The region in between the Arabian sea and the Western Ghats stretching from Nasik in Maharashtra to Kanyakumari in the southern end of the peninsula is known as Parashurama-Kshetra - the holy land of Parashurama. Parashurama, an incarnation of Vishnu, appeared on this earth to eradicate the ruling cruel Kshatriya class. Parashurama engaged in eighteen major battles and three minor ones against the Kshatriyas and eliminated them all. The Kshatriya class, with weapons and power, had begun to abuse their power, take what belonged to others by force and tyrannise people.
Parashurama was born to sage Jamadagni and his Kshatriya wife Renuka. They had a cow called Suravi who was known to grant all their wishes. A king named Kartavirya Arjuna learnt about this cow and desired to possess it. He rushed to the sage’s hermitage and asked for the cow. When the sage refused to part with Suravi, the arrogant king killed the sage and took the cow. This killing symbolized the gross abuse of power that the kshatriya class had become used to at the time. Parashuram was away from home when this incident took place. On his return, Parashurama learns about the crime of the king and challenges him to battle.
In Valmiki Ramayana, Parashurama himself narrates the circumstances of the Kshatriya carnage to Lord Raama (the son of Dasharatha, and another incarnation of Vishnu) as follows:
“While my father (Jamadagni) was sitting in meditation, with no weapons or arms, the base-minded (Kartivirya) Arjuna brought about his death. Upon hearing of his merciless killing, in retribution I killed generation after generation of kshatriyas, many times. Having conquered the entire world, I gave away all of it to Kashyapa, the great soul, at the end of a yagnya, as an act of merit.”
From that time onwards new kingdoms developed under the control of saints and scholars and the responsibility of steering the nation fell into the hands of intellectuals.
With the gifting of all His lands to Kashyapa and the subsequent establishment of all these new kingdoms, Parashurama then had to find a completely new place to reside. Standing on the western ghats, Shahyadri range, he threw his axe and the ocean receded to the place where his axe fell. The land thus recovered, which stretches from Maharashtra to Kanyakumari, is known as Parashurama-Kshetra. He chose that hill top for his meditation and on the hillock to its east, he built a temple for his sister Maa Durga Parameshwari. The hill on which he meditated is known as Parasurama Betta and the hillock where he built the temple for Maa Durga is called Durga Betta.
bhaargavastataH paaThasaaM nidhau |
akshipachchharam shaaravikramaH |
tena tadgataa raakshasaa hataaH |
so.api vaaridhirduurato yayau ||
(Bhargava Rama, desirous of a unique creation, shot arrows towards the ocean. By the arrows of this great Bhargava Rama, not only did the ocean retreat, but the demons hiding in the ocean were also vanquished.)
Before sitting down to meditate, Parashurama threw his weapons, axe, bow, arrow and mace around the rocky terrain. Wherever the weapons fell, they made imprints on the rocks. Thus, the sacred ponds, Parashu Teertha, Dhanus Teertha, Bana Teertha and Gada Teertha were created. The water in these ponds never dries even though they are formed on small hillocks with no other nearby water source.
This hill, Parashurama Betta, has a temple dedicated to Lord Parashurama and there are steps leading to this temple. Located about eleven kilometres away from Kunjarugiri, a village in Udupi District of Karnataka it stands across the hillock Durga Betta that Parasurama built this temple in honour of the divine mother, Adi Shakti. It is said that when he created Kerala by pushing the sea away, he found in the depth of the sea a pearl, which he fashioned into a nose ring and decorated the idol of Kunjaru Amma with. According to legend, however, the sea always retrieves whatever is taken from it. To protect the idol for a long time, Parashurama installed the idol on the Kunjaru hill but to this day, the sea keeps coming closer to the hill. As one descends from the Parasurama Betta, there are four paths that lead to the Durga Betta. The hill comprises nearly 250–300 stairs as a pathway leading to the Kunjarugiri temple. The temple is spread across a large area and the view from the temple is a sight to behold. The idol of Goddess Durga was installed by Parashurama and it is said that the Gods had descended to corronate the Devi.
Sri Madhvacharya, the founder of the Dvaita school of philosophy, used to visit the Durga temple every day during his childhood. One day, when he was in the Kunjaru temple, his mother called from Pajaka, a kilometre or two away; Madhavacharya is believed to have jumped straight to his house. To this day, his footprints can be seen on a particular rock. The rock is found in a cave and the foot-prints are worshiped by the priests of the temple.
tatraasiinaH shirasi mahati praskhalanmeghabimbe |
pashyaadhastaadvivR^itanayanastaulavaM deSabhaagam |
aagokarNam jaladhivalayenaavR^itam dakShiNena |
brahmaavaasaM nR^ipatiripuNaa jaamadagnyena sR^ishhTam |
(Rama Sandesha 42)
('Go to one of the horns of the high peaks of Sahyadri and look down. The clouds float about. Look down further with your eyes wide open. That is the land known as Taulava country. The region spreading from Gokarna further down up to the sea is the abode of the learned people who have mastered the Vedas. This is the new creation of Parashurama, the enemy of the kshatriya race.')
Image Courtesy: Shyama Mohanty