31 Bhagavatha: Parashurama
Richika, a brahmin (a scion of Bhrigu) seeks the hand of Satyavathi, (daughter of Gadhi of the solar dynasty). Gadhi, as if to dissuade Richika, demands a thousand white horses, each having one black ear, as a price for his daughter. Richika, seeks Varuna (god of water) and obtains the horses and marries the lovely princess Satyavathi.
Satyavati, seeks Richika to bless her with a son, and also one for her mother. Richika, after intense meditation, prepares a charu (made of rice, barley and milk). He invokes two parts with separate mantras (for his wife and her mother) and goes out to bathe.
Satyavati's mother, (assuming that the charu prepared for her daughter would be superior) swaps the charus and consumes the one meant for her daughter. Richika comes to know of the exchange of charus. "You have committed a big blunder. Your son will be a kshatriya and your brother, although a kshatriya, will be foremost in the knowledge of the Supreme." Satyavati pleads with Richika, that let her son not be so. Richika says, "If not, then your grandson will be such."
Jamadagni was born to them. Satyavati was transformed into the sacred river Kaushiki (Kosi). And to Gadhi's wife (Satyavati's mother) was born Kaushika, who shed his qualities of a kshatriya and attained brahminical glory, through his asceticism. He was known as Vishwamitra.
Jamadagni married Renuka. They had a number of sons, Vasuman and others, of whom the youngest was Rama, whom the learned speak of as a manifestation of Lord Srihari. He always wielded an axe, the parashu, hence called as Parashurama.
Arjuna, a ruler of the Haihayas, propitiated Lord Dattatreya and secured formidable powers and came to be known as Kartaviryarjuna. His superhuman powers made him proud and arrogant. Once Kartaviryarjuna comes to Jamadagni's hermitage. The sage provides hospitality for the king and his entire entourage -- by virtue of his spiritual powers and the help of the cow Kamadhenu. Kartaviryarjuna, jealous of the affluence displayed by the sage, carries away the cow Kamadhenu along with its calf.
Parashurama, who was away at the time, flew into a rage when he knew about this wickedness. Wielding the parashu, bow and arrows, clad in deer skin and matted locks, parashurama looked like the glowing sun, when he entered Mahishmathi, the city of Kartaviryarjuna. He destroys single-handedly, moving quick as the mind and the wind, the entire army of Kartaviryarjuna. With his parashu, Rama lops off the innumerable hands of Kartaviryarjuna and ultimately, his head too. Arjuna's sons ran away in fear. Parashurama brings back Kamadhenu, along with the calf, safely and hands her over to his father Jamadagni.
Jamadagni says, "Rama, you have committed a great sin in slaying a ruler of men. We have attained our title as brahmans through forgiveness alone. It is forgiveness which is our virtue, by which Lord Srihari is pleased. Slaying a king, whose head has been consecrated during the coronation is more sinful than killing a brahmana. So go and atone for the sin by reverentially visiting Thirthas (holy places)" Admonished thus, Parashurama performs the thirtha yatra for a year and returns to the hermitage.
Jamadagni's wife Renuka once happens to see Chitraratha, a gandharva, while getting water for the oblations from the river. Her mind is disturbed for a moment as she longs for the handsome gandharva, who was sporting with celestial nymphs. Gathering herself, she gets back to the hermitage with the water after the delay. Jamadagni, knowing Renuka's distraction of the mind, asks her sons to do away with their mother. Parashurama, who knew the spiritual prowess of his father, beheads his mother, and his brothers who disobeyed his father. The gratified Jamadagni, grants a boon and Parashurama, requests that all those killed by him should be revived. And they should not remember that he killed them. They all arise, as if after a sleep.
The sons of Kartaviryarjuna, seeking revenge, come to Jamadagni's ashram, and while Parashurama was away, hack the sage's head, as his wife Renuka helplessly wailed. Parashurama's anger knew no bounds. Holding his parashu, the battle-axe, and entrusting the body of his father to his brothers, he decides to end the tyranny of the kshatriya race. It is said that Renuka had beat her breast twenty one times, and it was that many generations of kshatriyas Parashurama wiped out. Parashurama, cleans himself of all the sins through a number of sacrifices performed to the gods, present in his own person.
In the next yuga, he encounters Rama, a kshatriya and challenges him to use the bow of Vishnu. Rama strings
the bow and seeks a target for it. Parashurama surrenders all his accumulated spiritual powers. Vishnu's bow was used by Rama to slay Ravana. Parashurama punished instantly, whereas Rama, tries persuasion before punishment.
Parashurama meditates in Mount Mahendra with a serene mind, after renouncing violence.