Who is Parasurama?
Parasurama, also known as the “ax-wielding Rama,” was the sixth incarnation of Lord Vishnu. He was born into a Brahmin or priestly family but had the immense physical power and killer instinct than a Kshatriya or the warrior class. Parasurama was the son of the pious saint, Jamadagni. Lord Shiva, pleased by his devotion and penance awarded him an ax, his superweapon. Parashurama is considered ‘Chiranjeevi’ or immortal and that he is said to rule until ‘Maha Pralaya’ or the end of the world.
Parasurama, the Kshatriya-slayer
The objective of the avatar of Parasurama was to deliver the world from the oppression of the Kshatriya rulers, who strayed from the path of dharma. Outraged by King Arjuna and his sons, who killed his holy father, Parasurama swore to annihilate the entire Kshatriya race. Parasurama waged war after war for 21 years and destroyed the unrighteous Kshatriyas, thus accomplishing the task of the avatar of Vishnu.
Three Lessons Learned from Parasurama’s Life
Swami Sivananda, in one of his discourses, talks about the lessons one can learn from the Parasurama avatar:
Legend has it that Parasurama, at his father’s command, chopped off his mother’s head, a heinous task that his brothers refused. Pleased with his obedience, when his father asked him to choose a boon, Parasurama without wished her mother back to life!
Lesson 1: Parasurama’s pure faith in his father resulted in due obedience and complete subservience to the higher will. In the spiritual path, the father is regarded as the Guru and God, to whom we should learn to surrender our will. Parasurama had that implicit obedience and perfect faith in the divinity of his father.
Parasurama proved to be an antithesis of the ‘Sattvic’ or pious qualities of the Brahmin class. He killed many great kings, who were unrighteous, proud, and tyrannical to their subjects, and inimical to Brahmins. Righteous kings are as essential to the world as pious Brahmins.
Lesson 2: Destruction is a necessity. Unless we destroy the weeds, beautiful crops can’t grow. Unless we annihilate the beast in us, we cannot grow into our sublime human nature, which is next to divine.
An unrighteous king once stole his father’s magic cow ‘Kamadhenu’ – a symbol of abundance, an animal that fulfills all desires. In order to avenge the theft, Parasurama killed the king. When he came home, his father was not at all pleased with his conduct. He severely reprimanded Parasurama for forgetting his own dharma, that of forbearance and forgiveness, and commanded him to undertake a countrywide pilgrimage to expiate the sin.
Lesson 3: We should first completely annihilate our bestial nature and then, when we have become true human beings, we should learn to submit ourselves to our Guru. Only then should we set to destroy all evil propensities in us that stand in the way between us and the divine.
Temples Dedicated to Parasurama
Unlike Rama, Krishna, or Buddha, Parasurama is not one of the popular avatars of Vishnu. Nonetheless, there are many temples dedicated to him. The Parasurama shrines at Akkalkot, Khapoli, and Ratnagiri in Maharashtra, Bharuch, and Songadh in Gujarat, and Akhnoor in Jammu and Kashmir are well known. The Konkan region on India’s west coast is sometimes referred to as “Parashurama Bhoomi” or the land of Parshurama. The Parashuram Kund in the Lohit district of the North Indian state of Arunachal Pradesh is a holy lake that is thronged by hundreds of devotees, who come to take a dip in its holy waters during Makarsankranti every January.
The birthday of Parasurama or “Parasurama Jayanti” is an important festival for the Brahmins or the priest caste of the Hindus as he was born a Brahmin. On this day, people worship Parasurama and observe a ritual feast in his honor. Parasurama Jayanti usually falls on the same day as Akshaya Tritiya, which is considered one of the most auspicious days of the Hindu calendar.