Parasurama – The scourge of the kshatriyas


<< Part 1  >>

On one hunting trip in the forest, Kartaviryarjuna was near the ashram of Jamadagni Muni. The sage received the king and his entourage and supplied all their necessities, as he possessed Kamadhenu, the celestial cow which would supply anything its master demanded of it. Hearing about the magical powers of the cow, the rude king wanted it for himself as he considered the holy man more powerful and wealthy by virtue of having it in his ashram.

Since Jamadagni relied on the cow to perform his daily pujas and rituals and more specifically the agnihotra sacrifice, he politely refused to part with the cow. Enraged by this, the king ordered his men to steal the cow and her calf and take them to his capital city.

When Jamadagni’s son, Parasurama returned to the ashram, he heard about what Kartaviryarjuna had done and was enraged. In his anger, he took his axe and a few other weapons and set off in the direction of Mahismati Puri, the capital city of the king. When the king was just about to reach his capital city, he noticed Parasurama pursuing him with weapons. He immediately sent seventeen aksauhinis (armed divisions of his army) to face him.

Parasurama, being well versed in the art of warfare and physical combat easily overcame the king’s army and kept advancing towards him. Then Kartaviryarjuna with his thousand arms took up five hundred bows simultaneously, strung arrows in all of them and unleashed them towards Parasurama. By virtue of his special powers, it took Parasurama only one divine arrow to cut to pieces all of the king’s bows and arrows.

Undaunted, the king uprooted many trees and hills with his bare hands and rushed towards Parasurama, who easily deflected them. He then proceeded to cut off each and every one of Kartaviryarjuna’s arms and finally beheaded him as well. Kartaviryarjuna was therefore put to death in front of his sons, who were a thousand in number.

Parasurama then freed the celestial cow Kamadhenu and her calf and took them home to his father’s ashram. On hearing about the king’s demise, Jamadagni was saddened and told his son that by killing Kartaviryarjuna who was an embodiment of all the demigods, he had committed a grave sin. He then instructed his son of the duty of a brahmana which was to cultivate the quality of forgiveness. Parasurama then proceeded to perform penance and austerities as his repentance for committing the sin of killing the king.


Once when Renuka, Jamadagni’s wife went to the banks of the river Ganga to fetch water for the ashram, she happened to see Chitrartha, the King of Gandharvas in the water in the company of some apsaras. Completely enamored and enchanted with his beauty and countenance, she stood there watching the king enjoying himself. A lot of time passed by and she failed to remember that she had to be back in the ashram, in time for the daily fire sacrifice that Jamadagni performed.

When she returned to the ashram, her husband, by virtue of his divine powers, identified the adultery in her mind and accordingly instructed his sons My dear sons, kill this sinful woman. But the sons, blinded by their maternal love, did not follow his order.

Infuriated with their insolence, the sage then asked his youngest son Parasurama to kill his mother for her sin of adultery and his brothers for their refusal to obey his orders. Knowing fully well the divine powers of his father by virtue of his penance and austerities, Parasurama immediately obeyed the orders and killed his mother and brothers. Pleased with his son’s obedience, when Jamadagni asked him to take any benediction, Parasurama said Father, let my mother and brothers live again and not remember having been killed by me.

When the benediction was granted, Jamadagni’s wife and sons came back to life as if they had just woken up from a deep sleep and did not have any recollection of having being killed by Parasurama at all.

In the meantime, Kartaviryarjuna’s sons were still angry at the death of their father at the hands of Parasurama. They were on the lookout for an opportunity to extract revenge for this insult on their honor. One time when Parasurama and his brothers were not at the ashram, they approached Jamadagni’s ashram and beheaded the holy man who was engaged in performing his holy sacrifices.

Lamenting in grief for the death of her husband, when Renuka beat her chest and cried out O Rama, my dear son Rama, Parasurama immediately heard his mother’s voice and came running back to the ashram. Seeing his dead father, he entrusted the dead body to his brothers and took an oath to end the scourge of Kshatriyas in this world.

Starting with the capital city Mahismati, Parasurama then set off leaving behind a trail of terror for all Kshatriyas on earth. By the time his revenge for his father’s death was complete he had managed to rid all the Kshatriyas from earth twenty one times. He had also created nine lakes with the blood of all his victims.

Thereafter Parasurama joined his father’s head to the dead body, placed it on a bed of kusa grass and began to worship Lord Vishnu. Thus being worshiped by his son and by virtue of his penance and austerities, Jamadagni was brought back to life by Vishnu.

<< Part 1  >>

24 thoughts on “Parasurama – The scourge of the kshatriyas

      • I did!

        I kind of feel bad for Parashurama. His loyalty and his anger got the better of him, I think.

      • @pixie, the way I see it he was destined to do what he ended up doing, that’s the whole point of Vishnu taking all these avataras in the first place, isn’t it? There was a bigger divine purpose to all the actions that the avataras took, beyond the comprehension of mere mortals.

  1. Pixie, like you even am waiting :):) wondering how to tell a less gory version to the brat..

    Mahabore, you should really work with an illustrator and come up with books with stories for kids based on the rich knowledge of mythology you have..parents like me will be eternally grateful 🙂

    • @R’s Mom, thanks a lot for the constant motivation and your kind words 😀

      I am considering approaching illustrators and coloring artists to try and see if I can come up with illustrated storybooks with some of these little known stories. It’s just that my day job and blogging keeps me quite busy and I need to figure out how to pull out time to get this done.

  2. Always wonderful to spend time with mythological stories, no matter how many times one has heard/read the different tellings and re-tellings. The richness, the multiple meanings one keeps discovering is so fulfilling! Thanks for another wonderful telling of the story of Parasurama.

  3. An interesting sidelight of this tale is that Parasuram would not kill a newly-wed Kshatriya OR one who is conducting a Yagna. It is said that Janak used to do yagna every year and Dasarath used to marry every year and, thus, were not destroyed by Parasuram.

    Btw, this tale is an indication of the need for balance in Society. When there are too many warriors, it leads to anarchy since there is lesser production to be divided among more unproductive people. Which in turn means that the warriors start taking things by force from the common people as well as fighting among themselves and going to war for loot. The story actually is the Bhudevi prays to Vishnu that the population of Kshatriyas had become too high and they were becoming a burden on her. Parashuram’s avatar was to cull the Kshatriya population – Sahastrarjun/Kartaviryarjun being only the spark that starts him off.

    • @Suresh, I didn’t know the anecdote about Janak and Dasharatha, thanks for adding that piece to this post 🙂

      And yes, the Bhudevi angle is so true and I have read about it, just that it didn’t quite occur to me when I was compiling this series of posts.

      Thanks once again for your valuable additions to this post. Really enhances the posts themselves 🙂

  4. Going on a tangent here.. killing is supposed to be bad.. and that too of innocent people.. so when a army was killed a lot of innocents died too..

    Why did god not save those innocents..

    Just a thought. .

    Although our mythology is full of such stories..

    Sorry about the tangent..

    • @Bikramjit, the only rationale that I can offer to that question of yours, and this is a statement that I firmly believe in as well, what is destined to happen will happen irrespective of anybody’s best attempts to prevent the same. If it was destined that thousands of innocent soldiers had to die due to these wars and battles from our mythological tales, then they would’ve happened despite anybody’s best attempts to prevent them.

      • well but it is also said that killing a innocent is the worst .. so how can there be two rules 🙂

        If I go and kill a innocent then that is also destined 🙂 so why should i be at fault …

      • @Bikramjit, don’t try giving the ‘it was destined to be so’ excuse to the cops after you kill somebody, not sure it will work that well 🙂 That destiny logic holds good only for mythological tales 😀

      • He he he I agree well maybe one of my own colleagues might come to lool into it.. and I might be able to convince them with the logic.. He he he

      • @Bikramjit, so it is a safe assumption that you are a cop, given that one of your ‘colleagues’ might come look into it 😀

      • shhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhh 🙂 I thought you probably knew.. because majority of the people who visit my blog or use to , know about that.

        You never visit that’s why you did not know he he hehe ok now this sounds like shameless advertising of blog.. sorry about that

  5. Good one..I remember having read this story long back. The narration is very good 🙂 Seems I missed a lot here.. good to be back here after a long time.. 🙂

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