A long time ago there lived a king Arjuna. He had received a boon from Lord Dattatreya which made him invincible. His boons gave him so much power that he lost sight. Drunk under the influence of uncontrollable power, he soon became a tyrant. His evil deeds kept increasing thus causing Lord Vishnu to take notice. Lord Vishnu decided that his tyranny must be stopped. So, he took birth as Rama in the humble household of saint Jamadagni and Renuka.
Right from childhood Rama shows too much interest in weapons and soon trained himself into a fierce warrior. He lived with his parents and siblings in an ashram in a forest, away from big cities. Many Brahmans lived in small ashrams in the forest away from the city. Often they would be attacked by wild animals or some other miscreants. Since Rama was the only one around who had some real skills with weapons, he would go help those in trouble.
One day when he was away from his home, king Arjuna was passing through the forest near his parent’s ashram. King had his army with him and when he saw the ashram decided to go there and rest for a while before marching forward.
Sage Jamadagni had a divine cow Kamadhenu. This cow had special powers to create unlimited food for any number of people. Through this cow, the sage was able to feed his unexpected guests.
When King Arjuna found out how easily the sage was able to feed him and his large army, he decided to use the cow himself. He thought that if he had this cow during his long wars, feeding his army would be a very easy task.
King Arjuna was used to having anything he desired. He asked his soldiers to take the cow and left the ashram with the rest of his army.
Sage Jamadagni and Renuka were devasted. For them, the cow was not just a source of food. Kamdhenu was a divine gift and was part of the family. But they could not fight so many of the kings soldiers.
That day when Rama came back he found his mother crying and his father engulfed in deep sadness. Upon enquiry, he found out how King Arjuna stole their cow. Rama was a fierce warrior with a short temper. The whole incidence did not sit well with him. He picked up an axe also called Parshu and left to find the King and his army.
They were not too far from the ashram. Rama soon caught up with them. What followed then was a kind of bloodbath the forest had never witnessed before. Rama killed King Arjuna and all of his soldiers using his Parshu. He brought back Kamadhenu to his parent’s ashram. After this incidence, he was also known as Parshuram.
Parshuram and his family thought that the trouble was now over. The evil king was dead. This should have ended the story. But that was not to be. Pretty soon sons of King Arjuna came to the ashram. They too chose a time to visit when Parshuram was away from the ashram. They came and killed Sage Jamadagni. His wife Renuka kept screaming seeing her husband’s bloody death.
When Parshuram returned he heard his mothers screams and rushed to her. He kept asking her what was the matter. Renuka was so distraught that she could not speak. She just kept screaming and beating her chest in frustration. When Parshuram finally turned and saw his father’s dead body he understood what might have transpired. He promised his mother that he will kill all those who misused their powers.
In those days the ruling class was mainly comprised of Kshatriya. Parshuram vowed to kill all the Kshatriyas and rid the world of their vileness. He vowed to change the ruling system.
Over time Parshuram kept his words. He killed all the Kshatriyas and if some managed to escape and become rulers somewhere else, Parshuram would find them and kill the remaining ones.
Parshuram never died. It is said that he is roaming the world even today and ending evil as and when he sees them. He will make a special appearance in other Dashavatara stories as well.
At first glance, this story seems that of revenge. But if we think more about it, we will realise that the story is about keeping powerful in check. It’s about not letting rulers become tyrant. It’s about accountability.
Parshuram relied on his brute force to keep the society in order. In the Darwinian theory of evolution, he maps to the earliest form of caveman when they started forming tribes and started the most basic form of civilization. Here the danger is not from nature anymore. Now the danger of from other tribes and other rulers.