Vishnu, the Supreme Preserver and Sustainer of the earth has taken many incarnations to bring justice and peace. Every avatar of Vishnu has been a lesson for humanity, in that good always triumphs over evil. Parshuram was one such avatar and Vishnu’s sixth on earth.
Parshuram belonged to the Treta Yuga. Parshuram means God, Shri Rama, with an ax.
Legend of Parshuram
Parshuram, the sixth avatar of Vishnu, was born to Brahmin sage Jamadagni and his Kshatriya wife,Renuka. He received an ax from Shiva. Shiva also taught Parshuram warfare tactics and other skills. Born into a Brahmin family, Parshuram displayed the attitude and skills of a Kshatriya. He was aggressive, skilled in warfare, and very courageous. He was quick to anger. He was often called a Brahma Kshatriya as he received the traits from both communities.
Parshuram came to earth at a time when there was overriding evil. Rulers had begun to abuse and misuse their power, and this was prevalent among the Kshatriya clan.
According to legend, once King Kartavirya Sahasrarjuna arrived with his army and forcibly tried to take away Kamadhenu, the divine cow of Parshuram’s father. Parshuram’s anger knew no bounds, and he proceeded to kill King Kartavirya and his entire army. Taking revenge for his father’s death, King Kartavirya’s son killed Parshuram’s father Jamadagni, in his absence.
The killing infuriated Parshuram so much that he went about killing all of King Kartavirya’s sons. He took a terrible oath to kill all the corrupt Haihaya kings as well as warriors on the earth. He kept his promise and performed the Ashwamedha sacrifice. Parshuram gave away all his assets to the priests who performed the Ashwamedha Yagna.
Known for his righteousness, Parshuram was the Guru of Bhishma, Dronacharya, and Karna. However, he had cursed Karna before the starting of the Kurukshetra war, believing that Karna had deceitfully learned the use of the Brahmastra. Parshuram had discovered that Karna was not a Brahmin but a Kshatriya. The curse was that Karna would not remember the mantra to use the Brahmastra and that the knowledge would not be of any use to him. According to a story, Parshuram gave the Sudarshana Chakra to Shri Krishna. It was believed that the main motto of Parshuram was to relieve the burden of the earth by destroying evil, corrupt and sinful kings.
According to another story, Parshuram once went to meet Shiva at his abode. At the door, Ganesha stopped Parshuram from entering and meeting his father. An angry Parshuram took out his ax and aimed it at Ganesha. The latter knew the ax was given by his father Shiva and allowed the ax to cut off one of his tusks.
Significance of Parshuram
Parshuram’s stories mention his anger, violent exploits, and retaliation. He is known to be immortal and had fought back the advancing ocean that threatened to hit the Konkan and Malabar coasts. The region between Maharashtra and Karnataka is called Parshuram Kshetra.
Parshuram was well versed in the Vedas and always carried his bows and arrows. He destroyed all evildoers on earth with his arrow or a curse. His victory over evil gave him the right to rule the earth. He played an essential role in the epic Ramayana when he gave the bow of Shiva to King Janaka of Mithila for Sita’s swayamvar.
He is said to have transferred his spiritual powers to Shri Rama, whom he met once. Handing over his bow and arrow to Shri Rama, he asked him to control the speed of the earth, thus transferring his spiritual powers to him. Parshuram imparted the knowledge of archery to both Brahmanas as well as the Kshatriyas.
The Kalki Purana mentions that Parshuram still lives on earth in the Kali Yuga. He would be the martial guru of Shri Kalki, the last and final avatar of Vishnu. He would instruct Kalki to perform an elaborate ritual for Shiva to please him. Shiva would be pleased and reward Kalki with a celestial weapon.