Legend has it that Renuka was so devoted to her husband that she would utilize an unbaked clay pot to fill water from the river. Her devotion and sense of chastity would keep the clay bound well and it would not dissolve in the water.
Renuka’s heart filled with desire for just a moment. She immediately retraced her desires, but that moment of indiscretion was bad enough for her pot to dissolve in water. She was too afraid to now go back home and so just waited at the riverbank.
In the meantime, Rishi Jamadagni noticed that his wife had not returned from the river and utilizing his yogic powers he inquired into the situation.
He came to know what had happened and flew into rage. He ordered his eldest son to kill his mother. His son refused to perform such an action. Then he ordered his second son and so on. They all refused to kill their mother. Angered by this fact that his sons refused to follow his command, he turned them to stones!
Rishi Jamadagni was pleased that his son was obedient and had carried out his wishes, so he gave him two boons. He said, “Dear son, I am pleased by your obedience. Ask any two boons.”
Lord Parashuram replied that as the first boon, he would like his mother to get her head back and be restored to life. And for his second boon, he would like for his brothers to also be restored back to flesh and blood living beings.
Rishi Jamadagni was pleased to hear his son’s request and promptly completed the restoration in a smooth way. Renuka and her sons came back to life without any recollection of the horror that they had experienced.
At an apparent level, when modern day folks read these Vedic legends, they get quite perturbed. How can a Rishi, a divine light being, ask his own son to kill his mother!! How can the son carry out such a gory act in the name of “dharma”!!
We need to remember that many of these Vedic legends were symbolic in nature and they indicate cosmic mysteries- interwoven with story and moral teachings.
It is important and interesting to note that Lord Parashuram represents the graha (planet) Venus and we know that Venus represents the ability to produce life (as shukra or reproductive fluids). Venus is also the only planet that has the knowledge of Sanjeevani vidya- i.e. the know-how as to how we can bring someone back to life.
Though, as Venus, there is another Vedic legend as to how Venus- Shukracharya obtained the Sanjeevani vidya. More on that some other time… stay tuned…