Monday, June 29, 2009


Parashurama also known as Bhargava Rama:
Sage Rucheeka (son of sage Chyavana) married Satyavathi, daughter of Gadhi, son of Kusika. When Satyavathi wanted children, sage Rucheeka told her that he would create a divine rice pudding, which would give her a child. Satyavathi requested her husband to help her mother too (Gadhi did not have a son and the life and marriage is considered incomplete without a male child). So, Rucheeka meditated on Para Brahma (The Ultimate Principle) and created two vessels with divine rice preparation. He showed her the two vessels and told her that one of them was brahmyam (full of the brahminic energies, Satva guna) and the second was Kshatram (full of the fighting warrior clan’s energies, rajo guna). He told her that after bath, she and her mother should hug a fig tree (Anjeer?) and an Aswattha (Pipal tree, ficus religiosa) respectively and then they should consume the respective rice puddings.

However, due to destiny, the two vessels got interchanged and Satyavathi ate the pudding bearing kshatriya energies and her mother the brahminic one. There is another variant to the story that the mother of Satyavathi interchanged the vessels deliberately because she felt that Sage Rucheeka would give the ‘better’ child to his own wife. Thus jealousy played the part of destiny! Rucheeka saw with his divine vision about the mix up and told his wife that she was bearing a cruel kshatriya foetus in her womb and not a brahminic one. Satyavathi was saddened and requested her husband to prevent the calamity through his yogic powers. He agreed and with his yogic powers transferred the change to his grandson (to the next generation). Satyavathi’s mother carried the brahminic foetus and Viswamitra, also known as Gadheya and Kausika was born. Thus, though born to a Kshatriya King, the soul inhabiting that body was that of a satvik brahmarshi. Satyavathi gave birth to a Brahmin child whom they named Jamadagni. Sage Jamadagni married Renuka and they got five sons including Rama, the incarnation of Vishnu. He was known as Bhargava Rama (to differentiate Him from Dasaratha Rama, Rama the son of King Dasaratha, also an incarnation of Vishnu) and Parashu Rama because His weapon was a divine Parashu, Axe. Thus what Sage Rucheeka foresaw came true. His name is also written as Parashuram and Parasuram etc. Though his name is not as popular as Rama (the son of Dasaratha), a few people do carry his name (I have one friend who is named as Parashuramulu). Sai Ram.

Significance and Purpose of Parashurama Avatar:

All Avatars of Vishnu had only one purpose and that is the protection of Dharma. “Parithranaya Sadhuanam vinasayacha dushkritam, Dharma samsthapanarthaya sambhavami yuge yuge” assured the Lord (Bhagawad Gita). Whenever adharma was increasing beyond tolerable limits, Lord Vishnu was taking Avatar to clean up the system. While the ten avatars of Vishnu are famous, He took many more Amsha Avatars (part of His energy was sent to the earth while He stayed in Vaikuntha). Sage Kapila (The one who taught Samkhya), Sage Vedavyasa etc. are examples. Lord Dattatreya is an unique avatar of Vishnu incorporating the energies of the Trinity, Brahma, Vishnu and Siva. The curse of Sage Durvasa and the curse of wife of Sage Bhrigu played a part in Vishnu taking the different Avatars. Parashurama was the sixth avatar among the ten and the pupose was to clean the earth of cruel kshatriya kings who strayed from the path of dharma in Satya Yug. He took revenge of his father’s brutal murder by the sons of Kartaveerya Arjuna, a kshatriya king and relieved the Mother Earth by slaying most of the kshatriya kings of that time. A few like Dasaratha and Janaka were spared and we will try to catch up with that story later. Sage Parashurama is considered a Chiranjeevi (Immortal) and His tenure is supposed to last till Maha Pralaya.

Parashurama obeys father and slays his own mother and brothers:

The following is extracted from the story of sage Jamadagni, which we shared earlier and is reproduced here with minor edits.

As already mentioned, Jamadagni and Renuka got five sons, Rushunvantha, Sushena, Vasu, Viswavasu and Rama (Parashurama). They were growing up nicely. It was the habit of Renuka (a temple and a pond in her honor – Sri Renuka ji is on the way from Ambala to Simla in Himachal Pradesh and is a picturesque spot) to go daily to river and bring water in an earthen pot. Once when the pot slipped from her hands and broke, she just scooped some river sand and shaped it into a pot by her hands, and that held water because of her spiritual powers. (A similar story is told about Shri Sai Baba of Shirdi in Shri Sai Satcharitra that He was watering the plants using raw earthen pots supplied by a disciple named Vaman Tatya and at the end of each day the pots were breaking up and fresh pots were being supplied every day). One day, as fate would have it, she saw a Gandharva king named Chitraradha sporting with his many wives in the river. She stood watching the sport and though at the conscious level she was unaffected, at the subconscious level her mental equilibrium was disturbed (the purer one’s aura is, the easier it is for it to get affected. The wearing of white robes is to remind oneself of utmost care in all the planes of consciousness). That day the moist sand was not getting shaped as pot and she had to return empty handed to the ashram. She realized her error and though she wanted to end her life then and there, as a pativrata, she felt that she had no individual rights over her body, mind and soul and returned to the ashram to allow her husband, her Swami, her Master to deal with the situation as he pleased. That is true egolessness, true surrender, true paativratya. (A similar story of a washerman who was serving Sri Guru (Sri Pada Vallabha) at Kurupuram watching a muslim nawab sporting with his queens in the river and thus getting the seeds of desire to enjoy similar pleasures, being blessed by Sri Guru to be born as a muslim ruler in next birth comes to mind. There Sri Guru tells us that seeds of desire should either be burnt off or allowed to grow and fructify. Karma is done with mind, speech and actions and karmic fruits have to be enjoyed till one reaches that stage of true detachment.). Renuka had to ‘enjoy’ the bitter fruits of her aura contamination because of the seeds of latent desire as we shall see below.

Jamadagni saw with his divine sight what happened and asked his sons to behead her as punishment. By accepting the punishment, one gets purified. The higher the status, the greater the punishment was the rule. The rishis had to set example for others to follow and hence did not allow themselves the slightest benefit of doubt or lenience. The first four sons refused because they could not see through the egoistic filters the true intentions and the powers of their father. The youngest one, Rama (Who was the incarnation of Vishnu) obeyed the father’s command and killed his mother and his brothers too for the sin of disobeying their father’s command. Thus we see that both Ramas (Parasurama and Dasaradha Rama) were great in obeying the commands of father, mother and preceptor. Obeying Guru is the best yagna, best tapas and best sadhana. Obeying Guru (father is the Guru in this case) is the supreme dharma as brought out in Sri Guru Charitra, Sri Sai Satcharitra, Sri Gita and Sri Ramayana etc. Jamadagni was pleased with the obedience of Rama and offered him a boon. Rama asked his father to bring back his mother and brothers to life and the sage obliged! That was the power of the sages in those ages and that is the basis for the dharmic principle that one should not kill unless one can also restore the life! Their tapas gave them that power! The beheaded body of Renuka is worshipped as a Goddess by name Chinna Masta (without head), who is shown holding her own head with her left hand and three streams of blood shooting up representing the three nadis, ida, pingala and sushumna. Renuka was an incarnation of the Goddess Ekavira,

The story did not end there. Parashurama had to ‘enjoy’ the fruits of his karma (obeying the father and Guru is the highest dharma and a guru bhakta does not think whether it is dharma or not, but that does not make him immune from the karma phala – the guru bhaktha just does not think about karma phala, he knows that the Guru will take care of everything).

“Legend has it that when Parashuram killed his mother with an axe at the behest of his father, the axe got stuck to his hands. He roamed all over India visiting holy places to atone for his sins, but the axe remained stuck to his hands. Ultimately, he came to a Kund (lake or pond) known as Brahma Kund, now in Lohit district, on the advice of some sages. He took a dip in the holy water of the Kund and the axe immediately became unstuck and fell from his hands. With a big sigh of relief and venting anger on the axe, he picked it up and threw it as far as he could into the mountains. The axe split the mountains, and the spot where it fell became the source of Lohit River. It was thus that this Kund came to be known as Parashuram Kund and now it is one of the many revered holy spots in the country.”

(Excerpted from

The death of Jamadagni:

The mighty king Kartaviryarjuna of Haihaya clan was born with two short and weak hands. The cause of that deformity is another interesting story. Sudarsana Chakra (the mighty weapon of Lord Vishnu) became rather proud of his own powers once and Sri Maha Vishnu cursed Sudarsana to take birth as a human with weak hands. When Sudarsana realized his error (that is the benefit of a curse, to show the ego its error, thus the curses were meant as boons indirectly), Vishnu assured him that he would rejoin Him soon and would become famous. Thus Kartaviryarjuna was born as a cripple but became a great devotee of Sri Dattatreya (the wonderful form of the Trinity in One) and got many boons from Him. He became one of the mightiest kings on earth and punished the mighty Ravana once and Ravana’s grandfather sage Pulastya had to visit Kartavirya and intercede on Ravana’s behalf. One of the boons that Kartavirya got was that when the end comes (anything which has a beginning has to have an end), it should be in the hands of a worthy opponent. To fulfill that boon and as promised to Sudarsana, Sri Maha Vishnu took birth as Parashurama to Jamadagni. Let us now enjoy that story.

Jamadagni had a Kamadhenu named Surabhi (there were similar cows in many other ashrams and of course Indra had it in heaven. The cow was capable of fulfilling all the desires and was being treated with love and respect. Once King Kartaviryaarjuna visited the ashram of sage Jamadagni along with his retinue (it was the custom of the kings to go hunting and visit the ashrams of various sages who were living in the forest). The sages used to play host as per their capacity. When the king visited sage Jamadagni, the whole retinue was treated lavishly with sumptuous food by the grace of Surabhi. The king was impressed and requested the sage to give the holy cow Surabhi to him. The sage declined.

The king was angry and ordered his army to capture the cow by force. At a glance from Jamadagni, Surabhi created a counter army and in the fight that ensued, the king’s army was defeated. This game went on twenty times and each time, the divine army created by Surabhi was victorious. The king lost his patience and killed the sage Jamadagni (so that the divine power of Surabhi is reduced) and started searching for Surabhi, but She was to be seen nowhere. She vanished and went back to heaven.

Renuka wanted to accompany Sage Jamadagni on the funeral pyre. Sage Bhrigu (grandfather of Jamadagni) stopped her and brought her back to life along with the Sage Jamadagni. Parashurama was very angry at the turn of events and killed Kartaviryarjuna in battle (as per the boon given by Lord Dattatreya). When Parashurama returned from the battle and told his illustrious father about it, the sage told him that it was wrong to kill the king of the land (the king is considered to be an amsa of Vishnu and killing the king and exposing the kingdom to anarchy is a sin) and asked his son to go for tirthayatra (a visit to sacred places) for a year to achieve purification. Obeying the order of his father, Parasurama set off on a pilgrimage. Seizing this opportunity, the sons of Kartaviryarjuna killed Jamadagni. Renuka called out to her divine son twenty one times to protect his father. As per the destiny and as per Sun God’s curse, the mother’s calls to her son went unanswered and Jamadagni met his end.

Parashuram carries out the last rites of his parents:

When Parashurama returned, he came to know what happened. Since his mother called out to him twenty one times, he took a vow that he would go around the earth twenty one times and finish off the evil kshatriyas. Renuka was waiting with the body of her husband and asked Parashuram to carry her and his father to Sahyadri and carry out the last rites.

He carried both the parents on his shoulders (like a water pot carrier with them put in baskets hung from a pole) and accompanied by his brothers, went in search of Dattatreya as directed by Renuka. She was in meditation and when the right spot came asked Parashurama to put them down and pointed out the cave where Dattatreya was staying and asked him to go and request Him to guide the last rites.

When Parashurama reached the cave, he found Datta sporting with some damsels and appearing very drunk. When he approached Datta and told Him the purpose of his mission, He cursed him, abused him as a mad man and asked him to get lost! He was not the man that he was looking for and was a drunkard and a womanizer and it was sheer madness on his part to ask Him to help in such matters.

After getting rebuffed a few times like that Parashurama mentioned that his mother Renuka sent him and immediately the whole demeanor of Datta changed. He gave up all pretence of being a drunkard and a womanizer and came out of the cave and paid His respects to the divine mother Renuka. He ably guided Parashurama to carry out the last rites of his parents (Renuka accompanied her husband on the pyre in the true Sati tradition, which unfortunately got so distorted later that it had to be banned!).
Parashurama goes around the earth and kills the Kshatriyas:

Once he completed the last rites of his parents, he took permission from Datta (whom he considered as his Guru) and went around the earth twenty one times and cleansed the earth of the evil kshatriya kings. He collected the blood in a kund (near kurukshetra) and offered tarpan to his ancestors. They appeared to him and suggested that he should give up the path of violence and realize his true nature. Parashurama repented and went to the forests and did great penance. He also went to his Guru and with his blessings, he realized his true nature (Brahma Gyan).
Parashurama’s encounter with Dasaratha Rama and His giving up His bow
After Sri Rama (son of Dasratha) broke the mighty bow of Lord Siva at Mithila, and thus got the hand of Sri Sita, the whole entourage was returning to Ayodhya, when they were met by Parashurama. He was very angry that another person and that too, a Kshatriya dared to bear the same name Rama and then offended His Guru Lord Siva by breaking the bow. He was not willing to listen to the pleas of Dasaratha or Rama and challenged Rama to string His bow if possible or face punishment. Sri Rama accepted the challenge and took Sri Parashurama’s bow and stringed it. The Vishnu Teja got thus transferred to the next incarnation. I am writing this story from memory and errors if any are mine. I found the following version online.
Let us look at his advent in Ramayana, Sage Valmiki’s epic.
In the seventy-sixth sarga of the first kanda, namely the Balakanda, the encounter between Parashurama and Rama is described. When Rama accepts the challenge offered by Parashurama and easily engages the bow of Vishnu, Parashurama knows he is vanquished. He foregoes the fruit of all his penances, the higher worlds, and offers to retire immediately to Mahendragiri in the South of the country.
Bereft of Sri Vaishnavatejas, the sage starts a new a life of austere penance on the slopes of the hill.
Another version has it that when Siva’s bow broke in the hands of Sri Rama, the sound was so loud that it was heard all over the world and reached the ears of sage Parashurama, who understood what it represented with his divine vision. He came to investigate the matter and was greeted by Sri Sita. The sage blessed her with “Deergha Sumangali Bhava” (For a married lady, the husband’s life is of paramount importance). So, when Rama appeared in front of him, the sage could not hurt him because of his boon to Sri Sita. But this does not explain the transfer of Vishnu Teja from Sri Parashurama to Sri Dasaratha Rama.
Differences apart, all the stories are interesting to read and if we understand that God’s amsa (part) is in all of us and we should respect the divinity in each other, the moral of the story would be clear. Sai Ram.

Parashurama’s acquisition of Brahma Vidya from Lord Dattatreya
Sri Tripura Rahasya (see the link ) gives the story of Sri Dattatreya giving Brahma Jnan to His disciple Sri Parashurama. The introduction and first two chapters give a brief account of Parashurama’s devotion to Lord Dattatreya and how Datta Guru gave self realization to him. Since it is written well, I invite the reader to read that portion online or by downloading it to their PC.

Parashurama’s curse of Karna

Parashurama was considered as the greatest warriors of the time because of His great penance to Lord Siva, from Whom He acquired all the great Astras and Sastras plus the great Axe (Parashu) which became a part of His name! His devotion to Siva was so great that even Lord Ganesha allowed Parashurama’s axe to cut off one of His tusks. It seems that when Parashurama was going to Kailas for getting a darshan of Siva and Parvati, Ganesha was obstructing the way and Parashurama got angry and threw his mighty axe at Ganesha. Knowing that He was a great Siva Bhakta, Ganesha allowed the axe to cut off one of His tusks.

Parashurama was the Guru of Bhishma and Drona too. Parashurama taught Bhishma and later at the behest of Amba tried to punish Bhishma but could not. From that time, Parashurama decided that he would accept only Brahmin students. So, when Karna wanted to learn Dhanur Vidya, he approached Parashurama disguised as a Brahmin because he already knew the rule that the sage was accepting only Brahmin students. He was a model student and learned all the Astras and Sastras including the Brahmastra. His education was almost complete when destiny played its role. One day, the sage was sleeping under the shade of a tree with his head in the lap of Karna. A small insect (scorpion as per one version) started boring through the skin of Karna’s thigh. Karna, the valiant warrior that he was, bore the pain silently for the fear of disturbing his guru, but that was his undoing! The blood that seeped out of the wound woke up the sage and he at once realized that Karna was not a Brahmin. The sage asked Karna to tell the truth and Karna had to admit that he was not a Brahmin. The sage cursed Karna that all the Astras and Sastras will desert him (he will forget the mantras related to them) in his hour of need. Thus when his end came near, Karna was left without the powerful Brahmastra that he learned so diligently from Sage Parashurama.

Karna, who was himself unaware of his royal lineage (he came to know that much later), pleaded with his Guru that any student in his place would have acted the same way. While he regretted cursing Karna in a moment of anger, Parashurama's curse was irrevocable. He, gifted Karna with a celestial weapon called Bargavastra along with Parashurama's personal bow called Vijaya and blessed him that in the end, Karna would achieve what he wanted the most- an everlasting glory and greatness.
Parashurama’s appearance to a modern day sage in 20th century and restoration of the practice of Agnihotra

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