In Hinduism, Moksha, the escape from the cycle of birth and death, is seen as the final goal. But Hindu mythology also has several individuals who have been gifted and cursed alike with immortality. Incidentally, all of them are men.
Known as chiranjeevi, the immortals are believed to walk the earth even today. Among the chiranjeevis, Parshuram stands out because of some unique characters.
Parshuram, the sixth avatar (reincarnation) of Lord Vishnu is also the only avatar of the god to have been granted immortality. Other more popular avatars such as Lord Ram and Bhagwan Shri Krishan, despite their powers, had to leave their human form behind once they restored dharma. Parshuram, unlike the other avatars, never merged with Vishnu’s original form.
Why Parshuram is a unique chiranjeevi
Parshuram, perhaps due to the immortality granted to him, is the only avatar to be present during the reign of subsequent avatars.
Parshuram is mentioned both in the Ramayana (Vishnu as Lord Ram) and the Mahabharata (Vishu as Krishna).
In Ramayana, he makes an appearance during Sita’s swayamvar and in Mahabharata, he is the one to place a curse on Karna.
Known as the destroyer of the warrior class, Parshuram is also identified as a sage warrior with an axe. The name Parshuram translates to mean Ram with an axe. As per mythology he destroyed the warrior class 21 times and gave the lands he captured to sages.
As per Hindu belief, Parshuram, the son of sage Jamadagni and princess Renuka, will continue to live through the ages and will be the guru of the final Vishnuavatar Kalki.
Often portrayed as an avatar who has a quick temper and severe aggression, Parshuram is also the teacher of great warriors including Bhishma, Dronacharya, and Karna. Parashuram is believed to have learned the art of warfare from Lord Shiva himself who also presented him with the axe, his weapon of choice.
Parshuram and the creation of some Indian states
In the folk literature of Kerala, the state was created by Parshuram by reclaiming land from the sea. The belief goes that Lord Varun (god of the oceans) granted Parshuram a boon and the latter chose to have land to be given to the sages. Since there was no further land available (as Parshuram had already won it by defeating the Kshatriyas) Lord Varun asked Parshuram to throw his axe as far as possible.
Parshuram threw his axe and the ocean retreated from between where he stood and where his axe fell creating the area from Konkan to Kanyakumari. Hence Parshuram is the only immortal to have created the foundation of a new land/state.
Similar stories of Parshuram can be found on the Konkan coast and the area is also referred to as Parshuramkshetra. Many Brahmins along the Konkan states identify themselves as people settled there by Parshuram.
A devotee of Lord Shiva, Parshuram during his time is believed to have established several Shiva temples, most of which are in south India. Incidentally, temples dedicated to Parshuram are found more in southern India than in other parts of the country. Since he is believed to be an immortal, Parshuram is not commonly worshipped in households
When his time as an avatar comes to an end, Parshuram is believed to have walked towards the Mahendragiri hills in present-day Odisha, meditating for centuries until he is ready for the 10th avatar of Vishnu.