Shiv Charan Dass Sharma
In Sanskrit Parshu means an ‘axe’, hence Parashurama literary translates as ‘Rama with axe’, Parashurama is sixth Avtar of Lord Vishnu; son of King Parsenjit’s daughter Renuka (mother) and sapatrishi Sage Jamadagni (father). Shri Parashurama left home to please Lord Shiva. Considering extreme devotion and unending meditation, Lord Shiva pleased with Parashurama; presented him with Divine weapons; Included was his unconquerable and indestructible ‘axe’ shaped weapon ‘Parashu’. Lord Shiva advised him to go and liberate the mother earth from criminals, murderers, il behaved people, extremists and all those blind with utter pride.
Being immortal Parashurama Ji played important roles in Mahabharata and Ramayana and served as trust-worthy advisor to Bhishma, Karna and Drona. Shri Parashurama ji is worshiped as founder of the Niyogi Bhumihar Brahmins, Chitparam, Daivdnya, Mohyal, Tyasi, Anavil and Nambudiri-Brahmins Communities. Parashurama is also the Kulguru of Bhardwaj Gotra. Parashurama ji belongs to a Gaud Brahmin of Bhargav Gotra. The exact birth place of Shri Parashurama is controversial’ although the history of his ancestory took place in the Haihaya kingdom located in modern day Maheshwar.
There are several unique legends associated with the life of Sh Parashurama Ji. Being Chiranjivi (immortal) he interacted with different Hindu Gods occurring in different yuga. According to Puranas, Parashurama went to Himalayas to pay respect to his teacher; Lord Shiva while travelling his path was blocked by Ganesha; son of Lord Shiva and Parvati. Parashurama threw his axe at Ganesha. God Ganesha knowing the weapon had been given to Parashurama by his father; allowed it to dis-join his left tusk. Mother Parvati was too much in anger and declared she would cut off the arms of Parashurama and took the form of omnipotent Durga. But at last moment Lord Shiva was able to pacify her; by making her understand that the Avtar (Parashurama) is her own son. Parashurama also asked her forgiveness and she finally gave up harsh intension; When Ganesha himself spoke on behalf of the warrior-saint. Parashurama gave his divine ‘axe’ to Ganesha and blessed him. Because of this Lord Ganesha is also called ‘Ekadanta’.
Once Lord Shiva challenged Shri Parashurama to a battle, to test his skills in warfare. Both were locked in a fierce battle which lasted for twenty one days. While plunging to avoid being hit by the ‘Trishul’ of Lord Shiva; Parashurama attacked Lord Shiva with his Parashu (axe). It stuck Lord Shiva on the forehead creating a wound. Lord Shiva was pleased to see the astonishing warfare skills of his disciple. He embraced Shri Parashurama and preserved this wound as an ornament; so as to keep the reputation of his disciple insurmountable. ’Khanda Parashurama’ is one of the thousand names of Lord Shjva.
In an another legend Parashurama clipped the thousand arms of a cruel king Kartavirya Arjuna (Sahasrarjun) one by one with his ‘Parashu’ and killed him. He repelled his army by showering arrows on them. The whole country heaved a sigh of relief and greatly welcomed Parashurama. King of Deities Indra was so pleased that he presented his most beloved bow named ‘Vijya’ to Sh Parashurama. Dev Indra had destroyed demon dynasties with his bow. Shri Parashurama after getting it used it and destroyed the miscreant kshatriyas twenty one times. Later Parashurama presented this ‘Vijya’ bow to his disciple ‘Karna’. When he was pleased with his intense devotion to the Guru. Karna used this bow in Kurukshetra war and became unconquerable with the help of ‘Vijya’ bow presented to him by Sh Parashurama Ji.
Puranas indicate frequent battles between several rival clans and kingdoms. Shri Parashurama lived within the Hai-haya kingdom located in modern day Maheshwar; on the banks of the Narmada River. The generations of enemity between the ‘Kshatriya-Haihaya’ and the Brahmin-Bhargavas from whom Parashurama hailed were mentioned in the Mahabharata.
According to Mahabharata; once the king Kartavirya of Haihaya visited the hermitage of Jamadagni (the father of Sh Parashurama). At that time Parashurama was away in the forest. The Sapt-rishi sage served the king with a grand feast. When the king asked how he was able to do so, Jamadagni showed him a Kamdhenu calf given to him by Lord Indra; which was able to fulfill the wishes of his master. The king being greedy stole the sacred animal. Knowing this Parashurama was too much in anger and straight way rushed to the royal palace; and killed the mighty king Kartavirya and brought back the sacred calf. His father was too much pleased; to see the calf. But was worried to see the blood stained ‘axe’ of Parashurama. He cautioned him to be aware of the violent anger and arrogance of the King’s sons. Parashurama accepted the reprimand of his father and went on a pilgrimage to holy religious places for one year in purification. Meanwhile, the sons of king Kartavirya knew that only Parashurama could have killed him. In revenge they murdered Jamadagni and took his head with them. When Parashurama returned; he found his mother crying hysterically next to the dead body of his father. Furiously, Parashurama hunted down the sons of Kartavirya at the palace. He killed all of them and returned home with the head of his father and conducted the cremation.
In another legend in the Ramayana, Parashurama had given the bow of Lord Shiva to the father of Princess Sita for her Swayamvar. As a test of worthiness suitors were asked to lift and string the mystic weapon. None were successful except Ram, but in the process of being strung the bow broke in half. This produced tremendous sound that reached the ears of Parashurama as he meditated atop the Mahendra mountains. As per the Valmiki Ramayana, Parashurama stopped the journey of Sh Rama and his family after his marriage with Sita. Parashurama threatened to kill Sh Rama and his father. King Dasharatha begs him to forgive his son and punish him instead. Parashurama neglects Dasharatha and invokes Sh. Rama for a challenge. Shri Rama meets his challenged and tells him that he does not want to kill him because he is a Brahmin; and related to his Guru Vishwamitra Maharishi. But he destroys his merits earned through terrible ‘tapasaya’. Parashurama arrogance gets diminished and he returns to his normal mind. In one version it happened so because of the blessings of Sh Parashurama to ‘Sita’ saying ‘Dheergha Sumangali Bhavah’ i.e you will have your husband alive for your lifetime.
Unlike other incarnations of Lord Vishnu Shri Parashurama is ‘Chiranjivi’ and is said to still doing tapasaya in ‘Mahendragiri’. There are numerous temples and statues of Parashurama throughout the Indians subcontinent including states of Andhra, UP, Arunachal Pradesh, Gujarat, Rajasthan, Maharashtra, Karnataka, Kerala, Goa, HP, Bihar, Punjab, J&K; and many other places. The birthday of Sh Parashurama Ji is celebrated throughout India with great fervour and gaiety on third day of Sukla Paksh of Vaisakh month. Fast is kept on this day to be blessed with son. Akshay Tritya is also known as the birthday of Sh Parashurama Ji. There is a strong belief that merits gained by good acts on Akshay-Tritya day remain permanent.
(The author is senior executive member Dogra Brahmin Pratinidhi Sabha (Regd), Jammu)
Shiv Charan Dass Sharma