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Parashurama is a famous avatara (incarnation) of Vishnu who killed the Kshatriyas (kings) of the world twenty-one times. Since he had defeated all the rulers of the world, he obtained control of the entire Earth. But I'm interested in what happened to the Earth afterward. The immediate aftermath seems clear: to repent for the sin of killing all those people, Parashurama conducted an Ashwamedha Yagna (horse ritual), performed by sage Kashyapa (the ancestor of many gods and demons), and then Parashurama gave the earth to Kashyapa as a gift for performing the yagna. This is well-attested in many scriptures: In the Bala Kanda of the Ramayana, Parashurama says to Rama "I gave all that earth to sage Kashyapa, a sage with divine soul and with pious observances, as a ritualistic-generosity." The Vana Parva of the Mahabharata says "And the exterminator of the [Kshatriyas] possessed of immense strength, bestowed the earth upon the high-souled Kasyapa, and then became engaged in penance of an exceedingly severe form." Finally, the Srimad Bhagavatam describes Parashurama dividing the earth among Kashyapa and the priests working under him.

My question is, what happened to the Earth after Parashurama gave it to Kashyapa? The next major mythological event that occurred was Ravana taking over the three worlds, as described in the Uttara Kanda of the Ramayana. So how did Ravana take over the earth? Did he take it directly from Kashyapa, or were there some intermediate stages between Kashyapa's control of the earth and Ravana's?

If Ravana did take over the world from Kashyapa, then I think it may have been a voluntary transfer (akin to how Ravana got the island of Lanka), because there are legends (I don't know whether they're based in scripture) that Ravana and Parashurama were friends. so it's possible that Parashurama simply told Kashyapa to give the earth to Ravana. But that's just speculation. Are there any other scriptures that detail how custody of the earth went from Kashyapa to Ravana?

  • The purpose of the Ashwamedha Yagna, in my limited knowledge is to establish dominion and not to atone for sins. So the reference to the Yajna herein is puzzling. – Naveen Nov 7 '15 at 17:50
  • @Naveen Well, the Ashwamedha Yagna isn't solely for dominion, it's also just a Punya-granting act. So it can certainly be used to make up for sins you've committed. – Keshav Srinivasan Nov 7 '15 at 18:28
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Apparently the Mahabharata tells the story of Parashurama twice - once in the Vana Parva as I linked to in my question, but also once in the this chapter of the Shanti Parva. And it's the second version that has the answer to my question. It looks like after Kashyapa got control of the earth, Bhumidevi the goddess of the earth told Kashyapa to install certain Kshatriyas she deemed worthy as new kings of the earth, since the world had fallen into chaos in the absence of kings:

When anarchy sets in on earth, the weak are oppressed by the strong, and no man is master of his own property. Unprotected duly by Kshatriyas observant of virtue, and oppressed by the wicked in consequence of that disorder, the earth quickly sank to the lowest depths. Beholding the earth sinking from fear, the high-souled Kasyapa held her on his lap; and since the great Rishi held her on his lap (uru) therefore is the earth known by the name of Urvi. The goddess earth, for protection's sake, gratified Kasyapa and begged of him a king.

The Earth said, "There are, O, regenerate one, some foremost of Kshatriyas concealed by me among women. They were born in the race of Haihayas. Let them, O sage, protect me. There is another person of Puru's race, viz., Viduratha's son, O puissant one, who has been brought up among bears in the Rikshavat mountains. Another, viz., the son of Saudasa, has been protected, through compassion, by Parasara of immeasurable energy and ever engaged in sacrifices. Though born in one of the regenerate orders, yet like a Sudra he does everything for that Rishi and has, therefore, been named Sarvakarman (servant of all work). Sivi's son of great energy, viz., Gopati by name, has been brought up in the forest among kine. Let him, O sage, protect me. Pratardana's son, named Vatsa of great might, has been brought up among calves in a cowpen. Let that one of the royal order protect me. Dadhivahana's grandson and Diviratha's son was concealed and protected on the banks of Ganga by the sage Gautama. His name is Vrihadratha. Possessed of great energy and adorned with numerous blessed qualities, that blessed prince has been protected by wolves and the mountains of Gridhrakuta. Many Kshatriyas belonging to the race of Maratta have been protected. Equal unto the lord of Maruts in energy, they have been brought up by Ocean. These children of the Kshatriya order have been heard of as existing in different places. They are living among artisans and goldsmiths. If they protect me I shall then stay unmoved. Their sires and grandsires have been slain for my sake by Rama Of great prowess. It is my duty, O great sage, to see that their funeral rites are duly performed. I do not desire that I should be protected by my present rulers. Do thou, O sage, speedily make such arrangements that I may exist (as before)." ...

The sage Kasyapa then, seeking out those Kshatriyas of great energy whom the goddess had indicated, installed them duly as kings (for protecting her). Those Kshatriya races that are now extent are the progeny of those princes.

(On a side note, the need for new kings in the wake of Parashurama was also behind the birth of the Rajputs according to legend.)

So to sum up, the earth went from the hands of Kshatriyas to Parashurama, from Parashurama to Kashyapa, and then from Kashyapa back to the Kshatriyas. That explains why Ravana had to conquer the earth kingdom by kingdom; the Uttara Kanda of the Ramayana describes how Ravana defeated conquered various kingdoms by challenging their kings to battle, for instance defeating Rama's ancestor Anaranya as described in this excerpt from the Uttara Kanda. (Anaranya put a curse on Ravana that his descendant would defeat him.)

  • AFAIK, Parashuram is often called progenitor of certain clans like Namboodiri in Kerala, Bhumihar Brahmin of Bihar and Jharkhand, Chitpavan, Niyogi, Daivadnya, Mohyal, Shukla, Awasthi, Tyagi, Anavil besides Rajputs. – Vineet Menon Aug 6 '14 at 5:39
  • There's also a legend that certain Kshatriya clans in south India, like Nairs and Tulu disguised themselves as Brahmins by wearing Janeu/Sacred Thread for not to get killed by Parashurama when he came down south. – Vineet Menon Aug 6 '14 at 5:42
  • @VineetMenon This i'm afraid might be incorrect. Nairs are Menons are not pure Kshatriya lineage, but are mix between namboodiri brahmin and Kstriyas. – Naveen Nov 7 '15 at 17:59
  • @Naveen I'm not sure whether this is correct or not, but here is what this website says: agnihotrausa.net/Lord-Parashuram.html "There is an another legend that Nairs (Nagas) of Kerala removed their sacred thread and hide in forest to avoid Parasuramas revenge against Kshatriyas. Parasuram donated the land to Nambuthiri Brahimns and Nambuthiris denied the Nairs Kshatriya status (though they did Kshatriya duties and almost all the royal houses in Kerala come from them)" – Keshav Srinivasan Nov 7 '15 at 18:20

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