Shrī Parshuram is sixth reincarnation of Shrīvishnu. His legends are found in the Holy texts, Rāmāyan, Mahābhārat and some Purāns.
Shri Parashuram’s mother was Renuka and father was Rushi Jamadagni. He was born in Bhrugu dynasty. Shri Parashuram was born in the nineteenth Trētāyug (in the transition period between Treta and Dwāpar yug according to Mahabharat). Shri Parashuram was born in a dynasty which was predominant in Divine radiance (Brahmatēj) and kindled with the radiance of the fighting spirit (Kshātratēj).
His physical appearance can be described as having a mammoth physique, matted hair on the head, bow on the shoulder and holding an Axe (Parashū) in the hand.
Getting the Divine weapon Parashu from Deity Shiva
Shri Parashuram left home to do devout austerities (tapascharyā) to please Deity Shiva. Considering his extreme devotion, intense desire and unmoved and perpetual meditation (dhyān), Deity Shiva was pleased with Shri Parashuram. He presented Shri Parashuram with Divine weapons. Included was His unconquerable and indestructible axe shaped weapon, Parashu. Deity Shiva advised him to go and liberate the Mother Earth from felons, ill-behaved people, extremists, demons and those blind with sexual passion and pride.
Once, Deity Shiva challenged Shri Parashuram to a battle to test his skills in warfare. The spiritual master (Gurudēv) Deity Shiva and the disciple Shri Parashuram were locked in a fierce battle. This dreadful duel lasted for twenty one days. While ducking to avoid being hit by the Trident (Trishūl) of Deity Shiva, Shri Parashuram vigorously attacked Him with his Parashu. It struck Deity Shiva on the forehead creating a wound. Deity Shiva was very pleased to see the amazing warfare skills of His disciple. He passionately embraced Shri Parashuram. Deity Shiva preserved this wound as an ornament so that the reputation of His disciple remained imperishable and insurmountable. ‘Khanda-parshu‘ (wounded by Parashu) is one of the thousand names (for the salutation) of Deity Shiva.
Getting a bow named Vijay (Vijay Dhanushya) from Deity Indra
Shri Parashuram, cut/clipped the thousand arms of Sahasrarjun, one by one, with his Parashu and destroyed/killed him. He repelled his army by showering arrows on them. The whole country greatly welcomed the destruction of Sahasrarjun. The king of Deities, Indra was so pleased that he presented His most beloved bow named ‘Vijay’ to Shri Parashuram. Deity Indra had destroyed demon dynasties with this bow. By the fatal arrows shot with the help of this bow ‘Vijay’, Shri Parashuram destroyed the miscreant Kshatriyas twenty one times. Later Shri Parashuram presented this bow to his disciple Karna when he was pleased with his intense devotion to the Guru (Gurubhakti). Karna became unconquerable with help of this bow ‘Vijay’ presented to him by Shri Parashuram.
Attributes of Shri Parashuram
‘Agratah chaturovedah prushthatah sasharam dhanuh |
Idam braahmam idam kshatram shaapadapi sharaasdapi ||’
Meaning: Knows four Vēdās by heart, means has full knowledge of them. Has arrows and bow on the back, means has valour; which also means has both, radiance of Brahmā and of Kshatriya. Shri Parashuram will defeat anyone that opposes him, either by a curse or by shooting an arrow.
Passing on Divine radiance (tēj) to Shrīram
When Shri Parashuram came to know about Shriram’s glory, he decided to test Shriram’s bravery. He confronted Shriram on His way, gave his bow to Him and asked Him to bend it. He also asked him for a target to shoot the arrow at. Shriram obeyed him. Also as told by Shri Parashuram, Shriram controlled Shri Parashuram‘s movement on this (Kashyapi) land. Shri Parashuram was pleased with this and presented his bow to Shriram. In this way, Shri Parashuram passed on his Kshātra (fighting spirit) radiance to Shriram.
The best instructor/teacher of archery
After laying down his arms, Shri Parashuram gave up his animosity towards Kshatriyas and started teaching art of weaponry to both Brahmins and Kshatriyas all alike. The great warriors of Mahabharat, Bhishmacharya, Dronacharya, Karna, etc. were disciples of Shri Parashuram.
Shri Parashuram undertook many campaigns for killing Kshatriyas, due to which he became the king of the entire Earth. He was then entitled to perform the Ashvamedh sacrificial fire (yadnya), which he performed. At the end of the yadnya, he donated the entire land to Kashyap, the presiding priest of the yadnya.
Creating new land
Kashyap realised that as long as Shri Parashuram is living on this land, the Kshatriyas will not prosper here. So he told Shri Parashuram ‘Now I have authority over this land. You have no right to even stay here.’ Shri Parashuram then pushed and shifted the sea backwards and created his own place/terrain. The land between Vaitarana and Kanyakumari (coastal places in South India) is known as ‘the land of Shri Parashuram‘ (Shri Parashuram-Kshētra).
Shri Parashuram is one of the seven persons who are considered as immortal (sapta-chiranjeev).
Shri Parashuram’s mission – the killing of vile Kshatriyas
Sage Vālmīki described Shri Parashuram as killer of kings (rajvi-mardan) and not as the killer of Kshatriyas (Kshatravi-mardan). From this we can infer that Shri Parashuram did not kill all the Kshatriyas but killed only those Kshatriyas who were wicked and vile.
Kartavirya had taken away the Kāmadhēnu (a Divine, wish-fulfilling cow) and her calf from the hermitage of Rushi Jamadagni. Shri Parashuram was not present at that time. On his return, when he came to know about it, he vowed to kill Kartavirya. They fought a fierce duel on the banks of the river Narmada. Shri Parashuram killed Kartavirya during this war. Subsequently he left for a pilgrimage and austerities on the command of his father Jamadagni.
After Shri Parashuram had left, Haihayas killed Rushi Jamadagni by beheading him, in order to take revenge for the killing of Kartavirya. On hearing this, Shri Parashuram immediately returned to the hermitage. When he saw the twenty one wounds on the body of Jamadagni, his father, he instantly vowed that ‘I will eliminate entire the Kshatriya race twenty-one times from this Earth, as a punishment for the killing a Brāhman (Jamadagni) by Haihayas and other vile Kshatriyas.’ As per this vow, he would kill arrogant Kshatriyas and go back on Mount Mahendra, then again come back to eliminate them when they became arrogant. He repeated this campaign twenty one times. After fighting the last war at Samantapanchak, he washed his blood smeared Parashu (axe) and laid down his arms.
Sacred places of (worship) Shri Parashuram
The sacred places of Shri Parashuram are In the fort on the mount Salher which is at the extreme north end of the Sahyadri mountain range; in the Kangda district of Punjab (North India); on a mountain five kilometres away from Chiplun in Konkan (West India); and there is also an old temple of Shri Parashuram on a mountain near Kankon in Gomantak (Goa, India).
Ritualistic worship and significance of Shri Parshuram Jayanti:
Since Shri Parashuram is reincarnation of Shrivishnu, he is worshipped as a Deity of worship (Upaasya-dēvatā). The birth anniversary of Shri Parashuram (Shri Parshuram Jayanti), which falls on the third day of the bright fortnight of the Hindu calendar month Vaishākha, is celebrated as a festival and also as a vowed religious observance (vrat)
(Ref. : Sanatan’s Publication : Holy Festivals, Religious Festivals and Vowed Religious Observances Compilers : H.H. Dr. Jayant Athavale and Dr. (Mrs) Kunda Athavale)