Parashurama

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Parashurama (परशुराम) is the sixth avatar of Vishnu in Hinduism. Like other avatars of Vishnu, he appears at a time when overwhelming evil prevailed on earth. The warrior class, with weapons and power, had begun to abuse their power, take what belonged to others by force and tyrannize people. Parashurama corrects the cosmic equilibrium by destroying these evil warriors.[1][2]

Variants of name

Mention by Panini

Jamadagnya (जामदग्न्य), a Vatsa Bhrigu Pravara, is mentioned by Panini in Ashtadhyayi. [6]

Not found in Vedic literature

Parashurama is not found in Vedic literature, and the earliest mention of his character is found in the Mahabharata but with different names. There he is represented as an accomplished warrior-Brahmin, a sage and teacher of martial arts, but there is no mention of him being an avatar of Vishnu. He evolves into an avatar in the Puranas.[7]


According to Adalbert Gail, the word Parasurama is also missing in the Indian epics and Kalidasa's works, and appears for the first time in Indian literature around 500 CE. Before then, he is known by other names such as Rama Jamadagnya.[8]

Villages associated with Parasurama

Jamni in Jind Haryana

Jamni (जमनी) is a village in Safidon tahsil of Jind district in Haryana. It is said to get name from Jamadagni who was Parashurama's father.

It is believed that Jamni Safidon name has been originated from the name of Rishi Jamadagni and now is called Jamni. Rishi Jamadagni was Parashurama's (reincarnation of Lord Vishnu) father. Rishi Jamadagni is also one of the "Sapt Rishis" that we have. He lived and meditated in Jamni village for long time. Rishi Jamadagni received Kamdhenu as a gift in response to his penances. One day, While returning after vanquishing Ravana on the banks of Reva, Kartavirya Sahashrarjun, the one with the thousand arms, stops at Jamadagni's ashram for rest. Jamdagini with the help of Kamadhenu is able to feed Arjuna's army. Desirous of Kamdhenu, Arjuna forcefully takes the divine cow and its calf. Parshuram and his brothers are enraged when they learn about Arjuna's act. Parshuram defeats Arjuna and returns to the ashram with Kamdhenu and calf. Kartavirya Sahashrarjun, who was a Kshatriya (warrior king), murdered Parshuram's father. Due to this deed, Parshuram made a vow to obliterate all warrior kings.

Ramrai in Jind Haryana

Ramrai (रामराय) is an ancient village in Jind tahsil and district in Haryana. Its ancient name was Ramahrada (रामह्रद) mentioned by Panini and in Mahabharata (3.81.22), (III.81.178).


V. S. Agrawala[9] writes that Panini mentions a village in category ending Harda (IV.2.142) - Ramahrada. The Mahabharata knows Ramahrada in Kurukshetra (Aranyakaparva, 81.22).


Ramrai or Ramahrada is a traditional south-west Yaksha of the Kurukshetra region. It is connected with the mythological story of Parsurama who after the annihilation of Kshatriyas, filled five pools with their blood and propitiated his forefathers there. It is believed that a bath at Ramahrada tirtha and Sanet tirtha is very holy. There is an old temple of Parsuram where he is worshipped.

The myth of association of Parsurama's family with certain tirthas in haryana need to be fully explored and critically assessed. The Vamana Purana, a product of medieval period (900-1700 AD) [10], dedicated to Thaneshwar [11], associated the ancient pilgrimage of Ramahrada (रामह्रद) (3.81.22), identified with Village Ramray near Jind ([12], with Parsurama who according to Mahabharata (III,81,26f,117,9ff), filled the five tanks (Samantapanchaka) with the blood of Kshatriyas, annihilated 21 times by him. He is said to have performed the tarpana with their blood (Adi Parva, 1,2,5) in the lakes made by him (Vana Parva, 81,22). These lakes made by him are said to have been full of blood like water.[13]

Sopara in Maharashtra

The Mahabharata and the Puranas state that the Śūrpāraka was reclaimed from the sea for the dwelling place of Parashurama and it became a tirtha for this reason.[14] The finding of the relics in a stupa and the rock edicts (the fragments of the 8th and 9th major rock edicts) of Ashoka in 1882[15] prove the importance of this port town from the 3rd century BCE[16] to the 9th century CE.

In Mahabharata

Vana Parva, Mahabharata/Book III Chapter 116 mentions story of killing mother Renuka by Parasurama and fight with Kartaviryarjuna. Martikavataka (मार्तिकावतक) is mentioned in Mahabharata (III.116.6).[17]....Once upon a time, when her sons had gone out for the purpose of gathering fruits, Renuka who had a pure and austere life, went out to bathe. And, O king, while returning home, she happened to cast her glance towards the king of Martikavataka, known by the name of Chitraratha. The king was in the water with his wives, and wearing on his breast a lotus wreath, was engaged in sport. And beholding his magnificent form, Renuka was inspired with desire. And this unlawful desire she could not control, but became polluted within the water, and came back to the hermitage frightened at heart.


Sabha Parva, Mahabharata/Book II Chapter 28 mentions Shurparaka (शूर्पारक) Sahadeva's Expedition to south in verse Mahabharata (II.28.43)[18] :

Having brought king Nila of Avanti under his sway the victorious son of Madri, viz. Sahadeva, then went further towards the south. He then brought the king of Tripura under his sway. And next turning his forces against the Paurava kingdom, he vanquished and reduced to subjection the monarch thereof. And the prince, after this, with great efforts brought Akriti, the king of Saurashtra and preceptor of the Kausikas under his sway. The virtuous prince, while staying in the kingdom of Saurashtra sent an ambassador unto king Rukmin the son of Bhishmaka within the territories of Bhojakata. And the monarch cheerfully accepted the sway of the son of Pandu. And the master of battle then, having exacted jewels and wealth from king Rukmin, marched further to the south. And, endued with great energy and great strength, the hero then, reduced to subjection, Shurparaka and Talakata, and the Dandakas also.

Vana Parva, Mahabharata/Book III Chapter 86 mentions in verse Mahabharata (III.86.9).[19] that In the tirtha called Shurparaka are two sacrificial platforms of the illustrious Jamadagni, called Pashana and Punaschandra.

Vana Parva, Mahabharata/Book III Chapter 83 mentions Surparaka (शूर्पारक) in verse Mahabharata (III.83.40) [20].... One should proceed to Shurparaka, where Jamadagni’s son had formerly dwelt. Bathing in that tirtha of Rama, one acquireth the merit of giving away gold in abundance.

Yudhishthira plunged his body in all the holy spots, and then came again to Shurparaka (3:118). Bathing in the Narmada as also in the tirtha known by the name of Shurparaka, observing a fast for a full fortnight, one is sure to become in one’s next birth a prince of the royal line. (13:25).

The Ocean created for Jamadagni’s son (Bhargava Rama), a region called Shurparaka (12:49). Having made the earth destitute of Kshatriyas for thrice seven times, the puissant Bhargava, at the completion of a horse-sacrifice, gave away the earth as sacrificial present unto Kashyapa. Kashyapa having accepted the earth in gift, and made a present of it unto the Brahmanas, entered the great forest.

This gave rise to the myth of Parashurama, reclaiming the land from the sea. The people of Shurparaka brought this myth to Kerala where this myth still exists.

In story of Amba and Bhishma

Sister Nivedita and Anand K. Coomaraswamy[21] mention Parashu-Rama in story of Amba and Bhishma as under:

Religion itself took the part of Amba, for the hermits, headed by her grandfather, loved and pitied the mortified girl. And in after ages a story was current of a great mythical combat waged against Bhishma on her behalf by Parashu-Rama, who had been his early teacher, and was even as God himself. And this combat lasted, it was said, many days, being fought with all the splendour and power of warring divinities, till at last it was brought to an end by the intervention of the gods, surrounded by all the celestial hosts. For they feared to see the exhaustion of mighty beings who owed each other reverence and affection and could by no means kill one another. But when Amba was called into the presence of Parashu-Rama to hear the news of the cessation of the conflict, she merely bowed and thanked the old warrior with great sweetness for his energy on her behalf. She would not again, she said, seek the protection of Bhishma in the city of Hastinapura, and she added that it now lay with herself to find the means of slaying Bhishma.

Parashu-Rama, who was almost the deity of fighting men, must have smiled to hear a girl, with her soft voice, promise herself the glory of killing the knight whom even he had not been able to defeat. But Amba rose and left his presence with her head high and despair on her face. There was now no help for her even in the gods. She must depend upon herself.

From this time her course of conduct became extra ordinary. Month after month she would fast and undergo penances. Beauty and charm became nothing in her eyes. Her hair became matted and she grew thinner and thinner. For hours and days she would stand in stillness and


Myths and Legends of the Hindus & Buddhists: End of page 179


silence as if she had been made of stone. In this way she did more than was human and " made heaven itself hot " with her austerities.

Every one begged her to desist. The old saints near whom she lived, and embassies constantly sent by her father, all begged her to surrender her resolve and live a life of greater ease. But to none of these would she listen, and only went on with redoubled energy practising her asceticisms. Then she began to seek out pilgrimages, and went from one sacred river to another, performing the while the most difficult of vows. On one occasion as she bathed, Mother Ganges herself, who was known to have been the mother of Bhishma, addressed her, and asked her the cause of all these penances. But when the poor lady replied that all her efforts were bent toward the destruction of Bhishma the spirit of the Ganges rebuked her severely, and told her the terrible consequences of vows of hatred. Yet still the Princess Amba did not desist. Until he was slain through whom she had come to be "neither woman nor man," she would not know peace and she would not stop.

At last Shiva, the Great God, appeared before her, drawn by the power of her prayers and penances, and standing over her with the trident in his hand, he questioned her as to the boon she sought.

" The defeat of Bhishma ! " answered Amba, bowing joyfully at his feet, for she knew that this was the end of the first stage in the execution of her purpose. " Thou shalt slay him," said the Great God. Then Amba,filled with joy, and yet overcome with amazement, said : " But how, being a woman, can I achieve victory in battle ? It is true that my woman s heart is entirely stilled. Yet I beg of thee, O thou who hast the bull for thy cognizance,


Myths and Legends of the Hindus & Buddhists: End of page 180


to give me the promise that I myself shall be able to slay Bhishma in battle ! "

Then answered Shiva : " My words can never be false. Thou shalt take a new birth and some time afterwards thou shalt obtain manhood. Then thou shalt become a fierce warrior, well skilled in battle, and remembering the whole of thy present life, thou thyself, with thine own hands, shalt be the slayer of Bhishma." And having so said, the form of Shiva disappeared from before the eyes of the assembled ascetics and the Lady Amba there in the midst of the forest ashrama. But Amba proceeded to gather wood with her own hands, and made a great funeral pyre on the banks of the Jamna, and then, setting a light to it, she herself entered into it, and as she took her place upon the throne of flame she said over and over again : " I do this for the destruction of Bhishma ! To obtain a new body for the destruction of Bhlshma do I enter this fire ! "

Encounter Kartavirya Arjuna with Parashurama

The Puranas recount that Kartavirya Arjuna and his army visited a rishi named Jamadagni, who fed his guest and the whole army with offerings from his divine cow. The king demanded the cow for the betterment of his subjects; Jamadagni refused because he needed the cow for his religious ceremonies. King Kartavirya Arjuna sent his soldiers to take the cow.As the conflict developed among the Jamadagni and the King, Kartavirya Arjuna lost his cool and chopped off the head of Jamadagni .When Parashurama (Jamadagni's son and one of the Daśāvatāras Vishnu) returned to the hermitage,he was informed of the context by his mother.In revenge, Parashurama killed the entire clan of Kartavirya Arjuna and the King with the axe given to him by Shiva, thus conquering the entire earth, which he gave to Brahamanas.

In another legend, Kartavirya Arjuna visited the hermitage of Jamadagni, and was received by that sage's wife Renuka with all respect; but he made an ill return for her hospitality, and carried off by violence "the calf of the milch-cow of the sacred oblation." For this outrage Parashurama cut off his thousand arms and killed him.

In another place a different character is given to him, and more in accordance with his behavior at Jamadagni's hut. "He oppressed both men and gods," so that the latter appealed to Vishnu for succor. That God then came down to the earth as Parashurama for the especial purpose of killing him.

References

  1. James G. Lochtefeld (2002). The Illustrated Encyclopedia of Hinduism: N-Z. The Rosen Publishing Group. pp. 500–501. ISBN 978-0-8239-3180-4.
  2. Constance Jones; James D. Ryan (2006). Encyclopedia of Hinduism. Infobase Publishing. p. 324. ISBN 978-0-8160-7564-5.
  3. Julia Leslie (2014). Myth and Mythmaking: Continuous Evolution in Indian Tradition. Taylor & Francis. pp. 63–66 with footnotes. ISBN 978-1-136-77888-9.
  4. Julia Leslie (2014). Myth and Mythmaking: Continuous Evolution in Indian Tradition. Taylor & Francis. pp. 63–66 with footnotes. ISBN 978-1-136-77888-9.
  5. Julia Leslie (2014). Myth and Mythmaking: Continuous Evolution in Indian Tradition. Taylor & Francis. pp. 63–66 with footnotes. ISBN 978-1-136-77888-9.
  6. V. S. Agrawala: India as Known to Panini, 1953, p.8
  7. Thomas E Donaldson (1995). Umakant Premanand Shah, ed. Studies in Jaina Art and Iconography and Allied Subjects in Honour of Dr. U.P. Shah. Abhinav Publications. pp. 160–161. ISBN 978-81-7017-316-8.
  8. Brockington, J. L. (1981). "Paraśurāma, Brahmane und Krieger: Untersuchung über Ursprung und Entwicklung eines Avatāra Viṣṇus und Bhakta Ṡivas in der Indischen Literatur. By Adalbert Gail. pp. xvi, 252, 1 pl. Wiesbaden, Otto Harrassowitz, 1977". Journal of the Royal Asiatic Society of Great Britain & Ireland. Cambridge University Press. 113 (01): 93. doi:10.1017/s0035869x00137098.
  9. V. S. Agrawala: India as Known to Panini, 1953, p.67
  10. (Parui, 1976:3f)
  11. (CHI, Vol I:268)
  12. ASI,Vol.XIV;91;N L Dey, 1899;166; JHS.Vol.VIII, Nos.1-2,1976;18)
  13. Hukum Singh Panwar (Pauria):The Jats:Their Origin, Antiquity and Migrations, Manthan Publications, Rohtak. ISBN 81-85235-22-8, p.16
  14. Pargiter F.E. (1922, reprint 1972) Ancient Indian Historical Tradition, Motilal Banarasidass, Delhi, p.201
  15. Times of India article on Sopara, November 18, 2001
  16. Thaper, R. (1997). Aśoka and the Decline of the Mauryas, Oxford University Press, New Delhi, ISBN 0-19-564445-X, pp.5,236
  17. सा तु चित्ररथं नाम मार्त्तिकावतकं नृपम, थथर्श रेणुका राजन्न आगच्छन्ती यथृच्छया (III.116.6)
  18. :ततः शूर्पारकं चैव गणं चॊपकृताह्वयम
    वशे चक्रे महातेजा दण्डकांश च महाबलः (II.28.43)
  19. वेदी शूर्पारके तात जमदग्नेर महात्मनः रम्या पाषाण तीर्था च पुरश्चन्द्रा च भारत Mahabharata (III.86.9)
  20. ततः शूर्पारकं गच्छेज जामदग्न्य निषेवितम
    राम तीर्थे नरः सनात्वा विन्द्याद बहुसुवर्णकम Mahabharata (III.83.40)
  21. Myths and Legends of the Hindus & Buddhists/CHAPTER III,p.179-181