Bhagavan Parashuram
Parashurama is the sixth avatar of Vishnu and belongs to the Second Age, and is the son of a Brahmin father Jamadagni and mother Renuka in Hindu mythology. He is considered one of the seven immortal (Chiranjivi) humans. He received an axe after undertaking a terrible penance to please Shiva, from whom he learned the methods of warfare and other skills. He fought back the advancing seas thus saving the lands of Konkan and Malabar. The coastal area of Kerala State along with the Konkan region, which is the coastal region of Karnataka, Goa and Maharashtra States, is also sometimes called Parashurama Kshetra (Parashurama's country). Parashurama is said to be a Brahmakshatriya ("warrior Brahman"), the first warrior saint. Parashurama is worshiped as a Founder (Mool Purush) of Chitpavan and Daivadnya Brahmin Communities.

Parashu means axe in Sanskrit, hence the name Parashurama literally means 'Rama with the axe'. He is also known as Parasurama, Bh?ugupati, Bhargava, Bhargava Rama, and J?mdagni


Haihaya-Kshatriya Background
Parashurama belonged to Srivatsa Gotra. It appears that the Haihayas may have been enemies and at war with several groups including other Kshatriyas. For example the Haihayas sacked Kashi during the reigns of King Haryaswa and King Sudeva (whom they killed), King Divodas and his son Pratarddana (who finally expelled them outside of the Vatsa Kingdom). All these kings were born in the Solar Dynasty and the Haihayas were a Lunar Dynasty.

The hostile Haihaya King Kartavirya Arjuna defeated the N?ga Kshatiryas who were led by Karkotaka Naga. Kartavirya made Mahishmati the capital of his own kingdom. According to numerous Puranas, the military corporations of the Shakas, Yavanas, Kambojas, Pahlavas and Paradas, known as five hordes (p?nca-ganah), had militarily supported the Haihaya and Talajunga Kshatriyas in depriving Ikshvaku King Bahu (the 7th king in descent from Harishchandra) of his Ayodhya kingdom. A generation later, Bahu's son, Sagara recaptured Ayodhya after totally destroying the Haihaya and Talajangha Kshatriyas in the battle. King Sagara had punished these foreign hordes by ordering their 'heads shaved' (a common practice used to humiliate and shame the enemy in the ancient world) and turning them into degraded Kshatriyas.

The enmity between the Haihaya and the Bhargavas is mentioned in the Mahabharata Hindu text numerous times. In the Bhagavata Purana the Haihayas are mentioned as "the uncivilized".

Once, when Parashurama returned home, he found his mother crying hysterically. When asked why she was crying, she said his father had been killed mercilessly by Kartavirya Arjuna. She beat her chest 21 times in sorrow and anguishes at her husband's death. In a rage, Parashurama vowed to exterminate the world's Kshatriyas 21 times. He killed the entire clan of Kartavirya Arjuna (or Sahasrarjuna) and then conquered the entire earth. He then conducted the Ashvamedha sacrifice, done only by sovereign kings, and gave the entire land he owned to the head-priest who performed the yagya, Kashyapa.

Parashurama then became responsible for killing the world's corrupted Haihaya kings and warriors who came to attack him in revenge for the killing of Kartavirya Arjuna, to prevent a Brahmin from being emperor and threatening their position. The Ashvamedha demanded that the kings either submit to Parashurama's imperial position or thwart the sacrifice by defeating him in battle. They did neither and were killed. Parashurama exterminated the world's Haihaya-Kshatriyas 21 times, thus fulfilling his vow.


Legends
According to one legend Parashurama also went to visit Shiva but the way was blocked by Ganesha. Parashurama threw the axe at him and Ganesha, knowing it had been given by Shiva, allowed to cut off one of his tusks. The goddess Parvati (wife of Shiva), on finding her son's tusk being cut, filled with rage and declared that if Parashurama's thirst for Kshatriya's blood was still not over, she would put a stop to it and teach him a final lesson; she would sever both of his arms and kill him. The Goddess Parvati then took a form of Shakti (the Goddess Durga) and thus became the ultimate source of Power who no other divine power could resist or match. Luckily, Shiva arrived at the scene and pacified Parvati after convincing not to harm Parashurama as he is also like her son in a way and she should forgive him as a Mother should forgive her child's mistake. Parashurama also asked for his forgiveness. Parvati finally forgives Parashurama at the request of Ganesha. Parashurama then gave his divine axe to Ganesha and blessed him.

There is another interesting legend with regards to Parashurama's beating back the seas. It is said that he fired an arrow from his mythical bow that landed in Goa, at a place called Benaulim creating what is known locally as "Salkache Tollem", literally meaning "Lotus Lake".

There is an interesting side to Parashurama's conquest of Kshatriyas. After one of his conquests, he returns to Aihole (Badami Taluka, Bagalkot district in Karnataka) which, some say was where he lived. The river Malaprabha does a near 180 degree turn there. While Parashurama washed his blood soaked axe upriver, beyond the bend, there were village belles washing clothes downriver. The axe was so bloody that it turned the entire river red. This, the women washing clothes saw and exclaimed "Ai hole!" meaning Oh! what a river. The name stuck and the village is now known as Aihole.

There is another legend that the Nairs and the Bunts (Nagas) of Kerala and Tulunadu removed their sacred thread and hid in the forests to avoid Parashurama's revenge upon the Kshatriyas. Parashurama donated the land to the Nambuthiri Brahmins and the Nambuthiris in turn denied the Nairs and Bunts Kshatriya status though they did Kshatriya duties and though some of the royal houses in Kerala arise from them.


Shiva's Bow - Meeting of Rama and Parashurama

In the Ramayana, Parashurama came to the betrothal ceremony of the seventh Avatar, Rama, to the princess Sita. As a test of worthiness the suitors were required to lift and string the bow of Shiva, given to the King Janaka by Parashurama. Rama successfully strung the bow, but in the process it broke in two, producing a tremendous noise that reached the ears of Parashurama.

In one such version, played in ramlilas across India, Parashurama arrived after hearing the sound of the bow of Shiva breaking. The Kshatriyas were advised by Brahmarishi Vasistha not to confront the sage, but Sita approached the sage. He blessed her, saying "Dheergha Sumangali bhavah", literally meaning "you will have your husband alive for your lifetime, you won't see his death". So when he turned to confront Rama, the destroyer of Shiva's bow, he could not pick up his axe to do so as he pacifies by the brilliance of Rama (Vishnu avatara). This was also because, as he blessed Sita with good luck, he could not cause any harm to her husband which was a part of his own (Shri Vishnu). After recognizing Rama for what he truly was, namely the avatar of Vishnu, as his bow went flying in the hands of Lord Rama.


The Mahabharata
When Amba came to Parashurama for help because Bhishma refused to marry her he decided to slay Bhishma and fought with him for twenty three days. It was a long and fierce fight between the two greatest warriors of the age. Bhishma had knowledge of the divine deadly weapon: "Parshwapastra". Parashurama had no knowledge of this weapon. When Bhishma was about to use it against Parashurama, all Gods rushed to Bhishma and requested him not to use this weapon against Parshurama as it will humiliate Parshurama. Bhishma refrained from using it.

Parashurama's father, Jamadagni and grandfather, Richika, then appeared before Parashurama ordering, "O son, never again engage in battle with Bhishma or any other Kshatriya. Heroism and courage in battle are the qualities of a warrior (Kshatriya), and study of the Vedas and the practice of austerities are the wealth of the brahmanas. Previously you took up weapons to protect the brahmanas, but this is not the case now. Let this battle with Bhishma be your last". The sages once again spoke to Rama, "O son of the Bhrigu race, it is not possible to defeat Bhishma". In the end, all Gods and Parshuram himself showered praise on Bhishma and acknowledged that Bhishma is truly invincible. Parshurama then told Amba: "I have done all that I could and I have failed. Throw yourself on the mercy of Bhishma. That is the only course left to you."

Parashurama was giving away his earning and wealth of a lifetime to brahmanas, Drona approached him. Unfortunately by the time Drona arrived, Parashurama had given away all his belongings to other brahmanas. Taking pity upon the plight of Drona, Parashurama said "You can choose any of my weapons, which one would you like to have"? The clever Drona said "I will like to have your weapons with their mantras as and when I need them". Parashurama accepted. Drona decided to impart his knowledge of combat which made him supreme in the science of arms.

In the Mahabharata, Parashurama was the instructor of the warrior Karna, born to a Kshatriya mother but raised as the son of a charioteer, or lower class of Kshatriyas. Karna came to Parashurama after being rejected from the school of Drona, who taught the five Pandava and one hundred Kaurava princes. Parashurama agreed to teach Karna, who said he was a brahmin, and gave him the knowledge of the extremely powerful Brahmastra weapon. But an incident would render the Brahmastra almost useless to Karna.

One day, Parashurama was sleeping with his head resting on Karna's thigh, when an insect crawled up and bit Karna's thigh, boring into it. In spite of the bleeding and the pain, he neither flinched nor uttered a cry so that his teacher could continue his rest. However, the blood trickled down, reaching Parashurama and awakening him. Convinced that only a Kshatriya could have borne such pain in silence and that Karna had therefore lied in order to receive instruction, he cursed Karna that his knowledge of the Brahmastra would fail him when he needed it most. Parashurama was the guru of Bhishma (Devavrata), Dronacharya and Karna.


Later life
In the later life of Parashurama, he gave up violence, became an ascetic and practiced penances, mainly on the Mahendra Mountains. The territories he received from the Kshatriyas he slew were distributed among a clan of Brahmins called the Bhumihar. They ruled these lands for many centuries. The Kingdoms like the Cheras, Pandyas, Dravida, Mushika, Karnata and Konkana were among them. Parashurama also beat back the advancing sea to retrieve a stretch of coastal-area between the foothills of the Western Ghats and the Arabian Sea, giving rise to the myth of Parashurama, saving a part of the land of Kerala from the sea. This had happened in Surparaka Kingdom (Coastal Area Maharasthra). Also it is said that from here the myth spread to Kerala, by migration. However, Kerala is also said to be given to Brahmin rulers. Dattatreya initiated Parasurama into Tantric worship and their conversations gave rise to Tripura-rahasya, a treatise on Advaita Vedanta. At last, Parasurama attained the liberation from the cycles of birth and death with the help of Guru Dattatreya.


- October 11
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