Story of Parashurama, part 3.
Defeat from Rama
Sri Rama listened to the arrogant words of Parashurama cooly and then spoke to him.
"Bhargava Rama, we know about your killing the kshatriyas going round the world twenty one times because one of them killed your father. It is natural for brave men to wreak vengeance on the wrong doers and therefore we approve of what you have done. But you have been talking to me thinking that I am weak and your words are far from being respectful. I am a kshatriya and therefore I am very polite to you. If you take my humility to be my weakness, you are sadly mistaken. Reality is far from it. Let me show my strength to you. I have been keeping quiet because I thought I should not do anything without my father's permission."
So saying, he snatched the divine bow from Parashurama's hand in an angry mood, stringed it and fixed an arrow to it.
Parashurama could not believe his eyes. He did not expect Sri Rama even lift the bow, let alone stringing it. He had not seen any one so strong and brave as Sri Rama.
Sri Rama said, "Bhargava Rama, I have done what you desired me to do. Who should I let the arrow fly at? I cannot shoot at an innocent person. The only person I can shoot is you, but you are a brahmin. I am not ready to commit the sin of killing a brahmin. Further I know that you are a near relation of our beloved teacher Visvamithra. I have already fixed this arrow to the bow. I have to let it fly. I can let it fly on any power you have attained or the punyaloka you have acquired as a result of your tapas and then destroy it. I cannot wait. Tell me immediately what is going to be the target. This divine arrow, once fixed to the bow must be used and we cannot waste it.
It was a rare sight. No one had ever witnessed such a divine happening. All the devas and danavas, brahmarshis, devarshis and even Lord Brahma ranged themselves in the sky to watch the spectacle. It was a rare sight to see Sri Rama raise the divine Vaishnava bow ready to shoot. When they saw Sri Rama their hair stood on end. They were thrilled at the sight.
Now Parashurama had to speak out. He grew pale. He had not experienced such a thing in his life. He began to speak in a soft voice.
"Long ago when I made a gift of the land I had won to sage Kashyapa he ordered me not to stay for a moment on the land I had given him as a gift. I had to obey my teacher and I took a vow not to stay on that land even for a moment. Everyone knew it. Therefore I had to be moving about all the time. Therefore do not shoot the arrow in the direction of my path. You let the arrow fly to the punyaloka I gained as a result of my tapas. I do not mind losing it. I am going to Mount Mahendra with the speed of the mind.
You are not an ordinary mortal. You are Madusudhana Vishnu Himself. You could not have achieved this feat if you had been someone else. May you succeed in all that you do. In order to watch you perform the great task all the devas, danavas, rishis and even Lord Brahma are waiting in the sky. They expect to see you perform the task which should prove that you are matchless. They know that there is no one who can fight with you and they are expecting you to prove it. I would like to make a point. You have stringed and fixed an arrow to the bow of Mahavishnu. None but Vishnu can do it. You are Maha Vishnu himself. I have not been defeated by anyone so far. Now you have defeated me and I accept it. I have been defeated by Srimannarayana and no one else. I do not feel ashamed of this defeat. As you suggested, you destroy the Punyaloka I have earned with my tapas. Then I will commence my journey. As Parashurama was saying thus Sri Rama let fly the arrow in the direction of the punyaloka Parashurama gained by his tapas until then. In an instant all he had gained until then got destroyed. Parashurama watched the incident dispassionately and wished Sri Rama well, went round Sri Rama and left the place in the direction Mount Mahendra.
All the gods who were watching the spectacle praised Sri Rama to their heart's contentment and left for their respective places. Dasharatha was happy to see that the unexpected danger was warded off easily and continued his journey to Ayodhya with his entourage.
We know that Parashu Rama lost his power when he met Sri Rama. We also know that he went Mount Mahendra and began to do penance. His ancestors (the Pithru devathas) came to know about his miserable plight and they came to him and advised him saying, Rama, hereafter do nothing but tapas. There is a holy river by name Vadhoosara. It is a divine river. If you have a dip in it, you will gain your lost lustre. Go and do it immediately Don't worry, By the way, there is a special place in that river called Deeptoda and that is the holiest spot in the river. One of your ancestors, sage Brigu performed tapas at that spot and as a result of it, the place will give you immediate result. Go there and have a dip in that spot and get back your lustre." Parashu Rama went to the spot without wasting any time and had a bath in the holy water and regained his divine body. Dronacharya, the son of sage Bharadwaja was studying in his father's ashram. After mastering vedas and vedangas, he had a desire to study archery. He studied archery to some extent and when he desired for expertise in it, he came to know that there was a great person who could teach him and that was Parashurama, the son of Jamadagni. He also came to know that Parashurama destroyed all his enemies with the help of his skill in archery. This made him resolve to go to Parashurama and study archery and a lot of other things under him.
He left for Mount Mahendra with a number of his friends. He made oblations to the great sage and said, "I am Drona the son of sage Bharadwaja and I have come here to seek your blessings. I am here to seek a great gift from you."
"O best among brahmins, welcome to you. Please be clear. What do you seek from me?" said Parashurama. "The wealth I seek from you is of a permanent nature" said Drona.
O great sage Drona, I am sorry, you came a bit late. I have gifted away all the wealth I have acquired to brahmins. All the land I had won was gifted away to sage Kashyap. I have this mortal body of mine and a number of divine weapons and the knowledge as to how to use them you can get either of these two" said Parashurama.
"O revered one, the great wealth I seek from you is the wealth of the rare divine weapon and skill relating to the use and retrieval of those weapons. I have come here just for that. Please bless me with them," implored Drona.
Parashurama taught Drona the uses of various divine astras he had and also their retrieval. He also taught him certain ritualistic features of those divine weapons. Drona was happy that he was blessed with all that he desired for and returned to his ashram.
Karna who figures in the Mahabharatha, especially in the Kurukshetra war was known as the son of a charioteer or Suthaputra. Suta means one who drives a chariot. Karna, was actually born of Kunti, blessed by the sun god. She was a maiden when he was born. This Karna being the son of the sun god, had irresistible enthusiasm for fighting. As a boy he was greatly interested in learning and mastering the use of weapons of various types. He went to Dronacharya and learnt archery. He was eager to learn the use of brahmastra the most powerful among divine weapons. Drona refused to teach the use of the weapon saying that the art could be mastered by only chaste Kshatriyas or brahmanas and the son of a charioteer like him was not entitled to that knowledge and skill. He thus refused to impart that skill to Karna.
Karna was disappointed, but he rewarded Drona for all that he had taught him. He took his blessings and permission and made for Mount Mahendra. He met Bhargava Rama with the hope of becoming his disciple and learn the use of divine weapons. According to tradition, he fell at the sage's feet and said, "I am a brahmin boy of Bhargava clan and I have come here to learn from you." He conducted himself as a brahmin boy would. Parashurama ascertained his family background and other details and began to teach him archery and shastras. Karna's politeness and obedience won him his teacher's love and confidence. During his stay on the Mahendra ranges, he had the good, fortune to come into contact with a number of gandharvas, rakshasa, yakshas and devas who frequented the place very often. Karna began to practise archery vigorously as he was motivated by the presence of the semidivine beings. The gandharvas, were very much attracted by his great skill in archery and he became their favourite, with his humility, devotion and his ability to control his senses, he became Parashurama's favourite disciple. Finally Parashurama taught Karna the use of the divine Brahmastra and its retrieval techniques Karna's joy knew no bounds and he began to practise the art with redoubled vigour. Fie wanted to become perfect in what he had learnt.
Once Parashurama had to perform a severe Vritha and he became very tired. He wanted to have rest. He placed his head on Karna's lap as he had earned his teacher's love and confidence as the best among his disciples. Therefore Parashurama made Karna's lap as a pillow and fell asleep. As soon as the teacher fell asleep a terrible beetle which lived on human flesh and blood, began to bore a hole in Karna's thigh. It drank blood and ate flesh and a lot of blood spilt on the floor. He suffered the pain silently as he did not want to disturb the sleeping teacher. He did not try to scare away the beetle either. As minutes passed, a lot of blood flowed on the floor and the warmth of the blood made the teacher wake up from his sleep. He got up in a huff. He said, "Son my body had got polluted as a result of the touch of blood and flesh. What has happened? Tell me the truth. Do not hide anything."
Karna said, "O revered acharya, please pardon me for what has happened. A beetle came and began to bore my thigh and it caused the damage. I did not want to disturb your sleep and therefore I tolerated the pain and sat without moving." The teacher began to have doubts about his disciple's identity. He grew wild and said, "No brahmin will ever, tolerate such pain. You fool tell me who you are. You told me you are a brahmin and became my deciple. You are not a brahmin. Knowing that I hate Kshatriyas, you told me a lie and you have cheated me. Be honest and tell me the truth."