Parashurama Avatar

Raja Ravi Varma and Ravi Varma PressCirca 1910

The Ganesh Shivaswamy Foundation

The Ganesh Shivaswamy Foundation
Bengaluru, India

PARASHURAM AVATAR: In this incarnation Lord Vishnu assumes a form to annihilate the ruling princes. The reason for his incarnation runs as follows: Parashuram was the son of Jamadagni who possessed a wish fulfilling cow (kamadhenu). The monarch of Mahishmati, Kartaviryarjuna wishes to possess the cow. When Jamadagni refused, Kartaviryarjuna assassinated Jamadagni and his wife Renuka. Parashurama who witnessed the scene avenged the death of his parents by not only killing Karthviryarjuna but also all the ruling princes (kshatriyas). The incarnation of Parashuram ends with his being defeated at the hands of Rama.

This print from the Ravi Varma Press derived from a painting by Raja Ravi Varma probably follows the iconographic description as found in the Vishnu-dharmottara and the Agni-purana which prescribes that Parashuram be represented as a sage with an axe in hand. His hair is to be matted and done up like a halo.


  • Title: Parashurama Avatar
  • Creator: Raja Ravi Varma, Ravi Varma Press
  • Date Created: Circa 1910
  • Physical Dimensions: 35 x 25 cms
  • Provenance: The Hemamalini and Ganesh Shivaswamy collection, Bengaluru
  • Subject Keywords: Raja Ravi Varma, Hinduism, Gigapixel
  • Type: Chromolithograph
  • Rights: The Ganesh Shivaswamy Foundation, Bengaluru
  • Creator's Biography: Raja Ravi Varma (1848-1906) was a prolific Indian artist who is recognized for his resorting to the academic realistic style of painting. His portraits of English and Indian royalty and aristocracy were well received. His paintings on Hindu religious and mythological subjects and paintings from classical and literary sources were highly sought after even during his lifetime. He painted several copies of his works and this demand led to the suggestion to have his paintings printed in the form of oleographs. The Ravi Varma Fine Art Lithographic Press was established in Bombay (now Mumbai) and commenced operations in 1894. Many of Ravi Varma's paintings were printed as chromolithographs at this Press. These chromolithographs would have a tremendous impact on religion, society and aesthetics. They went on to democratize art leading to immortalize Ravi Varma in the minds of the people of the Indian subcontinent.

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