By Swami Harshananda
Paraśurāma literally means ‘Rāma of the battle-axe’.
Paraśurāma has been listed as the sixth avatāra or incarnation of Viṣṇu among the ten commonly known as Daśāvatāras. Since Rāma or Śrīrāma was his contemporary and drew his power into himself, Paraśurāma is often considered as a partial or temporary manifestation of the Lord Viṣṇu. Paraśurāma was the son of the great sage Jamadagni and Reṇukā.
Once, he was commanded by his father to cut off the head of his mother which he did. However, by praying to his father, he got her restored to life. During his absence, Kārtavīryārjuna, the king of Māhiṣmatl, visited the hermitage of Jamadagni who entertained him in a royal way. This was due to the power and grace of Kapilā, the wish-yielding divine cow. When the king wanted it for himself and the sage refused to part with it, he killed the sage and ransacked the whole place. It is also called khaṇḍaparaśu or the battle- axe.
After his return, on knowing about what had happened, Paraśurāma did severe penance to please Lord Śiva and obtained a divine Paraśu or battle-axe from him. With this he killed, not only Kārtavīryārjuna but also many other kṣattriya kings who had become tyrants and were terrorizing their subjects. However, in his encounter with Rāma, he lost all his power and went away for tapas to the Mahendra mountains. He is said to be a cirajīvin and hence, still living.
He was a great warrior and an expert in the use of various weapons. Droṇācārya and Karna were his disciples. Once he had to fight with Bhīṣma, the grandsire, but could not vanquish him.
- She was the daughter of the king Prasenajit.
- Cirajīvin means an immortal.
- The Concise Encyclopedia of Hinduism, Swami Harshananda, Ram Krishna Math, Bangalore