Ganesha stood with Brahma’s daughter Siddhi on the sacred soil of Kailasa, offering worship to the linga that Parvati had installed. He glanced at his companion’s proud face, knowing that he had embarked on a rough path in attempting to win her over. For now, however, he had to focus on his confrontation with Parasurama whom Shiva had blessed with his great axe.
Siddhi watched from a safe distance as Ganesha bowed to the warrior and requested him to wait until Shiva granted him permission to enter. But Parasurama angrily pushed him aside and strode towards the cave. Ganesha intercepted him, causing the angry warrior to raise his axe to threaten him.
Finding that his antagonist would not listen to mere words, Shiva’s son extended his trunk by many lengths and wound it around Parasurama 100 times. He then raised the warrior into the skies so that he could see the seven mountains, the seven oceans and the seven islands of the earth below him. Then he whirled him around and showed him all the lokas including Vaikunta, where Lord Vishnu presided on his lotus throne with Devi Lakshmi. With his yogic power, Shiva’s son granted Parasurama a vision of Goloka, the purest of realms, where blue-hued Krishna resided with Radha and his gopis.
After showing Parasurama how insignificant he was when compared to the primordial universe spanning endless time and space, Gajamukha dropped him gently on the ground outside Shiva’s cave. He smiled at Siddhi who stood dazed, clinging to a tree for support, as she too had been granted the supernal vision by Ganesha’s grace. She realized now that her cheerful friend was called Vakratunda not because of his crooked trunk, but because he was the one who straightened out the crooked.
Parasurama recovered from his stupor and saw that he was lying on the ground at Ganesha’s feet. Incensed by this humiliation, he sprang to his feet and took up his mighty axe. The parasu hurtled towards Ganesha with a deafening roar. Siddhi trembled, certain that her friend would not survive the dire power of his father’s weapon.
Strangely enough, Gajamukha made no attempt to counter Parasurama’s axe. Instead, he joined his hands in worship to the parasu and stood calmly as if reconciled to his death.
Siddhi heard a horrific crack as the parasu struck one of Ganesha’s tusks and severed it completely. It fell to the ground with a crash, smeared in blood, looking like a crystal mountain covered in red chalk. Shiva rushed out of the cave, followed by Parvati, who turned into fiery Durga when she saw that her son had been wounded. She discerned what had happened and raged at the warrior who stood before her with the axe that had returned to his hand.
‘O Parasurama!’ she said. ‘You may be learned and wise and the son of a great sage, yet you have allowed wrath to overcome you. You received your parasu from your guru, Shiva, but abused your gift by using it to wound his son. Ganesha, on the other hand, allowed the axe to sever his tusk due to his respect for his father’s weapon. What next will you do, Parasurama? Will you assail mighty Shiva himself? Presumptuous warrior! I curse you this day that though you are an avatara of my beloved Vishnu, no one on earth or heaven will ever worship you!’
Parasurama cowered before the angry goddess whose fury grew by the moment. ‘It is only due to Ganesha’s forbearance that you are still alive, for he can kill a hundred thousand Parasuramas in the blink of an eye,’ she said. ‘But I am unwilling to be so tolerant and will end your life today!’
Durga rushed towards him, with her trident aimed at his head. Parasurama stood unarmed and unresisting. He closed his eyes, joined his hands together and surrendered to Krishna.
‘Om Namo Bhagavate Vasudevaya!’ Parasurama chanted, invoking his god with his last breath.
At once, Krishna appeared before him, lustrous and omnipotent, granting him protection with one raised hand. Durga stopped mid-stride and gazed at Krishna. Her wrath vanished, dissolving like mist in the light of the sun. A beatific smile adorned her face. She offered him a reverential welcome along with Shiva.
Krishna addressed them gently, a calm smile on his face. ‘I have come here to rescue my devotee,’ he said. ‘Though Parasurama has committed a grievous sin, I request you to forgive him, Parvati. He is your son too, for you are the divine mother, the refuge of all creation. As for you, Parasurama, you have to undertake a severe tapasya to attain forgiveness. Worship the Devi who animates the three realms in the form of the gentle Gauri and the fierce Durga. Seek the blessings of Ganesha who is now Ekadanta, the lord with one tusk.’
Having offered his counsel, the lord returned to Goloka. Parasurama prostrated himself before the gods and laid his axe at Ganesha’s feet in tribute. He then retreated to a distant mountain to begin his worship. Parvati took her son into her mansion, to coddle him after his fierce encounter.