Parasurama in the Ramayana


<< Part 2 >>

Parasurama is a unique avatar in the sense that he makes an appearance in the story of Rama, another avatar of Lord Vishnu.

King Janaka had laid down the condition that he would offer his daughter Sita’s hand in marriage to anybody who would be able to string Shiva’s celestial bow which was in his possession. When Rama arrives at Janaka’s court and very easily manages to string the bow, he becomes eligible to marry Sita. After the wedding, when the procession leaves Mithila, the capital city of Janaka and proceeds towards Ayodhya, they suddenly witness strange omens and a fierce tempest.

Out of the darkness and dust that had engulfed the procession, there emerged the fearsome form of Parasurama dressed in tiger skins with matted locks of hair on his head. The warrior sage Parasurama had a reputation as being a fierce warrior who had single-handedly overcome the Kshatriya race on earth multiple times. He now stood before the procession with his battle-axe in one hand and an arrow which resembled lightning in the other hand.

After accepting the honor accorded to him by Dasharatha’s priests, Parasurama addresses Rama O Rama, I have heard of your strength and prowess. By stringing and breaking Shiva’s bow, you have performed an incredible feat.

You have surely heard of my vow against the Kshatriyas. How can I tolerate such prowess in a Kshatriya such as yourself? I have here another sacred bow of Vishnu. Fit this celestial arrow upon this bow and draw it to its full strength. If you are able to do, I challenge you to single combat.

Dasaratha was horrified at this turn of events. Parasurama’s unforgiving hatred against all Kshatriyas was something that all of them had heard about and learnt to be scared of from the time they were all little children. He approached the sage with folded arms and entreated him to spare the young prince. Parasurama ignored him and continued to address Rama.

Both the bow broken by you and the one I carry now were crafted by the architect of the gods, Visvakarma. The one you broke earlier belonged to Shiva, but this one belonged to Vishnu and is therefore more powerful.

This bow has been passed on by Vishnu to my ancestors and thereafter to me. I now offer it to you, Rama. Considering your sacred duty as a warrior to always accept a challenge, exhibit your strength to me.

Unperturbed by Parasurama’s anger and demeanor, Rama addressed him thus You are a Brahmin sage and are therefore worthy of my worship. However since you despise the entire Kshatriya class, you despise me and I therefore have no choice but to display my prowess to you.

Rama took the bow and arrow from Parasurama, easily fit the arrow in the bow and drew it to its fullest extent, and asked the sage Where shall I discharge this deadly arrow? As you are my superior, I cannot aim it at you.

Impressed and astonished Parasurama immediately realized that this was no ordinary Kshatriya standing there in front of him. You surely must be Lord Vishnu himself. I accept defeat but am not ashamed as you are indeed the lord of all the worlds.

You have already divested me of all my power and my pride. Please release this arrow on my desires for heavenly pleasures and burn them to ashes. The only thing that I now desire is to become your eternal servant.

Saying so Parasurama bowed down before Rama who released the arrow. The sage immediately vanished along with the arrow. Varuna, the god of the water then appeared before Rama and gave him the celestial bow to keep, on behalf of all the gods.

15 thoughts on “Parasurama in the Ramayana

  1. Aah…this is the story my father used to tell us often we were kids 🙂 As a child I always wondered how the two avatars of Lord Vishnu came to appear at the same time. I guess I was too much of a stickler to the linearity of time back then 🙂
    What next? Parasurama in Mahabharata? 🙂

  2. Such an interesting turn of events isn’t it?
    Parashurama, shows himself in both Ramayana and Mahabharatha .. though he himself is one of Vishnu’s avataras… Such absolute divinity! 🙂

  3. hmmm Glad Parasurama accepted defeat else so many innocent would have died ..

    I am sure I have read the story but for some reason I could not recollect it, so thank you for Telling it again..

  4. So I had the same did Rama and Parasurama come face to face with each other when both were Vishnu..waiting for tomorrow’s post 🙂

  5. Actually – upto Parashuram it was supposed to be ANSHAVATAR – so, even after the ansh of Vishnu departed from Parashuram, there was still a Parashuram left behind. From Ram onwards, it is supposed to be Poornavatar.

    Another interesting sidelight – Kartaviryarjun was a devotee of Dattatreya – another avatar of Vishnu born of (or brought up by, depending on the tale) Atri and Anasuya, after the Trimurtis test her fidelity by asking her to serve them food in the nude – which she does by changing them into babies. (Som/Chandrama was Brahma; Durvasa was Shiva). Thus one avatar of Vishnu – Parasuram – destroyed the devotee of another avatar of Vishnu!

  6. I follow the posts regularly as I love and fascinated with mythology. Actually I have heard these stories when I was a kid, from my father(who is a very religious man and book worm of puranas) as well as in Prabachans (in odia we call parayana). But I keep forgetting the stories. Thanks a lot for all the posts not only this one. But I have a doubt which just popped into my mind now. As I know the sequence of our four Yugas is – Satya -> Tretya -> Dwapar -> Kali. My doubt is if Parasurama vanished in Tretya yuga when Rama released the arrow on him, how did he appear in dwapar ?
    Also as my father had told me a sloka from the Puranas ofcourse which was like (pardon any mistakes)-
    “Ashwathama Bali Vyasa, Hanumana-scha Vivishana; Krupa Parasurama-scha sapteyte chira-jivinaha.”
    Means these are the seven immortals.
    If Parasurama is an immortal then where did he dissappear ? and how did he re-appear ?
    And also if the ansh of vishnu departed from Parasurama after meeting Rama how he still so powerful to fight with Vishma in dwapar Or is it because his power diminished which is why he couldn’t beat Vishma and the fight ended in a draw ?
    Could you please share your knowledge and clear my doubt so that i can tell the stories clearly and proudly to my kids.
    Narayan Das.

    • @Narayan Das, first of all thank you so much for reading the posts and liking them as much as you do. Regarding the question itself as to how Parasurama vanishes in Treta Yuga and then reappears in Dwapara Yuga and as to what he was doing in the meantime, it is something that I have to do some reading up on myself, and I will surely publish a post on the same as and when I get to know of the story behind this question.

      And the second question you asked as to whether his power is diminished when he fought Bhishma is also quite an interesting perspective. I didn’t quite think of it that way all these days.

      Will surely put up a post addressing these questions sometime soon.

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