Parasurama in the Mahabharata


You can also read about Parasurama in the Ramayana by clicking here.

Bhishma, the patriarch of the Kuru dynasty attended the swayamvara conducted by the king of Kasi and proclaimed that he was taking the three princesses of the kingdom as brides for his step-brother Vichitravirya, the king of Hastinapur. He issued an open challenge to all the kings and princes assembled there to engage him in combat if they dared to do so.

Unknown to him or anybody else in the gathering was the fact that the eldest princess Amba was in love with the king Salwa. Before the swayamvara, she had decided that she would choose him as her husband and her desire to become his queen would be fulfilled, before Bhishma showed up at the event to spoil her plans. What was worse was that Salwa was defeated by Bhishma when he tried to prevent the patriarch from taking away the princesses to Hastinapur.

In Hastinapur, when Amba approached Satyavati and Bhishma and informed them of her love for Salwa and that she would want to be married to him, they allowed her to go to him unharmed and also provided an escort as well. However, when she reached the court of king Salwa, he declared that he no longer wished to marry her as he had been fairly defeated by Bhishma and that she belonged to him now. Despite her entreaties to the contrary, the king refused to take her as his wife and queen and sent her away.

Dismayed by this turn of events Amba took refuge in an ashram which was occupied by ascetics. Here, a sage Saikhavatya listened to her tale and offered her his assistance in her quest for justice. He first advised her to return to her father as there were only two true protectors of a woman; a father and a husband. When Amba declined and professed her decision to practice austerities, he advised her to approach Parasurama with her grievances and request him to seek retribution against Bhishma who she blamed for her current situation.

Parasurama after hearing her story and understanding her grievances offered to summon Bhishma and advise him to marry the princess himself as he had forcibly taken her away from her father’s kingdom. He also promised her that in case Bhishma didn’t heed to his words, he would surely engage him in battle. However, Amba was not pleased with this conciliatory approach taken by the great sage and wanted him to slay Bhishma who she held responsible for her plight.

Parasurama then goes to Kurukshetra and approaches Bhishma with Amba’s grievance. When the patriarch refuses to budge from his earlier stand, he then challenges him to engage with him in battle. Seeing no other option available to him, Bhishma agrees to engage in combat with the angry sage. Despite the efforts of Goddess Ganga, Bhishma’s mother to reconcile both men, neither of them budged from their stands and therefore the conflict was inevitable.

Both the formidable warriors then engaged in a battle which lasted for twenty three long days where neither of them had a distinct advantage over the other. Both of them matched each other in valor, skill and courage during this period and did not allow the other to gain an upper hand. Finally, when both of them had lost their patience with the combat, they started using celestial weapons one after the other wreaking havoc on the entire battlefield and the surrounding areas. Disturbed with this sudden serious turn of affairs, Narada and other celestial sages from the heavens appeared before both the combatants, Bhishma and Parasurama and advised them to desist from fighting each other.

Finally heeding to these wise words Parasurama ended the conflict and the battle was declared a draw. Parasurama then went  to Amba and addressed her thus – O Amba, as you are well aware I fought Bhishma for twenty three days now and have been unable to defeat him despite my best efforts, power, might and celestial weapons. You have no other option than to seek his protection.

Amba refused to heed to his words and told him that she intended to undertake severe austerities and seek celestial blessings in her quest to extract revenge on Bhishma for the situation she found herself in. She would then go on to conduct a twelve year long penance which resulted in her being given a boon by none other that Shiva himself.


You can also read about Parasurama in the Ramayana by clicking here.

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.

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  >>

Parasurama – The story of Jamadagni’s birth


It is a well-known story that the Supreme Personality of God-head annihilated the Kshatriyas on earth twenty-one times in the incarnation of Parasurama. This series of posts tries to narrate the circumstances based on which Lord Vishnu had to take birth as Parasurama and kill the Kshatriyas on earth so many times.

Kartaviryarjuna, the king of the Haihaya dynasty received one thousand arms as a boon from Dattatreya Muni by worshipping him and performing severe austerities. He had also received the boon of unobstructed sensory power, beauty, influence, strength, fame and mystic power due to which he became extremely opulent. He was used to roaming the universe without any opposition.

Due to the lack of resistance from anybody in the three worlds, his pride and arrogance got the better of the king and he wreaked havoc by trampling upon the devas, asuras, rishis and yakshas in all the three worlds. When the troubled beings approached Vishnu for deliverance from the evil tyrant, the good lord promised them that Kartaviryarjuna would be slain by him in due course of time.


On earth, in Kanyakuvja there lived a virtuous ruler, known as Gadhi who had resigned to living in the forest peacefully when he begot a daughter. Her name was Satyavati and she was as beautiful as the nymphs in heaven. The son of sage Bhrigu, Richika asked for her hand in marriage to Gadhi, who stated his only condition to the marriage. As per his family custom, any bridegroom intending to marry his daughter would have to offer a dowry consisting of one thousand brown colored horses which had single sable ears.

Richika agreed to the condition and approached Lord Varuna for assistance Give me a thousand steeds brown in color and each one with a single black ear. I want them as dowry for my marriage. Varuna gifted the horses to the sage’s son who in turn gave them to Gadhi and married Satyavati.

Pleased with his son’s marriage and his daughter-in-law’s devotion and service, sage Bhrigu offered her a boon that she could ask him anything she wished for. She wished that a son be born to both herself and her mother.

The sage granted her the boon and informed her of the following conditions to be fulfilled for it to come to fruition. During the days that your fertile period lasts, you and your mother must take a bath with the ceremony for bringing forth a male child. And then you two must separately embrace two trees – she a peepal tree and you a fig tree. Here, take these two pots of rice and milk, prepared by me with utmost care, with drugs and ingredients sourced from all over the universe. It must be taken as food with great care.

Despite these instructions, the two ladies accidentally interchanged the two pots of rice and milk and also hugged the wrong trees. By virtue of his divine knowledge sage Bhrigu came to the ashram and addressed Satyavati, since you and your mother partook of the wrong pots and also hugged the wrong trees, she will have a son who will be a Kshatriya by birth but will assume a life suitable to that of a saint, and you will be blessed with a son who will be of the priestly caste by birth but will have a character that would be suitable to a military order.

Satyavati then requested her father-in-law please make it so that my grandson and not my son have this character which the sage agreed to.

In due time, Satyavati then gave birth to Jamadagni who was endowed with splendor and grace. As the years went by, he grew in strength, and excelled the other saints in his proficiency of his knowledge. He was easily able to learn the knowledge of military art and other related subjects.

<< Part 2 >>

Vamana Avatar – Part 3 – Bali fulfills his promise


<< Part 2 >>

Angered at Bali not heeding to his warnings, Sukracharya cursed him – Since you are impudent enough to disobey my order, you will very soon be bereft of all your opulence and wealth.

Undaunted by this curse, Bali proceeded to wash Vamana’s feet and fulfill the promise made to him. Vamana then started increasing in size until everything in the universe was within his body, including the earth, the planetary systems, the sky, the directions, the black holes, the seas, the oceans, the birds, the beasts, humans, the devas and the asuras.

Manifesting himself in this manner, Vamana covered the entire surface of the earth with his first footstep and the heavenly planets with his second step.

Angered by the fact that their king was defeated by Lord Vishnu in the form of a young brahmachari, the asuras started fighting with the devas. Noticing this Bali expressly forbade them from doing so.

Vamana then addressed Bali You have promised me three steps of land, but I have occupied the entire universe with just two steps. Now, tell me, where do I place my third step? Because you have been unable to give charity as per your promise, the rule is that you should go down to live in the hellish planets for some time.

Undaunted by the young brahmachari’s words, Bali told him I cannot allow my promise to be false. Please, therefore, place your third footstep on my head.

I don’t fear being deprived of all my possessions, living in a hellish planet or being punished by you as much as I fear being defamed for being called a liar.

Pleased with Bali’s magnanimity and his devotion to being truthful, Vamana then asks him to go live in peace for the rest of his days in the planet Sutala unencumbered by the travails and troubles of being the asura king. Thus, Lord Vishnu delivered the proprietorship of the heavenly planets to Indra and fulfilled the promise that he had made to Aditi, the mother of the devas.