Most of the myths associate goddess Renuka, mother of Parshuram suggest her role as a fertility goddess and is often symbolized in the form of a pot or ghata. However, Mala and Madiga communities of South Andhra see goddess Renuka in a different light and identify a peculiar kind of mushroom as her symbol. Whenever these mushrooms erupt over the soil they take it as a sign of the arrival of goddess Renuka, and celebrate it by singing the praises of her as a warrior goddess. These songs are sung by professional singers of the pambalavandlu community.
Renuka was the daughter of a mountain king (Shiva) and his wife Jamilika ( Parvati). She was married to sage Jamadgni who was known for his short tempered nature. Together they had a son by the name of Parshuram. Once a group of rakshasas attacked the mountain king and he ran and hid in a cave refusing to come out. When Renuka came to know of this she went to her husband Jamadagni, balancing seven pots containing rice and water on her head, to ask his permission to enter into the battlefield to kill the rakshasa. But Vishnu wanted to test her devotion towards her husband. He along with Narada, approached her in the form of a beggar while she was on her way to meet Jamadagni and begged for alms. Taking pity on the hungry beggars Renuka shared some grain and water with them. When Jamadagni came to know that part of his food was first shared with strangers he burned with anger and ordered his son Parshurama to behead his mother. Parshurama dutifully fulfilled his father’s command. But soon repented and chopped off his own hand in remorse for killing his own mother.
As soon as Parshuram’s severed hand fell on the earth, mushrooms sprang up in that spot and Renuka came alive in the form of a cobra. She approached her husband again to ask for his permission to enter into battle with the rakshasas, but Jamadagni heckled her again. This time Renuka assumed the form of Shakti with thousand hands holding shulas ( spears), khatvangs( curved sword) and khadgas( Sword). Faced with this fierce form of the goddess Jamadagni tried to flee but Renuka held him back by grabbing his garments. Finally, Jamadagni gave her his consent to enter the battle and Renuka returned to her human form. During the battle she killed each and every rakshasa. But when the the blood of rakshasas touched the earth they sprang back to life. She asked her brother Poturaju to spread his tongue and suck away all the blood before it touched the ground, and thus Renuka won the war against Rakshasas.
Image: wikipedia . Image details: Nepal, 14th century Sculpture Copper with traces of gilding and paint; inlaid with gemstones 8 x 8 1/4 x 4 in. (20.32 x 20.96 x 10.16 cm) Museum Associates Acquisition Fund (M.80.3) South and Southeast Asian Art