Earlier we saw how Renuka, wife of the rishi Jamadagni, was attracted to King Chitraratha while bathing in the river. When she returned to the ashram, the rishi, on seeing the loss of radiance in her aura, divined what had happened. He was furious at this fallacy of character and calling his five children, asked them to behead her. The four elder sons, out of attachment to their mother, refused to obey him. The rishi cursed them and they fell down lifeless. Parshurama, the youngest, agreed to do his father’s biding. He immediately took an axe (parshu) and cut off his mother’s head. This calmed the anger of the rishi and made him very happy. He told his son to ask of him as many boons as his heart desired.
Parshurama said, “Bring back my mother to life and let her have no memory of what happened. Thus, free me of the sin of killing my own mother. Please, also give my brothers their lives again. Make me invincible in battle and grant me a very long life”. His father granted him all his desires.
One day King Sahastrarjuna came to Jamadagni’s ashram with his army. Parshurama was not present there. The rishi and his wife welcomed the king but he, drunk with power, declined their invitation. Further, he forcibly took away a young calf, destroyed trees, and left. When Parshurama returned, his father narrated what had happened. Hearing the screams of the calf’s mother, Parshurama got very angry. He picked up his beautiful bow, among other weapons and went behind Sahastrarjuna. In the battle that followed, Parshurama cut off the thousand hands of Sahastrarjuna before killing him.
When the king’s sons heard of his death, they decided to take revenge and attacked Jamadagni’s ashram in Parshurama’s absence. They rishi did not defend himself but kept crying out ‘Rama’ to his son who was away. After killing the rishi, the king’s sons left.
When Parshurama returned he saw the mutilated body of his father and was overcome by grief and broke down. “These lowly sons of Sahastrarjuna have killed you like a hunter kills its prey in the jungle. They have killed you because I killed their father. You, who never fought back, are old in age and always remained in deep tapas. They have committed a grave sin and shall pay for it dearly.” He then performed the last rites of his father.
Singlehandedly, he killed all the king’s sons. He also destroyed completely the army that had accompanied the king’s sons to the ashram. Parshurama’s rage was still not satisfied, so he went around and killed all the Kshatriya kings. He repeated this twenty-one times. When he was embarking on his twenty-second campaign, his forefathers appeared before him and told him to stop, saying their souls had been appeased.
Parshurama then held a Yagna where he gave away the earth he had won and all his possessions to retire to a hermitage.