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Immortals of Indian Mythology: Parashurama
Introduction: Story of Parashurama
Hi friends. I will be writing a series of articles on important characters in Indian mythology. Since there are hubbers from around the world, I will write in a way that is easily understandable for everyone without any background. I will try to write in an order that the characters I mention in consecutive hubs are connected in some way but it wont be obligatory for reading the previous blogs. Your comments and opinions will be really encouraging.
My first article is on a character that I fancy for some reason. Parashurama.
Ten Incarnations of Vishnu
Artwork of Parashurama
The Garuda Purana, a book on Hindu mythology(describes the dialogues between Vishnu, the supreme Hindu God and Garuda, the king of birds) mentions the ten avatars(incarnations) of Lord Vishnu as follows:
Man Lion (Narasimha)
Rama with an axe (Parshurama)
Rama (On whom Ramayana is based. Marks end of Treta Yuga)
Krishna (On whom Mahabharat is based. Marks end of Dvapara Yuga)
Kalkin (Eternity or time or destroyer of Universe)
In some parts of India, Balarama instead of Buddha is considered an incarnation.
The world follows a time cycle of Yugas(era) which appear in rotation:
These 4 yugas follow a timeline ratio of (4:3:2:1). We currently are in the Kali Yuga.
The ages see decline of virtue, wisdom, intellectual capability, lifespan, emotional and physical strength, knowledge.
- Satya Yuga:- Virtue reigns supreme. Average human lifespan was 100,000 years.
- Treta Yuga: - There was 3 quarter virtue & 1 quarter sin. Average human lifespan was 10,000 years.
- Dwapar Yuga: - There was 1 half virtue & 1 half sin.Average human lifespan was 1000 years.
- Kali Yuga: - There was 1 quarter virtue & 3 quarter sin. Average human lifespan will be 100 years. Towards the end of the Yuga this will come down to 20 years
Brahmins: The scholars and intellectual people
Kshatriya: The warriors and protectors
Vaishya: The merchants and traders and other people of everyday chores
Shudra: Workers and slaves. Considered the lowest and were later called untouchables
Parashurama is the sixth incarnation of Lord Vishnu and was part of Treta yuga. He is considered one of the seven immortals that walk the earth.
Meaning of name:
Rama with Parashu(axe).
The references of Parashurama can be found in Mahabharata and Ramayana.
The birthday of Parshuram is celebrated on the 3rd day of the bright festival of Vaishakh month, also known as “Akshayy Trutiya” (eternal third), because of the belief that the merit obtained by good acts on this day is permanent. Of the three and a half “muhurtas” of the year, this day is half a “muhurt’ (a time of good omen).
Parashurama is said to have born to destroy the evil and malice that had grown in kings at the end of first Age that is SatyaYuga(Age of truth). He killed many kings across the world to establish peace and justice. For that purpose, he is said to have traveled the earth twenty one times and slayed the evil kings.
He is also credited to have battled the seas on the western coast of India from the state of Maharashtra to the southern most tip of Kerala so that they don't swallow the earth. For that, Parashurama is greatly devoted in regions of western India on the coastal belt. The area is also often known as Parashurama kshetra(The region of Parashurama).
Incident in Ramayana:
(Ramayana as stated is the story of great King Rama who is considered to be an incarnation of Lord Vishnu and his wife Sita)
Parashurama was a student and a great devotee of Lord Shiva(the destroyer of the universe) and it must be noted that Lord Shiva was the one who gave Parashurama his axe(parashu). King Janaka had arranged a Swayamvara(self election of a suitable bridegroom among number of eligible candidates by a bride) for his daughter Sita(also called Janaki). In the ceremony, Lord Rama broke the bow of Lord Shiva(first line of this para) which made Sita choose him as her husband. but this incident infuriated Parashurama greatly as he considered it as an insult to Lord Shiva. He then went to kill Lord Rama. However, when they came face to face, they realised that they both were incarnations of the same divine soul Lord Vishnu(stated in Basics above about Dashavataras) and hence Parashurama forgave Rama.
Incident of Killing of Renuka
Jamadagni, the father of Parashurama was a man of severe temper. Once, he ordered his wife Renuka to fetch water for his bath. When Renuka reached the lake, she saw a prince and his wives frolicking and involved in amorous activities. On watching this, she had a momentary thought and regret about her not being involved in such things with her husband. However, after a few moments she recovered and came back to her husband. However, Jamadagni with his strong telepathic powers saw what his wife was thinking and immediately ordered his sons to kill her. After four of them refused, Parashurama without a delay chopped her head. This made his father calm and he granted Parashurama a wish on which Parashurama asked him to bring his mother and brothers back. From here, one story says that they came back immediately. The other more interesting is as follows. Jamadagni told Parashurama that Renuka will appear from the earth, but Parashurama must not in any way attempt to see her and have his back to her. When Renuka however started appearing, Parashurama gave a glance and due to this, Renuka appeared only head up and stopped. There is a temple now in Mahurgadh, Maharashtra and it contains the following idol.
Incident of Lord Ganesha
Like his father Jamadagni, Parashurama also had a severe temper. Once when he went to meet Lord Shiva, his teacher, his way was blocked by Lord Ganesha(One of the most popular Hindu Gods and had a head of an elephant), the son of Lord Shiva. This infuriated Parashurama and he attacked Ganesha with his axe because of which one the tusks of Ganesha was chopped off.
Incident of Karna(From mahabharata Age)
Karna was the first son of Kunti given to her as a blessing by Sun God. He was abandoned by as a child by Kunti as she was married when Karna was born. He was then raised as a Kshatriya(warrior) and hence had different qualities than that of a Brahmin. Parashurama had strict rules for his disciples and a rule that only Brahmins(scholars) could be his disciples. However Karna with a view to take lessons from Parashurama lied about his origin and became his student. On a particular day, when Parashurama was resting on lap of Karna for rest, an insect came and started eroding thigh of Karna. However to make sure that his teacher is not disturbed from his sleep, Karna made no movement and suffered pain silently. When his blood started flowing and touched Parashurama's skin, he woke uo and immediately said that only a Kshatriya can show so much resilience. He was hurt and disappointed by Karna's lie and cursed him that at the moment of the need, Karna will forget all that he had learned from Parashurama. This very curse later proved to be fatal for Karna and let to his demise in the great battle of Mahabharata.
As mentioned, Parashurama is one of the seven immortal souls. After his work on earth was complete, he is said to have grown proud of his power and hence Sage Kashyap asked Parshurama to leave the earth. Then Parshurama sat for penance on mountain Mahendra and is said to be there even today.