Sai Ram. We have been enjoying the
wonderful, educating and entertaining stories of Sages and let us
continue with the same this month too. The month of April (Chaitra)
is special because of Sri Rama Navami (this year it was celebrated
on 3rd April) and when we remembered Sri Rama and His many deeds of
valor, we recalled the great role played by sages Vasishta and Viswamitra.
We already learnt that sage Viswamitra was born to Gadhi, son of Kusika
(also known as Kusinabha), when we were learning about sage Chyavana
Maharshi and Jamadagni Maharshi. This month of April 2009 is very
special because of another Jayanthi. April 27th of this year was celebrated
as Balarama Jayanthi, Parashurama Jayanthi and of course it was also
the Akshaya Titiya (The third day of the bright half of the lunar
month of Vaisakh). Sri Rama Navami and Balarama Jayanthi / Parashurama
Jayanthi may not come together in one English Calendar month every
So, for this month (May, 2009), let us take up the wonderful story
of sage Parashurama, the sixth incarnation of Lord Vishnu and the
son of Jamadagni. The lineage of Bhrigu has given us a big bounty
of great sages, whose lives were so extraordinary and reading of which
is a sure way of burning off our sins. Sai Ram.
The birth of Parashurama also known as Bhargava Rama:
As already mentioned, 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).
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 http://www.travelchacha.com/cities/arunachal_pradesh/parashuram_kund.html)
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
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.
of Brahma Vidya from Lord Dattatreya
Sri Tripura Rahasya (see the link http://sss.vn.ua/tripura1.htm )
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
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
Sai Ram. Pl. see the following link:
Go down the page and click on Shri Gajanan Maharaj of Shivpuri, Akkalkot
The account of Parashuram appearing to Shri Gajanan Maharaj at Balappa
Math, Akkalkot and His role in restoring the practice of Agnihotra
(see www.agnihotra.org) is well described. I felt that I was again
in Akkalkot and Sivapuri (I visited a few years ago). I bow humbly
to the Lotus Feet of the revered Masters. Sai Ram.
A few more tidbits about the great sage
In Maharahstra, there is a temple for Lord Parashurama at Lote Parshurama
in Ratnagiri district. The Konkan area is called as Parashurama Bhoomi
(the land of Parshurama) because Lord Parshurama is considered as
the creator of the Konkan coast and Kerala. There are several temples
for Lord Parashuram in Gujarat (Bharuch and Sonagadh), Maharashtra
(Akkalkot, Khapoli) and in Jammu Kashmir (Akhnoor). Parashuram Kund
is in Lohit District, Arunachala and at Makara Sankranti time, a great
number of devotees come and take bath in that kund and worship Parashurama.
Parasurama Jayanti is a very important festival for Brahmins as the
Lord was born as a Brahmin. They worship him with utmost devotion
and in some regions people observe fasting as the festival coincides
with Akshay Tritiya.
Wikipedia has some more interesting facets about the life and great
deeds of this great sage, and Avatar of Vishnu. May He protect us
from our evil tendencies!
With best wishes,