Story of Parashurama, part 2.
Penitence for violence
Parashurama began to feel miserable when thought of the bloodshed he caused. He knew that he had done something which a person born in the family of Brahmarshis should not have done. As all the kings had been killed, Parashurama was the master of the entire world, because there was no one to stake his claim to even an inch of land. In order to cleanse himself of his sins, he performed an Aswamedha Yaga. In order to successfully complete a yaga one has to give gifts profusely. Therefore Parashurama gifted away the land he had conquered, to sage Kashyapa. Sage Kashyapa who received the gift had a doubt. He thought Parashurama might go on a rampage once again killing kings. Therefore he asked him to leave the land area he had gifted to him. He suggested to Parashurama to go to the south western part of the land and live there. Accordingly Parashurama went to the south and reached the western shore. He asked the king of the sea to grant him some land for him to live. The land thus gained by Parashurama came to be called 'Shoopanaraka' and also 'Aparanthaka BhoomT.
We know that Parashurama went round the world twenty one times destroying kings and princes. In the end he performed, as has already been referred to, an Aswamedha yaga and gifted away the land he conquered, to sage Kashyapa and went to the forest for doing penance. As there were no Khatriyas on the face of the earth, bringing in Brahmins to fill the gap became imperative.
If a person who has been assigned certain duties by dharma, does it well, it is good for the world and for himself. Brahmins should study, acquire knowledge and teach it to the world. Kshatriyas have to rule over the land with the help of brahmins such an arrangement is good and beneficial to the world. Here it did not work that way. Brahmins got the land. It was fine. But how should they protect land against the bad elements? They did not have the physical power and skill to do so. They had sharp brains, but they had not wielded weapons. Without that they could not defend their land against evil forces. As a result, as time passed by, injustice, bad deeds, atrocities raised their ugly heads and the rulers became powerless. Things which should not have happened began to happen and normal life was thrown out of gear. Mother earth could not bear the weight of such sinful deeds and she began to sink into the nether world. Kashyapa came to know about the plight and he lifted the sinking earth and placed on his lap (Uooru) As the earth was lifted by the strength of Kashyapa's Uooru, mother earth came to be called Uoorvi and she was also called Kashyapi as she happened to occupy the place of his daughter.
At this juncture mother earth asked sage Kashyap to help her to get protection from kings. Though most of the Kshatriyas were killed by Parashurama, a few kshatriya clans ramained untouched by the raging sage and there were a few left in the world. They were living by following professions they were not called upon to pursue. Many of them were goldsmith,s blacksmiths and many other professions. Parashurama had killed their parents and grand parents and lessened the burden of bad kings on the earth. Mother earth said, "I need righteous kshatriyas to maintain law and order and I am sure the remaining princes are capable of doing this. Therefore I beg you to make arrangements to hand over the responsibilities of ruling over the land to such able kshatriya princes." Then she named a few able princes and Kashyapa called them and assigned to them various kingdoms and thus paved the way for the rule of law on the earth. Consequently the clan of kshatriyas increased.
Sri Rama, the seventh incarnation of Lord Vishnu was born as the son to king Dasharatha of Ayodhya. He was sent to the forest at the age of fourteen in order to protect the yaga performed by sage Visvamithra. Visvamithra became supremely happy and at the end of the mission for which they were brought to the forest, they had to be sent back to the capital Ayodhya. But he did not send them back. By then king Janaka of Mithila had sent an invitation to Visvamithra to attend a yajna which was going to perform in his capital city. Fate had intended that a great event which later had to bring about the welfare of the world was to take place at Mithila. That was the marriage of the daughter of Janaka with Sri Rama, then they had to spend fourteen years of their life in the forest, there in the forest, Sita was to be kidnapped by Ravana and on account of that the destruction of the wicked Ravana and his demon force and all these events had to take place in order to bring about the welfare of humanity. As directed by fate Rama and Lakshmana followed Visvamithra to Mithila. Sri Rama broke the divine bow of Shiva which was kept in the court hall for any great warrior to lift and shoot an arrow from it in order to win the hand of Sita. Sita's marriage with Rama was celebrated and the happy royal family, of Ayodhya, left for the capital. On the way Parashurama met Sri Rama and the story runs like this.
Parashurama came to know that Sri Rama had broken the divine bow of Shiva at the court of king Janaka and married Sita Devi. The old anger for kshtriyas got rekindled. Until then he was happy that all wicked kshatriyas were destroyed and he could sleep peacefully. The news of Sri Rama breaking the divine bow of Shiva, woke him up to the reality. He was very much disturbed and he decided to meet Sri Rama.
Long ago the divine architect Viswakarma had designed two divine bows which were very big and strong. It was believed that there were no weapons equal to them in the three worlds. Devas gave one of the two bows to Lord Shiva to kill a demon called Thripura and the other was given to Lord Vishnu. In turn Lord Vishnu handed it over to Vimachika, Parashuramas grandfather to keep it safe and worship it. It came down to Jamadagni and he gave it to Parashurama to destroy the wicked. Only Vishnu or someone who was born as part of his power could wield the bow. Parashuram who was an incarnation of Lord Vishnu wielded it to telling effect. Now Parashurama decided to challenge another person who was also an incarnation of Lord Vishnu with that divine bow.
Dasharatha's entourage was moving from Mithila towards Ayodhya. All of a sudden there was a big storm. Trees and plants were blown off their roots. Birds began to fly screeching. There was thick dust and one could not see what was a head. It became almost dark as the dust clouds reached the sky and hid the sun. All these were the forewarning signs of something terrible to happen. Dasharatha and his men felt lost when they saw the signs of bad omen. They were at a loss to know what was in store for them. They were all shocked beyond words. Just at that moment they saw Parashurama rushing toward them like the Kalapurusha rushing at the world to destroy everything. The very force of rushing at them made most in the royal party fall unconscious on the ground. Even sage Vasishta who was accompanying the royal party was dismayed to watch the marauding Parashuram. All the soldiers were almost blinded as a result if the cloud of dust raised by the storm. They were rendered motionless and could do little. In a little while the storm subsided and the cloud cleared. Parashurama stood before the royal party. Dasharatha could see the sage from close quarters. He stood bolt upright as Mt. Kailas. His face shone with extraordinary brilliance which almost made everyone close his eyes. He had his divine axe hanging from his shoulder and on the other shoulder he had his divine bow shining bright as lightning. He had a quiver full of sharp and invincible arrows. He appeared Mrithyunjaya who was on this campaign against Thripurasura.
Vasishta and other sages thought that Parashurama was there for doing something terrible. They began to chant some vedic hymns to ward off evil. Some others began to perform some homa for establishing peace. Some others began to talk about why the sage was there. 'This man had wiped out Kshatriya race from the face of the earth because one Kshatriya had killed his father. And later he had cooled down. But the way he was approaching them, gave them the impression that he was on the rampage again.' The sages welcomed him with arghya and padya on behalf of the king, but Parashurama was not interested in the welcome, though he accepted it cooly. What he desired to do was to acquaint with Rama and if situation demanded, to fight with him. Therefore he did not notice either the king or the sages and made straight for the place where Sri Rama was standing.
He addressed the following words to him. Rama, are you not the son of King Dasharatha? I have heard about your super human valour and skills. I have a detailed account of your breaking the divine bow of Lord Shiva at Mithila. After hearing that news I have come to the inevitable conclusion that you are not an ordinary man and I have brought the divine bow of Lord Vishnu. Now lift it, string it and shoot an arrow from it. Then I will have an idea of your real strength and valour, and I will have a duel with you." When Dashratha heard the words of Bhargavarama he was very much upset. His courage evaporated. He folded his hands and said the following words to Parashurama.
"You are a great sage born in the Brigu Clan. You have mastered all the vedas and shastras and your anger against the kshatriyas has subsided. You are a true brahmin and you have given up arms and have given word Devendra never to touch them. You have gifted away all that you have won to sage Kashyapa and now you are doing penance on the slopes of Mt. Mahendra. As my bad luck would have it, you have come here in an angry mood. It appears to me that it is the end of all my fortune. If anything were to happen to Sri Rama, none of us can remain alive."
Even though Dasharatha was addressing the words referred to above to Parashurama, with great humility, the latter did not seem to be listening to him. He spoke to Sri Rama saying "Come take this divine bow, lift it, string it and shoot an arrow from it. Then if you think you are equal to me in strength, you can fight a duel with me. Get ready for it, will you?"