The Divine Vijaya Bow of Mahadev
From Brahmanda Purana, I have been recounting Parashurama’s story. Shiva appeared before Parashurama. He saw the three-eyed divinity, Chandrashekhara, the lord of devas. His mount was an excellent bull. Shambhu was with one crore bhutas. Bhargava devoutly prostrated himself on the ground, in front of Sharva. Joining his hands in salutation, Rama praised the lord of the universe.
Rama said, “O divinity! O lord of devas! I prostrate myself before you. O Parameshvara! I prostrate myself before you. O lord of the universe! I prostrate myself before you. O destroyer of Tripura! I prostrate myself before you. O one who presides over everything! I prostrate myself before you. O one who is affectionate towards devotees! I prostrate myself before you. O lord of all bhutas! I prostrate myself before you. O Vrishabhadhvaja (the same as Vrishadhvaja)! I prostrate myself before you. O lord of all lords! I prostrate myself before you. O ocean of compassion! I prostrate myself before you. O abode of everyone! I prostrate myself before you. O Nilalohita! I prostrate myself before you. O one who destroys all the numerous enemies of the gods! O one with the trident! I prostrate myself before you. O Kapalin! O one who protects all the worlds! I prostrate myself before one. O one who always resides in a cremation ground! O one who resides in Kailasa! I prostrate myself before you. I prostrate myself before the one who holds the noose, the one who swallowed the poison kalakuta. O one whose might is worshipped by the immortals! O powerful one! O self-originating one! O witness to the karma of beings in the entire universe! O Shambhu! I prostrate myself before you. O one with the foam of the three flows [Ganga] and the moon on the crest! I prostrate myself before you. O one with Indras among serpents as your necklace! O Shiva! O paramatman! O one whose body is covered with bhasma! O one with the sun, the moon and the fire as eyes! I prostrate myself before you. O Kapardin! O one who crushed the asura Andhaka! I prostrate myself before you. O destroyer of Tripura! O destroyer of Daksha’s sacrifice! I prostrate myself before you. O one whose broad chest is dyed with the saffron from Girija’s breasts! O great Mahadeva! O one who wears the hide of an elephant as a garment! I prostrate myself before you. O one whose form yogis perform dhyana on! O Shiva, whose energy is unthinkable! O one who resides in the centre of the pericarp of the lotus that is in the heart of your own devotees! O one whose form is the essence of the determinations of all Agama texts! I prostrate myself before you. O one who kindles understanding in all the Indras among yogis! O one whose atman is amrita! I prostrate myself before you. O Shankara! O one whose greatness pervades everything. O paramatman! O Sharva! O serene one! O Brahman! O one with the universe as your form! I prostrate myself before you. O one who lacks a beginning, a middle and an end! O eternal one! O one whose form is not manifest! O one whose own form is both manifest and not manifest! O one whose atman is both subtle and not subtle! I prostrate myself before you. O one who can be known through Vedanta! O one whose form is the vijnana in the universe! I prostrate myself before you. O one whose feet are worshipped by arrays of the heads of gods and asuras, resembling flowers! I prostrate myself before you. O one with the handsome throat! O creator of the universe! O maker of the worlds! I prostrate myself before you. I bow down. You possess the guna of rajas in your atman. You are the one who determines the creation of the universe. O one with a form as Hiranyagarbha! O Hara! O one who existed before the universe! O atman of the universe! O cause behind the establishment and expansion of the worlds! I prostrate myself before you. O one whose form is that of sattva jnana! O supreme one! O one who exists in every atman! O transformation in the form of tamas guna! O one who destroys the universe! O one who assumes the form of Rudra at the end of a kalpa! O one who knows about para and apara! I prostrate myself before you. O one without transformations! O eternal one! O one with cause and effect in your atman! I prostrate myself before you. O one who kindles understanding in those who lack intelligence! O one who causes transformations in intelligence and the other senses! O one whose maya causes differences and makes devas like Vasus, Adityas, Maruts, Sadhyas, Rudras and Ashvins have different points of view! I prostrate myself before you. I bow down before you. You are without transformation. You are without birth. You are eternal. You are subtle in form. There is no match for you. No one knows you, not even yogis who are always free of blemishes. You are impossible to know. Brahma and the others do not know you properly. Indeed, it is because of that and their karma that they roam around in worldly existence for a long time, until they approach your feet. You are the one who destroys lack of jnana. Until then, whether a person is learned or lacking in senses, he wanders around in samsara. If a person fixes his intelligence at your lotus feet, he alone is skilled. He alone is accomplished. He alone is a sage. He alone is learned. Your virtuous existence exists in the three Vedas. But it is extremely subtle and mysterious, even to those who are learned. How can a foolish person like me comprehend it? Your greatness is beyond the approach of words. How can I praise it now? Since I am dumb in intelligence, enough of this attempt to praise you. However, though I am ignorant, I have praised you devoutly. O lord of devas! Be pleased. Indeed, you are affectionate towards your devotees.” In this way, Rama extolled Shankara and he seemed to smile, as he replied in words that rumbled like the clouds.
Bhagavan answered, “O Rama! I am extremely pleased at your bravery and good conduct, your austerities and your devotion towards me, in particular, your stotram. Therefore, ask for a boon, whatever exists in your heart. I will give you everything.” Parashurama joined his hands in salutation and spoke. “O divinity! If you are pleased with me and I am worthy of being given a boon, I wish for all the astras from you. There shouldn’t be anyone who is superior to me in astra, shastra, or the sacred texts. Through your favours, let no one in the worlds be able to defeat me in battle.” Shambhu agreed to this. Extremely pleased, he gave Rama all the astras and shastras, along with their mantras. He also received an excellent chariot with an excellent standard, unimpeded in speed and yoked to white horses. Shankara gave Rama two quivers, full of an inexhaustible supply of arrows. He received a divine bow with a firm bow-string, Vijaya. It did not decay and could not be shattered. He received extremely expensive and colourful armour that could not be penetrated by any weapon. He bestowed unmatched bravery on him and the boon of being invincible in battle. He obtained the strength to nurture his breath of life for as long as he wished. He also granted Bhargava great power in his austerities.
Many people know about Parashurama. They may not know about his life-long companion, Akritavrana.
As Rama proceeded, he came to a cave in a forest in the Himalayas. There he saw a fleeing child, evidently alive with a great deal of effort. As he was being pursued by a tiger, the Brahmana’s son seemed to be very frightened and was crying. Parashurama pursued the tiger for a long time. The Brahmana’s son fell down there, scared that he would have to give up his life. Rama’s eyes were red with rage. He picked up a blade of grass and used a mantra to invoke an astra on the kusha. Meanwhile, the powerful tiger dashed towards the dvija who had fallen down. It saw him and roared, making the space between heaven and earth tremble. As the tiger was about to strike with its talons, Rama burnt it down with the fire of the astra. He quickly freed the dvija, who had not been wounded at all. With its body burnt down by the Brahmana’s fire, the sinner assumed the form of a gandharva in the sky and addressed Rama affectionately. “Earlier, as a result of the curse of a Brahmana, I had become a tiger. You have now freed me from the curse and I will go to heaven.”
Full of compassion, Rama told the boy not to be scared. Raised up by Rama, he opened his eyes. He looked around and saw the best of the Bhrigu lineage in front of him. He saw the tiger, which had been burnt into ashes, and was amazed. Akritavrana means someone who is without a wound. Akritavrana followed Parashurama and became a life-long friend.
Originally published on the Open Magazine
Reproduced here with permission from Dr. Bibek Debroy