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Parashurama Avatar Home -› Hindu Trinity -› The Preserver -› Vishnu -› Parashurama Avatar
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Parashuraman - the annihilator of kshatriyas
Parashurama in Mahabharata:
According to references in the Mahabharata, there was a king ruling Kashi (Benaras). He had three daughters named Amba, Ambika and Ambalika. They had reached marriageable age and the king arranged a Swayamvara for finding bridegrooms for them. The contenders had to participate in a battle and the victorious princes would marry the princesses.

A king named Shantanu was ruling in another kingdom Hastinavati. Devavrata was his son. The queen had left Shantanu for some reason and the latter wanted to marry again. To fulfill his father's desire, Devavrata undertook to fulfill two vows - that he would not become a king and that he would not marry. He came to be known as Bhishma signifying these vows. Upon the death of Shantanu, Bhishma crowned his step brother Vichitravirya as the king.

Bhishma came to know of the 'Swayamvara' of the Kashi king's daughters and thought it would be a good idea to marry the girls to his brother. He attended the assembly, defeated all other princes, brought the three princesses, and asked Vichitravirya to marry them.

Ambika and Ambalika agreed for this proposal. However, Amba, from the beginning, wanted to marry the king of Salwa. She requested Bhishma to send her to that prince. He accordingly agreed and sent her away. But the Salwa king refused to marry her as she had been taken away after victory in a contest. Amba came back to Bhishma and entreated him to marry her. An avowed celibate, he did not wish to depart from that state of life.

Amba knew that Bhishma highly respected Parashurama and would not say 'no' to the latter's words. So she went to him and narrated her story. Parashurama thereupon accompanied her to see Bhishma and said: "Bhishma, marry this girl." Bhishma replied, "I cannot do so. If I do, it would be breaking my vow." Parashurama and Bhishma thereupon engaged themselves in a battle and the fighting went on for many days. Both were valiant and could not be vanquished. Ultimately, they stopped fighting and returned to their places. Amba, a dejected damsel, threw herself into fire and died.

As mentioned earlier, Parashurama had learnt archery from Lord Shiva himself and had mastered all the fine points of that discipline. It was said that Shiva was very pleased with his disciple's prowess and had bestowed him with the axe; Goddess Parvati had blessed and given him many fine weapons. Many young men were coming to him for training in the art of archery.

But Parashurama would not teach the Kshatriya. He felt that a weapon the hands of an evil person would pose a danger to the pious. Karna was a hero of Mahabharata. He was separated from his mother at a very young age. He desired that he should learn archery from Parashurama. Karna decided to act as a Brahmin boy and went to Parashurama. Parashurama taught Karna and in fact was very pleased to notice the keen interest and capabilities of Karna. He became a particularly beloved pupil of Parashurama and continued his training to reach greater heights.

Indra, the king of the Devas, had a special affection towards Arjuna, one of the five Pandava brothers, because the latter had been born to Pandava's mother Kunti by his (Indra's) blessings. Indra knew that Pandava's had to wage war against their cousins, the Kauravas led by Prince Duryodhana, and that Karna would be the right hand man of the prince. He decided that Karna had to be vanquished so a to ward off danger to Arjuna.

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