There are three famous characters in Indian epics with name Rama. All the three are included among the ten important incarnations of Vishnu. They are all famous for their skill in warfare, too. The first was Parasurama or Rama with the axe (Parasu) as weapon. The other two are Sree Rama of Ramayana. The last is Balarama who was the elder brother of Krishna.
Parasurama was born to sage Jamadagni in Renuka in the family of Brahmins. He belonged to the lineage of the renowned sage Bhrigu. Because of this, he is also known as Bhargava Rama.
Our Rama with an axe was considered an authority on all the fields of warfare, especially in the science of archery. Several characters of Mahabharata, for example Drona and Karna, were disciples of this sage. One may wonder why he ended up being a warrior in spite of being born in an illustrious family of Brahmins. The following story throws some light on this point.
Another important character in our story is a Hehaya king by name Arjuna. He was the son of Kritavirya and hence is known as Kartavirya Arjuna. It is said that he meditated on sage Dattatreya and got one thousand arms with his blessings.
An obedient son
Jamadagni had five sons in Renuka, the last being Rama. One day, Renuka went to the nearby river for bath. She happened to watch a king by name Chitraratha enjoying himself in the company of his wives in the same river. The good lady, Renuka, was infatuated with the king and forgot herself for a while watching him. When she came to her senses she quickly returned to the hermitage. But, sage Jamadagni’s watchful eyes noticed the change in mood in his wife and knew the reason with his special powers. He was enraged. He ordered his sons to kill his wife for this impropriety. The first four refused to do such a heinous crime. Jamadagni was angry with his sons and cursed them that they would lose their senses and become like animals.
Rama did not think twice and chopped the head of his mother with his axe. Jamadagni was pleased with his youngest son. By then, his anger had also left him.
The sage asked his son, Rama, for a boon. Parasurama promptly asked for the life of his mother. The Maharshi (sage) asked Rama to ask for another boon. Rama requested his father that his brothers get back to their normal senses. Jamadagni blessed Rama by way of the third boon that he would become the best in the world in warfare.
An encounter with Kartaveeryarjuna
One day sage Jamadagni had gone out. At that time the Hehaya king, Arjuna, came to the hermitage with his soldiers. Renuka received the king cordially. Sage Jamdagni had a special cow which served all the needs of the sage for his rituals. Arjuna was impressed with the extraordinary gifts of the cow and forcefully carried the animal away.
Soon Rama arrived, hearing the cry of the cow on the way. His mother told him all that happened. Parasurama was furious. He rushed to Kartaviryarjuna and challenged him for a battle. Parasurama chopped all the one thousand arms of the powerful Arjuna. Then, he pierced the breast of the king of Hehaya with his arrows and killed him.
The soldiers of Arjuna took flight unable to face the onslaught of Rama. They met sage Jamadagni collecting firewood for his daily rituals on the way. They took revenge for the killing of their king with the life of the unsuspecting sage.
Rama was deeply saddened to know about the killing of his father. He thought that the entire Kshatriya (royal) community had become arrogant beyond limit. He took an oath that he would teach them a lesson. It is said that he went around and killed all the kings whom he could find. This he did to twenty one generations of kings. He came to a place called Samanta Pancaka in between and washed his axe there in homage to his dead father. It is said that five rivers of blood started as a result from that place. (The Mahabharata war took place near there)
We now return, again briefly, to Arshajnanam to keep track of the progress of the Pandavas’ pilgrimage.