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Parshurama sleeping in Karna's lap

Mahabharat – Karna

Karna – The respectable character from Mahabharata

Karna – The incomparable

Perhaps the most respectable character in Mahabharata, because he cannot be faulted for his actions. Perhaps the most deserving and worthy who achieved nothing, because everyone around him was plotting against him. From Indra to Krishna. Perhaps the odds were stacked against him, perhaps this was his destiny that his own guru cursed him. Even on the battlefield,everyone was on Arjuna’s side and he lost the duel inspite of fighting better. In my opinion, he was better archer, a better human being who did not get his due.

For those who want to know more about this character, please read Rashmirathi penned by Ramdhari Singh Dinkar. You will not find a better representation of this character. Perhaps I am taking too much time and not going into the details – so here is the story of Karna for you.

Karna is one of the central figures in Hindu epic Mahabharata. He was the first son of Kunti, and was thus brother to the Pandavas, and the eldest of them. Although Duryodhana of the Kauravas appoint him king of Anga, his role in the legend far exceeds the importance of a king. He fought for the Kauravas in the great battle at Kurukshetra.
Karna's chariot stuck in mud

Karna’s chariot stuck in mud

Read more about Karna

Birth of Karna

The princess Kunti, while young attended to the sage Durvasa for a full year, while he was a guest at her father`s palace. The sage was pleased with her service and so he granted her a boon whereby she could call upon any of the gods through a mantra and the god would grant her a son equal to the god in splendour. Unsure of whether the boon would actually be granted, Kunti, while still an unmarried young girl, decided to test the mantra and called upon Lord Surya, the Hindu deity of the sun. When Surya appeared before her, she was completely overawed. Bound by the power of the mantra, Surya granted her a son as radiant and strong as his father, although she did not want a child. Through his divine power, Kunti retains her virginity and honor. Thus Karna was born. As Surya`s son, Karna is born with an armour (`Kavacha`) and a pair of earrings (`Kundala`) which are dipped in Amrit the nectar of immortality.

Kunti’s embarassment

Kunti was now in the embarrassing position of being an unwed mother. Unable to face the world with her divine child, she placed Karna in a basket and floated him down a river with his jewelry, praying fervently that he would be kept safe.

The child Karna was borne down the river and picked up by King Dhritarashtra`s charioteer, Adhiratha, a suta(meaning son of a Kshatriya man and a Brahmin woman). Karna was raised by him and his wife Radha (not the same Radha who was Lord Krishna`s Companion at Mathura) as their son and named Vasusena (born with wealth), due to his natural set of armour and earrings. They knew something of his parentage by the jewellery he was found with, and never hid from him the fact that he was not their biological child. He was also known as Radheya because of the name of his mother Radha. His younger brother, Shon, was born to Adiratha and Radha after Karna`s arrival.

Birth of Karna and Kunti letting him go away

Birth of Karna and Kunti letting him go away


Karna born with Kavach and Kundal

Karna born with Kavach and Kundal

The bond between Karna and his foster family was one of pure love, respect and affection despite the lack of blood relationship. Adhiratha was honored by Karna in front of all the warrior kind, and Karna lovingly performed his duties as a son and brother within his foster family, despite his rise as king of Anga and the eventual revelation of his true birth.

Training

As he grew into adulthood, Karna sought to be a warrior – being a Kshatriya and divine at that, it is said to have run in his blood. He correspondingly moved to Hastinapura. He approached Dronacharya, who at that time had established his school and was training the Kuru princes, requesting admission into his school. Drona refused to teach him, as he was a sutaputra. Karna realized his caste would continue to be a barrier in his quest for knowledge. He decided eventually to approach Parashurama himself. He did so, and was accepted as a student by Parashurama, who was under the impression he was a brahmin. Karna is spoken of as a diligent student, whose attention and concentration mirrored Arjuna`s. Parashurama trained him, to the point where he declared him his equal in the arts of war and fighting. During his stay in Vishnuavatar Parashurama`s hermitage, Karna befriended many Rakshasas, Yakshas, Gandharvas and Nagas.

As Karna`s training comes to completion, Parashurama learns the truth. One afternoon, when he is tired, he requests Karna to bring a pillow for him, so he may sleep outside in the shade. Karna instead offers him his lap as a pillow. While Parashurama is asleep, an insect comes by, and alighting on Karna`s thigh, bites him. Despite the pain, Karna does not move as it would disturb his Guru. The insect bites deeply into his leg, causing blood to flow out, the warmth and feel of which wakes up Parashurama. He asks Karna how he could withstand the pain and the sight of blood, neither of which brahmins are capable of. He deduces he is a kshatriya, as only they possess the resolve to withstand such pain. He curses Karna, stating that when he requires an astra (divine weapon) the most, he will be unable to recall its incantations. Radheya pleads with him, upon which Parashurama tells him, in a mollified tone, that while his curse is irrevocable, Karna will eventually achieve what he senses as his goal – fame. He tells Karna that eventually, his name will become immortal.

Parshurama sleeping in Karna's lap

Parshurama sleeping in Karna’s lap

Karna leaves Parashurama`s hermitage, and wanders about for some time. One day, seeing something flash by him, he shoots an arrow at it out of reflex reaction. The arrow kills his target which turns out to be another brahmin`s cow. Its owner, seeing it dead, curses Karna stating that when he is fighting the most crucial battle of his life with his dearest enemy, his chariot wheel will sink and he will be helpless.

Cursed twice over, Karna returns to his home. He does not tell his family about the curses, merely that his training is complete. Eventually, he decides to seek out a position at the court in Hastinapura.

 

Tournament of Hastinapur and becoming King of Anga desh


Drona held a tournament at Hastinapura, to display the skills of the Kuru princes, whose training was also complete. Arjuna emerges in this tournament as a particularly gifted archer. Karna, who was at that time a member of the audience, decided to challenge Arjuna, who was fairy complacent about his position and ability. He repeated all of Arjuna`s feats, to the chagrin of Drona and the Pandavas, and the amazement of Duryodhana. To establish a clear winner, Karna challenges Arjuna to single combat. Drona, however refuses Karna his duel, asking first for his clan and kingdom – according to the rules, only a prince may challenge Arjuna who is a prince of the Kuru house. Duryodhana, eldest of the Kauravas, offers Karna the throne of Anga (today`s Bhagalpur in Bihar), so that Karna would be a king and thus eligible to participate in the contest. This act is considered one of the few truly noble actions carried out by Duryodhana. When Karna, who is emotionally overcome at this, asks him what he can do to repay him, Duryodhana tells him all he wants is his friendship. `I want your heart` he tells Karna, to which Karna says it is already his.

Friendship with Duryodhana

This event establishes key relationships in the Mahabharata, namely, the strong bond between Duryodhana and Karna, the intense rivalry between Karna and Arjuna, and the enmity in general between the Pandavas as a whole and Karna.Karna is spoken as a loyal and true friend to Duryodhana. While he was later party to the infamous game of dice to please Duryodhana, he was opposed to it to begin with. Karna disliked Shakuni, and advised Duryodhana continuously to use his prowess and skill to defeat his enemies, rather than deceit and trickery. When the attempt to kill the Pandavas in the house of lac fails, Karna chides Duryodhana in his despondence, telling him the ways of cowards are doomed to failure and exhorting him to be a warrior and obtain what he wants through valour.

As a king, warrior and friend of Duryodhana, Karna became part of the Hastinapura court. He went on to repeat Bheeshma`s actions in bringing the princesses of Kashi to Duryodhana as wives, appearing at the Kashi court, seizing the princesses, and challenging the kings and princes to take them from him if they can.

Another story goes that Karna aided Duryodhana in marrying the princess of Chitragandha(not to be confused with Princess Chitrangada of Manipur). In her swayamvar, the princess rejected Duryodhana and was going to garland some other king when the eldest son of Dhritarasthra forcibly lifted and carried her away. The other kings present at the swayamvar pursued Duryodhana. However, Karna defeated them single-handedly.Among the kings present in the princess of Chitragandha`s swayamvar were Jarasandha, Shishupala, Dantavakra and Rukmi.

As a token of his appreciation of Karna`s valour, Jarasandha is said to have gifted Karna a portion of Magadha (modern day Bihar).

Military Campaign

During the Pandavas` exile, Karna took upon himself the task of establishing Duryodhana as the World Emperor. Karna commanded an army to different parts of the country to subjugate kings and made them swear allegiance to Duryodhana, the king of Hastinapura or else die in battle. While Karna succeeded in all the battles, subjugating even the allies of the Pandavas, the conquest was not permanent. In this military adventure, Karna is stated to have waged wars and reduced to submission numerous tribes including those of the Kambojas, the Shakas, the Kekayas, the Avantyas, the Gandharas, the Madarakas, the Trigartas, the Tanganas, the Panchalas, the Videhas, the Suhmas, the Angas, the Vangas, the Nishadas, the Kalingas, the Vatsa, theAshmakas, the Rishikas (i.e south-western Rishikas located in Maharashtra) and numerous others including mlecchas and the forest tribes.

Generous Karna

Karna is most famous for his generosity, which was said to surpass that of the gods. Following his appointment as king, he took an oath : Anyone who approached him with a request at midday, when he would worship the Sun, would go away with his request fulfilled. He would never let anyone leave empty-handed. This practice contributed to Karna`s fame as well as to his downfall, as Indra and Kunti took advantage of it.
Several stories are told as to Karna`s generosity. One goes that a brahmin, who required sandalwood to cremate his departed wife,  approached Karna for it. It was raining heavily and the brahmin needed dry sandalwood (an alternate version is that there was a shortage of sandalwood in the city). Karna, unable to procure sandalwood from the market, noticed that the pillars of his palace were of sandalwood, and calling for an axe, cut them down to give the brahmin his wood.

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Sita swayamvara

Sita Swayamvara

King Janak was the ruler of the kingdom of Videha. Its capital city was Mithila. Janak was not only a brave king, but was also very well-versed in the Shastras and Vedas.  His daughter was Sita who grew up to be a girl of unparalleled beauty and charm and possessed the greatest of womanly virtues.

The condition of Swayamvara

When Sita became of marriageable age, the king decided to have a Swayamvara, which included a contest. The king was in possession of an immensely heavy bow, presented to him by the God Shiva. Whoever could wield the bow and string it, could marry Sita.

Why the condition was chosen

In earlier part of her life, Sita while playing with her sisters had unknowingly lifted the table over which the “Shiva Dhanush” had been placed; which was something no one in the palace could do. This incident was however observed by King Janaka and he decided to make this incident as the backdrop for swayamvara.

Rama fulfils the condition

Rama, the Prince of Ayodhya, successfully broke Shiva’s bow as he picked it up. And with the breaking of the bow, Janak proposed Sita to Rama in marriage. On the approval of Sage Vishwamitra, Janak sent his messengers to Ayodhya to convey the message to Dasharatha. Upon hearing the story of how his son Rama not only lifted the bow of Shiva, but also broke it, Dasharatha was overjoyed. He gladly accepted the marriage proposal of Rama and Sita.

Rama breaking Shiva's bow during Sita Swayamvar

Rama breaking Shiva’s bow during Sita Swayamvar

Angry Parshurama comes to the palace

At this point, Parshurama arrives at the palace and demanded to know that who has broken the bow of Shiva. He told Rama that Vishvakarma made two identical bows and gave them to Lord Shiva and Lord Vishnu and Rama has broken the former. Parshurama said if Rama could string the bow of Vishnu then only he will accept the greatness of Rama. Rama took it up and strung it and placed an arrow asking Parashurama to where to target the arrow now. Parshurama realized that this person is no ordinary person and he himself is an avatar of Vishnu. He silently retreated from the swayamvara place.

Rama and Parshurama's confrontation

Rama and Parshurama’s confrontation

Marriage of Sita and Rama is solemnised

King Janak at that time gave lot money and other valuables that one can’t even imagine as dowry for Sita. As dowry, King Janak gave several lakh cows, expensive carpets and hundreds of silk clothes for Sita. The dowry also included elephants and horses covered with gold ornaments and chariots with many guards and servants. For Sita to not miss her friends, Janak also sent 100 female helpers as dowry with his daughter.Apart from all this, Janak also gave her daughter 1 crore gold coins, diamonds, pearls and ruby.

Rama and Sita wedding

Rama and Sita wedding

 

Bhishma and Parshurama

Bhishma and Parshurama – Two great warriors

The battle between Bhishma and Parshurama

Amba’s abduction

Bhishma (son of Shantanu and Ganga) was a great archer and a warrior. He is known for his vow of celibacy and skills in the Mahabharata. He had the task of  finding a bride for his half-brother,  Vichitravirya.  He abducted princesses Amba, Ambika and Ambalika of Kashi (Varanasi) at their swayamvara.  Salwa, the ruler of Saubala, and Amba (the eldest princess) were committed to each other. When Amba confided in Bhishma that she wished to wed Salwa. Knowing this, He sent her back to Salwa who turned her down as it was humiliating for him to accept a woman who had been so long in the company of another man. She then naturally approached Bhishma and demanded him to marry her, which he refused, citing his vow.  Amba, humiliated and enraged beyond measure, vowed to avenge herself against Bhishma.

Bhishma abducting Amba, Ambika and Ambalika

Bhishma abducting Amba, Ambika and Ambalika

Preparation of the battle at Kurukshetra

Legend has it that at her maternal grandfather’s suggestion Amba sought refuge with Parshurama, who ordered Bhishma to marry Amba. Parshurama (sixth incarnation of Lord Vishnu) was the guru of Bhishma. He politely refused saying that he was ready to give up his life at the command of his teacher but he could not break his promise. Upon the refusal, Parshurama called him for a fight at Kurukshetra.  At the battleground, while he was on a chariot, Parshurama was on foot. Bhishma requested Parasurama to also take a chariot and armour so that Bhishma would not have an unfair advantage. Parshurama blessed Bhishma with the power of divine vision and asked him to look again. When Bhishma looked at his guru with the divine eye-sight, he saw the Earth as Parshurama’s chariot, the four Vedas as the horses, the upanishads as the reins, Vayu (wind) as the charioteer and the Vedic goddesses Gayatri, Savitri & Saraswati as the armour.

Bhishma and Parshurama

Bhishma and Parshurama

The battle between the incarnation of Lord Vishnu and Bhishma

Bhishma got down from the chariot and sought the blessings of Parshurama to protect his dharma, along with the permission to battle against his teacher. Parshurama was pleased and said to Bhishma that if he had not behaved in this manner, Parshurama would have cursed him, for it is the duty of warriors who fight against elders to not abandon the traditions of humility and respect for elders. Parshurama blessed him and advised him to protect his dharma of brahmacharya as Parshurama himself must fight to fulfil his dharma of fighting to uphold his word as given to Amba. They fought for 23 days without conclusion — Parshurama was chiranjeevi (immortal) and Bhishma had a boon that let him choose the time of his death. Two versions exist about how their battle came to and end.

End of the battle

As per one, On the 22nd night, Bhishma prayed to his ancestors to help him end the battle. His ancestors gave him a weapon which was not known to Parshurama . They told him that it would put Parshurama to sleep in the battlefield. A person who sleeps in the battlefield is considered to be dead as per Vedas. They advised Bhishma to call back the weapon at the end of day after sunset so that Parshurama will come back to his sense and that shall bring the end to war. However the weapon was never used as Bhishma walked out of the war.

As per the other version, on the 23rd day, Bhishma summoned the infallible celestial weapon(astra) Prashvapastra, the method of using which was known to him and him alone. Neither did a counter-attack exist, nor was a defense against it known to Parshurama . As Bhishma mounted the astra on his bow, a divine voice guided Bhishma not to fire the weapon as its use would lead to the humiliation of Bhishma’s guru(Parasurama himself). Bhishma refrained from using the weapon that would have brought him certain victory. Upon witnessing this, Parshurama  was overcome with adulation for his disciple and proclaimed Bhishma as the victor.

Parshurama and Amba

Parshurama thus told Amba that he could not win over Bhishma and gave her the boon of “mahakal shiva”. Amba did penance to please Lord Shiva. Shiva gave her the boon that she would be instrumental in the death of Bhishma. Amba would later be reborn as the eunuch prince Shikhandi in the household of king Drupada.

 

Seven facts about Bhishma

The complete story of Parshurama avatar – Vishnu dashavatara

 Parshurama Avatar ( Dashavatara of Lord Vishnu)

Parshurama is the sixth incarnation (one of the dashavatara) of Lord Vsihnu. He is said to be one of the chiranjeevis. Chiranjeevi means one who doesn’t die.

Birth

Parshurama is born to Sage Jamdagni and Renuka. Parshurama was very obedient to his father, and once when asked by his father, he did not hesitate and beheaded his own mother. Jamdagni and Renuka meditated before the birth of Parshurama and with the blessing of Shiva, Vishnu agreed to take incarnation as their son which became sixth of the ten dashavataras. He was the fifth son of his parents.

Childhood

In his childhood, he did severe penance and pleased Lord Shiva. Lord presented him with the weapon parshu, thus the boy was called as Parshurama.

Killing of king Kartavirya

At that point of time, a king named Kartavirya Arjuna became very strong. He also defeated Ravana. One day, he came to the hermitage of sage Jamdagni and was welcomed by the sage. Jamdagni had a cow, Kamdhenu, presented by Indra, which allowed him to serve his guests. Impressed, kartavirya wanted the cow, which Jamdagni denied. The king stole the calf.

Kamdhenu , Jamdagni

Kamdhenu , Jamdagni

Parshurama was not at home at this point of time. When he returned back, he went to the palace of King Kartavirya and killed him. Then he retrieved Kamdhenu and came back to his home.

Killing of Sage Jamdagni

Soon, sons of Kartavirya discovered their father at the palace and knew that only Parashurama could have killed him. In revenge, they traveled to the hermitage and murdered Jamadagni, surrounding the rishi and shooting him to death with arrows like a stag. Afterwards, they decapitated his body and took his head with them.

Parshurama’s vow

When Parshurama discovered his mother weeping over the body of his father, he vowed to avenge the death of his father. He hunted down the sons of Kartavirya at the palace. He killed them all and returned with the head of his father to conduct the cremation. Parashurama then vowed to enact a genocide on the war-mongering Kshatriyas twenty-one times over.

Parshurama

Parshurama

Parshurama is also the guru or teacher of Bhishma, Drona and Karna. Parshurama’s famous curse is on Karna which rendered the Brahmastra useless for Karna.

Parshurama and Rama ( dashavatara’s of Lord Vishnu)

During Sita swayamvar, Rama broke the bow of Lord Shiva. Hearing the sound of breaking of the bow, Parshurama came there and challenged Rama to string the bow with an arrow. Rama, being an avatar of Lord Vishnu, easily mounted the arrow and asked Parshurama, where should I fire this arrow now? Parshurama realized that Rama was an incarnation of Lord Vishnu, and his own role has completed now.

Sita Swyamvar

Sita Swyamvar

Dashavatar pictures – indian mythology (2)

Dashavatar of Vishnu – pics of 6-10 avatars

See pics of 1-5 avatars

Krishna said to Arjuna in Mahabharat war : Whenever Dharma, or the situation of law and order, is endangered on this world, I incarnate onto this world to re establish Dharma, law and order, and to protect the Sadhus or saints and to destroy the evil elements of the society. – Bhagavat Gita

This article is in continuation to earlier article where we published the pictures of 1-5 avatars of Vishnu. Details of next 6 avatars are found as following.

Parshurama Avatar

Parshuram avatar of Lord Vishnu

Parshuram avatar of Lord Vishnu

Parshurama was the son of sage Jamdagni and Renuka.  He has killed evil doers kings of the earth. A great archer, was the teacher (guru) of Bhishma, Drona and Karna.  He is one of the seven immortal ones (saptachiranjiva).


Rama avatar

Shri Rama avatar of Lord Vishnu

Shri Rama avatar of Lord Vishnu

Rama was born as a son of Dashrath and Kaushalya. He slayed the demon king Ravana of Lanka.  Assisted by Hanuman and Lakshman ( Sheshnaag’s avatar).

Rama avatar

Shri Krishna

This incarnation was the central character of Mahabharat. Mahabharat was the conflict of kuru brothers, Kauravas and Pandavas. He did not fight the war himself. He was the charioteer of great archer, Arjuna in the Mahabharat war.  In his early life, he killed Kansa.  His brother was Balrama and he is also believed to be a avatar of Lord Vishnu by some texts.

 

Krishna avatar of Lord Vishnu

Krishna avatar of Lord Vishnu

Balarama avatar

Balarama avatar

balarama-krishna-subhadra

balarama-krishna-subhadra

Buddha Avatar

Buddha avatar of Lord Vishnu (image)

Buddha avatar of Lord Vishnu (image)

In the Puranic texts, he is mentioned as one of the ten avatars of Vishnu, usually as the ninth one. Siddhartha was born in a royal Hindu Kshatriya family. Gautama was famously seated under a pipal tree—now known as the Bodhi tree—in Bodh Gaya, India, when he vowed never to arise until he had found the truth. His companions believed that he had abandoned his search and become undisciplined, left. After a reputed 49 days of meditation, at the age of 35, he is said to have attained enlightenment.

 Kalki Avatar

Kalki avatar of Lord Vishnu

Kalki avatar of Lord Vishnu

The tenth and last avatar, Kalki avatar, is supposed to happen in future, in Kaliyug. This will be the tenth and final Maha Avatar (great incarnation) of Vishnu who will bring to an end the present age of darkness and destruction known as Kali Yuga. He will establish a new era based on truth, righteousness, humanism and goodness, called Satya Yuga.

Kalki avatar of Lord Vishnu (image)

See pics of 1-5 avatars