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Two representations of Parshurama
Parashurama with his axe (two representations)
Other names Bhargava rāma
Jamadagnya rāma
Affiliation Avatar of Vishnu, Vaishnavism
Weapon Axe (paraśu)
Personal information

Parashurama (Sanskrit: परशुराम, IAST: Paraśurāma, lit. Rama with an axe) is the sixth avatar of Vishnu in Hinduism. Born as a brahmin, Parshuram carried traits of a Kshatriya and is often regarded as a Brahmin-Kshatriya. He carried a number of Kshatriya traits, which included aggression, warfare and valor. Like other incarnations of Vishnu, he was foretold to appear at a time when overwhelming evil prevailed on earth. The Kshatriyas 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 Kshatriya warriors.[1][2]

He is also referred to as Rama Jamadagnya , Rama Bhargava and Veerarama in some Hindu texts.[3] Parashurama is worshipped as mool purush, or founder, of the Niyogi Bhumihar Brahmin, Chitpavan, Daivadnya, Mohyal, Tyagi, Anavil and Nambudiri Brahmin communities.


Lord Parshuram is considered as the 'Avesha Avtar' of Lord Vishnu. He was born at Renuka Tirth as the sixth incarnation of Lord Vishnu. His father, Jamadagni, a great Saint Bhargva was a direct descendant of Lord Brahama Ji. Renuka the wife of Jamadagni and mother of Lord Parshuram gave birth to four sons before Parashurama. They were Vasu, Vishwa Vasu , Brihudyanu and Brutwakanwa before birth to her last son Parshuram. Lord Parshuram was the fifth son.

Before the birth of their fifth son, Rishi Jamadagni meditated with his wife Renuka at Tape Ka Tiba near Renuka lake for divine providence. Lord Shiva blessed both and at the request of Lord Shiva, Lord Vishnu assured them that he would be their 5th son. Renuka and Muni Jagdamgni named Rambhadra as their fifth and youngest son.

One day Renuka, who was known for her chastity and devotion to her husband, was asked by her husband Muni Jagmdagni to fetch water from a nearby river. She was so chaste that she was able to fetch water from the river in a pot of unbaked clay, with the pot held together only by the strength of her devotion.

She went to fetch water but as she reached the river, she saw a group of Gandharvas and beautiful Apsaras from heaven. They were bathing in the river, and came out of the river and boarded the Chariot, and passed away in the sky.

She thought for a while how were they beautiful and smart, and filled with desire for only a moment, the unbaked pot she held dissolved in the river. She became afraid to return to her husband, and she waited at the river bank, uncertain of what to do next.

Meanwhile, Muni Jamadagni noticed and knew every incident through his yogic powers,that there in the meditation that his wife had not returned. It enraged him too towards his wife Renuka.

The Rishi called his eldest son, handed him an axe and asked the boy to kill his mother. Horrified, the boy refused and so Jamadagni turned him to stone. He then asked each of his sons and as they refused, one by one, he turned them to stone. Finally only his youngest son, Parashurama was left. Ever obedient, the boy beheaded his mother with that axe.

Being so pleased Rishi Jamadagni, offered two boons to his fifth son Lord Parashurama. Lord Parshuram asked that his mother be brought back to life and his four brothers to be returned from stone to flesh. Impressed by the affection and devotion of his son, Jamadagni granted all his requests. Thus, he was named as Parshu Ram due to his axe from the father.

Lord Parshurama grew up to be a powerful youth. Though he was a Brahmin by birth, he expressed lot of interest in weapons. After completing his tutelage under his father who was himself a powerful archer, Lord Parshuram went to the Gandhamadana mountains. Over there, he undertook severe penances to please Lord Shiva.

Lord Shiva was pleased with this, and appeared before him and asked him for a boon. Parashurama expressed his desire to obtain celestial weapons from the God. Lord Shiva told him that he would grant the boon only when Parashurama proved himself to be a worthy soul.

So, After years of penances, Lord Shiva was pleased with Parashurama's devotion and summoned him. Lord Shiva ordered to Parashurama to slay the Daityas and Danavas who were the enemies of the Devas, to which the latter agreed.

After vanquishing the Daityas and Danavas in battle, Parashurama proved himself worthy and acquired the celestial weapons from Lord Shiva.


Parashurama by Raja Ravi Varma.

According to Hindu mythologies, Parashurama was the son of sage Jamadagni and his wife Renuka, living in a hut. They have a celestial cow called Surabhi which produces all they desire (such a cow is known as kamdhenu) .[1] A king named Arjuna Kartavirya (not to be confused with Arjuna the Pandava)[4][note 1] – learns about it and wants it. He asks Jamadagni to give it to him, but the sage refuses. While Parashurama is away from the hut, the king takes it by force.[1] Parashurama learns about this crime, and is upset. With his axe in his hand, he challenges the king to battle. They fight, and Parushama kills the king, according to the Hindu mythology.[3] The warrior class challenges him, and he kills all his challengers. The legend, states James Lochtefeld, likely has roots in the ancient conflict between the Brahmin caste with religious duties and the Kshatriya caste with warrior and enforcement role.[1][2].[5]

In some versions of the legend, after his martial exploits, Parashurama returns to his sage father with the Surabhi cow and tells him about the battles he had to fight. The sage does not congratulate Parashurama, but reprimands him stating that a Brahmin should never kill a king. He asks him to expiate his sin by going on pilgrimage. After Parashurama returns from pilgrimage, he is told that while was away, his father was killed by warriors seeking revenge. Parashurama again picks up his axe and kills many warriors in retaliation. In the end, he relinquishes his weapons and takes up Yoga.[6]

In Kannada folklore, especially in devotional songs sung by the Devdasis he is often referred to as son of Yellamma

Parasurama legends are notable for their discussion of violence, the cycles of retaliations, the impulse of krodha (anger), the inappropriateness of krodha, and repentance.[7] According to Madeleine Biardeau, Parasurama is a mythical character constructed in ancient Hindu thought as a fusion of contradictions, possibly to emphasize the ease with which those with military power tend to abuse it, and the moral issues in circumstances and one's actions, particularly violent ones.[8][9] According to Biardeau, in the Parashurama legend:

The violent Brahmin is condemned, ultimately transformed (Jamadagni [his father] rids himself of anger and is slain without resisting; Rama [Parashurama] retires, his mind at peace, to his mountain refuge).

— Madeleine Biardeau[10]

According to David Shulman, "Parashurama carries to a mythic extreme an enduring Brahmin conflict: on the one hand, restraint, purity, nonviolence, detachment; on the other, inherent power, and the recurring temptation to use it in the violent pursuit of an uncompromising vision". Indeed, states Shulman, the Parashurama myth implies that "the Brahmin can never be wholly free of violence, although it fails to specify its precise nature".[11]


He is generally presented as the fifth son of Renuka and rishi Jamadagni, states Thomas E Donaldson.[5] The legends of Parashurama appear in many Hindu texts, in different versions:[6]

  • In chapter 3.33 of the Mahabharata, he is the grandson of Satyavati, and the son of princess Renuka after she marries a Vedic scholar living in a forest.[5]
  • In chapter 6 of the Devi Bhagavata Purana, he is born from the thigh with intense light surrounding him that blinds all warriors, who then repent their evil ways and promise to lead a moral life if their eyesight is restored. The boy grants them the boon.[5]
  • In chapter 4 of the Vishnu Purana, Rcika prepares a meal for two women, one simple, and another with ingredients that if eaten would cause the woman to conceive a son with martial powers. The later is accidentally eaten by Renuka, and she then gives birth to Parashurama.[5]
  • In chapter 2 of the Vayu Purana, he is born after his mother Renuka eats a sacrificial offering made to both Rudra (Shiva) and Vishnu, which gives him dual characteristics of Kshatriya and Brahmin.[12]

Parashurama is described in some versions of the Mahabharata as the angry Brahmin who with his axe, killed huge number of Kshatriya warriors because they were abusing their power.[13] In other versions, he even kills his own mother because his father asks him to and claim she had committed a sin by having lustful thoughts after seeing a young couple frolicking in water.[14][4] After Parasurama obeys his father's order to kill his mother, his father grants him a boon. Parasurama asks for the reward that his mother be brought back to life, and she is restored to life.[14] Parasurama remains filled with sorrow after the violence, repents and expiates his sin.[4]

He plays important roles in the Mahabharata serving as mentor to Bhishma (chapter 5.178), Drona (chapter 1.121) and Karna (chapter 3.286), teaching weapon arts and helping key warriors in both sides of the war.[15][16][note 2]

In the Mahabharata, he is the teacher of warrior Karna.[1] In the regional literature of Kerala, he is the founder of the land, the one who brought it out of the sea and settled a Hindu community there.[2] He is also known as Rama Jamadagnya and Rama Bhargava in some Hindu texts.[3] Parashurama retired in the Mahendra mountain, according to chapter 2.3.47 of the Bhagavata Purana.[18] He is the only Vishnu avatar who never dies, never returns to abstract Vishnu and lives in meditative retirement.[4] Further, he is the only Vishnu avatar that co-exists with other Vishnu avatars Rama and Krishna in some versions of the Ramayana and Mahabharata respectively.[4][note 3]

Parashurama Kshetras

The regions of Konkan,coastal Karnataka and Kerala are considered as Parashurama Kshetra.[19][20]

The ancient Saptakonkana is a slightly larger region described in the Sahyadrikhanda which refers to it as Parashuramakshetra (Sanskrit for "the area of Parashurama").[21]

There is a Parshuram Kund, a Hindu pilgrimage centre in Lohit district of Arunachal Pradesh which is dedicated to the sage Parashurama.Thousands of pilgrims visit the place in winter every year, especially on the Makar Sankranti day for a holy dip in the sacred kund which is believed to wash away one's sins.[22][23]


The Hindu literature on iconography such as the Visnudharmottara Purana and Rupamandana describe him as a man with matted locks, with two hands, one carrying an axe. However, the Agni Purana portrays his iconography with four hands, carrying his axe, bow, arrow and sword. The Bhagavata Purana describes his icon as one four hands, carrying his axe, bow, arrows and a shield like a warrior.[24] Though a warrior, his representation inside Hindu temples with him in war scenes is rare (the Basohli temple is one such exception). Typically, he is shown with two hands, with axe in his right hand either seated or standing.[24]


See also


  1. ^ The Mahabharata includes legends about both Arjuna, one is dharmic (moral) and other adharmic (immoral); in some versions, Arjuna Kartavirya has mixed moral-immoral characteristics consistent with the Hindu belief that there is varying degrees of good and evil in every person.[4]
  2. ^ The Sanskrit epic uses multiple names for Parashurama in its verses: Parashurama, Jamadagnya, Rama (his name shortened, but not to be confused with Rama of Ramayana), etc.[17]
  3. ^ These texts also state that Parasurama lost the essence of Vishnu while he was alive, and Vishnu then appeared as a complete avatar in Rama, later Krishna.[4]


  1. ^ a b c d e 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. ^ a b c Constance Jones; James D. Ryan (2006). Encyclopedia of Hinduism. Infobase Publishing. p. 324. ISBN 978-0-8160-7564-5. 
  3. ^ a b c 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. ^ a b c d e f g Lynn Thomas (2014). Julia Leslie, ed. Myth and Mythmaking: Continuous Evolution in Indian Tradition. Routledge. pp. 64–66 with footnotes. ISBN 978-1-136-77881-0. 
  5. ^ a b c d e 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. 159–160. ISBN 978-81-7017-316-8. 
  6. ^ a b Cornelia Dimmitt (2012). Classical Hindu Mythology: A Reader in the Sanskrit Puranas. Temple University Press. pp. 82–85. ISBN 978-1-4399-0464-0. 
  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. 161–70. ISBN 978-81-7017-316-8. 
  8. ^ Madeleine BIARDEAU (1976), Études de Mythologie Hindoue (IV): Bhakti et avatāra, Bulletin de l'École française d'Extrême-Orient, École française d’Extrême-Orient, Vol. 63 (1976), pp. 182-191, context: 111-263
  9. ^ Freda Matchett (2001). Krishna, Lord Or Avatara?. Routledge. pp. 206 with note 53. ISBN 978-0-7007-1281-6. 
  10. ^ M Biardeau (1970). The Story of Arjuna Kartavirya without Reconstruction, Purana, Volume XII, Issue 2, pp. 293-294, context: 286-303
  11. ^ David Dean Shulman (2014). The King and the Clown in South Indian Myth and Poetry. Princeton University Press. p. 118. ISBN 978-1-4008-5775-3. 
  12. ^ 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. 
  13. ^ Ganguly KM (1883). "Drona Parva Section LXX". The Mahabharata of Krishna-Dwaipayana Vyasa. Sacred Texts. Retrieved 15 June 2016. 
  14. ^ a b Daniel E Bassuk (1987). Incarnation in Hinduism and Christianity: The Myth of the God-Man. Palgrave Macmillan. p. 30. ISBN 978-1-349-08642-9. 
  15. ^ Kisari Mohan Ganguli (1896). "Mahabaratha, Digvijaya yatra of Karna". The Mahabharata. Sacred Texts. Retrieved 11 June 2015. 
  16. ^ Lynn Thomas (2014). Julia Leslie, ed. Myth and Mythmaking: Continuous Evolution in Indian Tradition. Routledge. pp. 66–69 with footnotes. ISBN 978-1-136-77881-0. 
  17. ^ Lynn Thomas (2014). Julia Leslie, ed. Myth and Mythmaking: Continuous Evolution in Indian Tradition. Routledge. pp. 69–71 with footnotes. ISBN 978-1-136-77881-0. 
  18. ^ 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. 174–175. ISBN 978-81-7017-316-8. 
  19. ^ Stanley Wolpert (2006), Encyclopedia of India, Thomson Gale, ISBN 0-684-31350-2, page 80
  20. ^ 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. 170–174. ISBN 978-81-7017-316-8. 
  21. ^ Chandra, Suresh (1998). Encyclopedia of Hindu Gods & Goddesses. Sarup & Sons. p. 376. 
  22. ^ "Thousands gather at Parshuram Kund for holy dip on Makar Sankranti". The News Mill. Retrieved 2017-01-13. 
  23. ^ "70,000 devotees take holy dip in Parshuram Kund". Indian Express. Jan 18, 2013. Retrieved 2014-06-29. 
  24. ^ a b 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. 178–180. ISBN 978-81-7017-316-8. 
  25. ^ 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. 182–183. ISBN 978-81-7017-316-8. 


  • KM, Ganguly (2016) [1883]. The Mahabharata of Krishna-Dwaipayana Vyasa (Drona Parva Section LXX ed.). Sacred Texts. 
  • Mackenzie, Donald A. Indian Myth and Legend. Sacred Texts. 

External links

  • Media related to Parashuram at Wikimedia Commons
  • 108 Parashurama Kshetras published by Shaivam and Google Maps
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