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The Sixth and Seventh Avatars.
SIXTH AVATAR, or PARASU RAMA.
IN this avatar Vishnu no longer assumes the form of a monster, but claims our admiration as a youthful hero, Parasu Rama, for his filial piety and undaunted prowess in exterminating a race of tyrants, the Khetrie or warrior tribe of India, who had oppressed mankind, and barbarously caused the death of his parents. In consequence of having no offspring, his father and mother had secluded themselves from the world, and passed their time in prayers, mortifications, and religious austerities, in the hopes that these would be acceptable to Vishnu, and that they might eventually obtain for them the earnest wish of their hearts. Their supplications were at length heard, and Runeeka, the mother of Parasu Rama, gave birth to a beautiful child (an incarnation of Vishnu himself), whose transcendent talents and virtues were so pleasing to Maha Deo, or Siva, that he translated him to his heaven on the summit of Mount Kailasa, where he remained till the age of twelve years, when he re-appeared on earth, to assert the rights of his father against an inhuman and vindictive tyrant, Deeruj, of the Khetrie race, who had oppressed (and before Parasu Rama could arrive had murdered) him. He came in time only to witness the remains of the funeral pile of his parents (his mother having performed suti), and instantly swore by the sacred waters of the Ganges to wholly exterminate the race of their murderers.
Deeruj is represented as possessing a thousand arms, wielding as many destructive instruments of war; but endowed with the immortal energies of Vishnu, Parasu Rama easily overcame him (see fig. 3, 4, plate 8), and the numerous forces which attended him; and speedily effected the destruction of the race of the Khetries.
It may be here mentioned, that this incarnation and the two following avatars are supposed to relate to the heroic exploits of warlike and patriotic princes, who would appear to have relieved their country from either internal oppression or foreign invasion. Parasu Rama having succeeded in extirpating the Khetries, collected together their treasures; one portion of which he consecrated to the gods, the other he bestowed in charity. He then retired, to devote the remainder of his life to the purposes of religion.
Another story is also related of Vishnu in this incarnation, which seems to partake, in some degree, of the pious artifice by which he had overcome Maha Bali in the preceding avatar. Having conquered the Kbetries, Parasu Rama bestowed their country upon the Brahmans : but subsequently asked for a small part of it back, whereon to end his days; which was ungratefully refused. He then supplicated Varuna, the Neptune of the Hindus, to withdraw the waters of the ocean from the foot of the gauts or mountains (the country he had bestowed upon the Brahmans, which the sea then reached), so far only as he could shoot an arrow from his bow. Varuna had no sooner promised, than it was insinuated to him that the supplicant was no other than Vishnu himself; whose arrow discharged from the sacred bow, danook, would probably fly over the whole extent of the waters, and thus deprive him of his dominions. The ocean god too late repented of the promise which he had made; but, as has been shown in the instance of Maha Bali, as the promises and gifts of the gods cannot be recalled (although it would appear they may be eluded or taken away, by the Hindu deities at least, by surreptitious means), it was resolved to oppose artifice to artifice, to lessen the apprehended serious consequences. In the night, therefore, preceding the morning on which Parasu Rama was to let fly the arrow, it was contrived to injure the string of the bow, so that when the shaft was discharged, it extended no farther over the waters than where they covered the present coast of Malabar, on the western side of the gauts, which has been fabled to have been thus rescued from the ocean.
The combats of the gods of the Hindu mythology with the giants who
oppressed mankind so nearly resemble each other, that, as I shall elsewhere describe a most astonishing one, I shall refrain from a description of those of the other IIindu deities. It will, therefore, only be necessary to imagine, when one of these desperate encounters is mentioned, that the antagonists of the gods were monsters possessing an interminable number of heads, arms, and weapons; that innumerable forces, billions of elephants, and millions of horses and chariots, were engaged on each side; and that stupendous mountains, and serpents of enormous magnitude, flew about on these occasions, incomparably thicker and faster than musket-balls and grape-shot, on the ever memorable day of Waterloo. By this proceeding, I shall be enabled greatly to shorten, much to the relief of the reader, my account of the extensively worshipped deity, Krishna, and the heroes of the Ramayana.
SEVENTH ‘AVATAR, or RAMA CHANDRA.
It has been already shewn, that the entire objects of the several avatar: of Vishnu have been the punishment of tyrannical and wicked princes, who having obtained extraordinary power from the gods by their religious austerities, afterwards became iniquitous ministers of vice, and the sanguinary oppressors of mankind. They are, in consequence, represented as hydra-headed demons or giants, possessing numerous arms, which (as well as their heads) were no sooner struck off, than they were instantly reproduced. In this avatar, Vishnu appears in the person of a courageous and virtuous prince, the son of the puissant sovereign of Hindustan (whose capital, Ayodhya, is said to have extended over a space of forty miles), to punish a monstrous giant, Ravan, who then reigned over Lanka (or the island of Ceylon). Ravan, like the tyrants of the preceding avatars, had obtained his power by his piety, having been rewarded by Brahma,‘ in
"" There is another version of Ravan's acquirement of power, which exonerates Brahma and implicates Siva, in a manner difficult to account for beyond the charmed pale of Hindu mythology. Ravan, to propitiate Siva, cut olf nine of his ten heads, and was about to decapitate the tenth, when Mahadeo, moved by such extraordinary devotion, demanded to know his wishes, pledging himself unreservedly to grant them. Ravan demanded immortality, universal dominion,