed as protectors and guardians of the land. P. T. Srinivasa Iyengar has theorised that Senguttuvan may have been inspired by the Parashurama legend, which was brought by early Aryan settlers. [15]

In present-day Goa (or Gomantak), which is a part of the Konkan, there is a temple in Canacona in South Goa district dedicated to Lord Parshuram. [16] [17] [18]

Texts

Parashurama is generally presented as the fifth son of Renuka and Rishi Jamadagni. [10] The legends of Parashurama appear in many Hindu texts, in different versions: [19]

Parashurama is described in some versions of the Mahabharata as the angry Brahmin who with his axe, killed a huge number of Kshatriya warriors because they were abusing their power. [21] In some versions, he even kills his own mother because his father asks him to and because to take his test obeisance towards his parents. [9] [22] After Parashurama obeys his father's order to kill his mother, his father grants him a boon. Parashurama asks for the reward that his mother be brought back to life, and she is restored to life. [22] Parashurama remains filled with sorrow after the violence, repents and expiates his sin. [9] After his Mother comes back to life, he tries to clean the blood-stained axe but he finds a drop of blood which he was unable to clean and tries cleaning the blood drop in different rivers. This is when he moves towards the south of India in search of any holy river where he could clean his axe, finally, he reaches Tirthahalli village in Shimoga, Karnataka and tries to clean the axe and to his surprise, the axe gets cleaned in the holy river of Tunga. With respect towards the holy river, he constructs a Shiva linga and performs pooja and the temple is named as Rameshwara temple. The place where Parashurama cleaned his axe is called Ramakunda.

He plays important roles in the Mahabharata serving as mentor to Bhishma (chapter 5.178), Drona (chapter 1.121) and Karna (chapter 3.286), teaching weapon arts and helping key warriors in both sides of the war. [23] [24] [note 2]

In the regional literature of Kerala, he is the founder of the land, the one who brought it out of the sea and settled a Hindu community there. [5] He is also known as Rama Jamadagnya and Rama Bhargava in some Hindu texts. [3] Parashurama retired in the Mahendra Mountains, according to chapter 2.3.47 of the Bhagavata Puran . [26] He is the only incarnation of Vishnu who never dies, never returns to abstract Vishnu and lives in meditative retirement. [9] Further, he is the only incarnation of Vishnu that co-exists with other Vishnu incarnations Ram and Krishna in some versions of the Ramayana and Mahabharat, respectively. [9] [note 3]

Samanta Panchaka

According to the Sangraha Parva, after killing 21 generations of Kshatriyas, he filled their blood in five pools collectively known as the Samantha Panchaka (Sanskrit: समंत पञ्चक). He later atoned for his sin by severe penance. The five pools are considered to be holy.

The Anukramanika Parva says that the Samantha Panchaka is located somewhere around Kurukshetra. It also mentions that the Pandavas performed a few religious rites near the Samantha Panchaka before the Mahabharat War at Kurukshetra.

Parashurama Kshetra

There is much interpretation of 'Parashurama Kshetra' (Land of Parasurama) mentioned in the Puranas.

The region on the western coast of India from Gokarna to Kanyakumari was known as Parashurama Kshetra. [27]

The region of Konkan was also considered as Parashurama Kshetra. [28]

The ancient Saptakonkana is a slightly larger region described in the Sahyadrikhanda which refers to it as Parashuramakshetra (Sanskrit for "The Land Of Parashurama"), Vapi to Tapi is an area of South Gujarat, India. This area is called "Parshuram Ni Bhoomi". [29]

Iconography

Parashurama with his axe (two representations) 2 iconographic representations of Parasurama.jpg
Parashurama with his axe (two representations)

The Hindu literature on iconography such as the Vishnudharmottara Purana and Rupamandana describes him as a man with matted locks, with two hands, one carrying an axe. However, the Agni Purana portrays his iconography with four hands, carrying his axe, bow, arrow and sword. The Bhagavata Purana describes his icon as one with four hands, carrying his axe, bow, arrows and a shield like a warrior. [30] Though a warrior, his representation inside Hindu temples with him in war scenes is rare (the Basohli temple is one such exception). Typically, he is shown with two hands, with an axe in his right hand either seated or standing. [30]

Temples

The Anantheshwara Temple is a famous temple in Udupi where Parashurama is worshipped in the form of Linga. [31]

There is a temple for Lord Parasurama in Thiruvallam near Thiruvananthapuram Kerala. The temple called Athyarala in Rajempet, Andhra Pradesh, is dedicated to Parashurama. There is a Parshuram Kund, a Hindu pilgrimage centre in Lohit District of Arunachal Pradesh which is dedicated to the sage Parashurama. Thousands of pilgrims visit the place in winter every year, especially on the Makar Sankranti day for a holy dip in the sacred kund which is believed to wash away one's sins. [32] [33] Mahurgad is one of the Shaktipeeth in Maharashtra's Nanded District, where a famous temple of Goddess Renuka exists. This temple at Mahurgad is always full of pilgrims. People also come to visit Parashuram temple on the same Mahurgad. The 108 Shiva Temples in Kerala which are believed to be consecrated by Parasurama.

Other places where temples for Parashurama are found are Chiplun in Ratnagiri District, Maharashtra and at Udupi, Karnataka. In Karnataka, there are a group of 7 temples in the stretch of Tulunadu (coastal Karnataka), known as Parashurama Kshetras, namely, Kollur, Koteshwara, Kukke Subrahmanya, Udupi, Gokarna, Anegudde (Kumbhasi) and Shankaranarayana.

On top of the hills of Janapav is a Shiva temple where Parshurama is believed to have worshipped Shiva, the ashram is known as Jamadagni Ashram, named after his father. The place also has a Kund (Pond) that is being developed by the state government. [34]

In Kannada folklore, especially in devotional songs sung by the Devdasis he is often referred to as a son of Yellamma. Parasurama legends are notable for their discussion of violence, the cycles of retaliations, the impulse of Krodha (Anger), the inappropriateness of krodha, and repentance. [35] [note 4]

See also

Notes

  1. The Mahabharata includes legends about both Arjuna, one is dharmic (moral) and other adharmic (immoral); in some versions, Arjuna Kartavirya has mixed moral-immoral characteristics consistent with the Hindu belief that there is varying degrees of good and evil in every person. [9]
  2. The Sanskrit epic uses multiple names for Parashurama in its verses: Parashurama, Jamadagnya, Rama (his name shortened, but not to be confused with Rama of Ramayana), etc. [25]
  3. These texts also state that Parasurama lost the essence of Vishnu while he was alive, and Vishnu then appeared as a complete avatar in Rama; later, in Krishna. [9]
  4. According to Madeleine Biardeau, Parasurama is a fusion of contradictions, possibly to emphasize the ease with which those with military power tend to abuse it, and the moral issues in circumstances and one's actions, particularly violent ones. [36] [37]

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Bibliography

Regnal titles
Preceded by Dashavatara
Treta Yuga
Succeeded by