Kuru princes at Drona’s school | Mahabharata Paintings

Ekalavya's Guru dakshina, Wikipedia

Kaurava-s and Pandava-s were grown up in Hastinapur. They attained the age to start proper education and martial arts to increase their endurance.

Kripacharya

Kripa was grown up in Hastinapur. He was found by Shantanu from forest along with her sister Kripi. He became the first teacher for kuru princes.

Dronacharya, tutor with a revenge

Drona was the son of sage Bharatvaja. Drupada – the king of Panchala – was his classmate in gurukul erstwhile. Drona married Kripi. Both had a lovable son named Ashwatthama. They were in stark poverty. He could not even buy cow’s milk for his son. He met King Drupada to ask for a cow. He used his gurukul friendship as a valid justification for his obligation. But Drupada handled him as a King. He refused to give it in the name of friendship. He asked Drona to beg for donation. Humiliated Drona was full of wrath. He vowed to become as popular as Drupada.

Drona at Drupada's court, Amar Chitra Katha
Drona at Drupada’s court, Amar Chitra Katha

O Brahmana! Your wisdom is lacking and inferior, if you suddenly begin to address me as your friend. O one with a dull mind! No great king can ever be a friend with men like you. You have no prosperity, nor do you have riches. Time decays everything, including friendship.

பிராமணனே! திடீரென்று என்னை உன் நண்பன் என்று சொல்லும் அளவிற்கு உனது அறிவு குறைவாகவும் தாழ்வாகவும் போய்விட்டது. மந்தமான மனம் கொண்டவனே! உன்னைப் போன்ற மனிதர்களுடன் எந்தப் பெரிய அரசனும் நண்பனாக இருக்க முடியாது. உனக்கு செழிப்பு இல்லை, செல்வமும் இல்லை. நட்பு உட்பட அனைத்தையும் காலம் காலாவதி ஆக்குகிறது.

Vaisampayana to Janamejaya, The Mahabharata Set Of 10 Volumes

He left the Panchala palace. He mastered archery from Parashurama at the condition of not helping kshatriya-s using his skillset. After leaving Parashurama-s gurukul, he forget about the promise. He entered into Hastinapur, the abode of Kshatriya-s.

The entry of Drona into Hastinapur is an heroic scene. The kuru princess were playing near a well. Their ball fell down into the well. Drona used reed grass as arrow. He throw the first piece of arrow, which hit the ball. The second one punched the tail part of previous arrow. Thus he made a string of grass, using which he took the ball out of the well. The boys were excited. They told Bhishma about Drona’s skillset.

Drona helps to take the ball out of well
Drona helps to take the ball out of well

Bhishma and Kripa made Drona as the royal tutor. Drona accepted with one condition. The kuru princes should capture Panchala King Drupada alive. Lending hands come. An aid comes with a condition in Hastinapur’s history. Hastinapur signed in that contract also! Grudges and revenges were not new to this empire. Drona became the tutor!

Arjuna, the obedient

All Kuru princes were trained by Drona and Kripa. But Arjuna excelled in archery. One day he rescued Drona from a crocodile. Drona swore to mold him a great archer who would be extolled by Bharata land.

Indian system expects unquestionable obedience to mata (mother), pita (father), guru (teacher) and deivam (God). Arjuna became the primary disciple of Drona. The acharya thought he deserved an unquestionable crown for him in archery because of his focus and hard work.

Test of Dronacharya
Test of Dronacharya

O descendant of the Bharata lineage! Drona heard the twang of his bowstring and came to him and embraced him. He said, “I promise you that I will do my utmost to ensure that you are the best archer in this world and there is no one equal to you.”

பரத பரம்பரையில் வந்தவனே! துரோணர் அவனது வில்லின் சத்தத்தைக் கேட்டு அவனருகே வந்து அவனைத் தழுவினார். அவர் கூறினார், “நீ இந்த உலகில் சிறந்த வில்லாளியாக இருக்க என்னால் முடிந்த அனைத்தையும் செய்வேன் என்று நான் உறுதியளிக்கிறேன். உனக்கு நிகராக யாரும் இல்லை.”

Vaisampayana to Janamejaya, The Mahabharata Set Of 10 Volumes

Ekalavya, the devoted

Ekalavya’s story was another stain in the tale of Acharya Drona. He was from Nishada tribe. Drona’s fame reached the forests of Nishada. Ekalavya commuted such a long distance and approached Drona to learn archery. Drona – as perceived by Jeyamohan’s Venmurasu, the Tamil version of Mahabharata – felt he would be be against Hastinapur’s wishes one day. He neglected him. He mentioned Ekalavya that if he has faith in Drona, he can teach himself.

Poor Ekalavya took it seriously and learnt Drona’s techniques from distance. Purana-s say, he learnt it with a telepathy kind of technique by keeping avahanam (likeness) of Drona . But I took it practical sense. He might have stalked him.

Ekalavya practice before the likeness of Drona, Wikipedia
Ekalavya practice before the likeness of Drona, Wikipedia

They asked him, “Who are you and whose son are you?” Ekalavya replied, “Know me to be the son of Hiranyadhanu, the king of the nishadas. I am Drona’s student and I am trying to become skilled in Dhanur Veda.”

அவர்கள் அவனிடம், “நீ யார், யாருடைய மகன்?” என்று கேட்டார்கள். அதற்கு ஏகலவ்யன், “என்னை நிஷாத மன்னன் ஹிரண்யதனுசின் மகன் என்று அறிந்து கொள். நான் துரோணரின் மாணவன், தனுர் வேதத்தில் தேர்ச்சி பெற முயற்சிக்கிறேன்.” என்று பதிலளித்தான்.

Vaisampayana to Janamejaya, The Mahabharata Set Of 10 Volumes

One fine day Drona learned about the skill of Ekalavya. Arjuna jealously appealed to him for making Ekalavya as a great Archer, which was against his promise.

Drona met Ekalavya and asked about his teacher. Ekalavya pointed at Drona himself and explained the way he learnt. Drona does not want a competition of his loveable shishya, Arjuna. He asked for guru-dakshina (payment). It is a custom in Indian gurukul (schooling). Ekalavya agreed to give him whatever he asked. Drona asked for his thumb finger of his right hand. Undoubtedly Drona conspired here. Ekalavya did not utter a word. He cut his finger immediately and paid his guru-dakshina,

Ekalavya's Guru dakshina, Wikipedia
Ekalavya’s Guru dakshina, Wikipedia

Drona’s decision was not only political but also caste-based. He strongly felt that nishada-s tribal is not well qualified to learn archery. But the punishment given by Drona made Arjuna to feel relaxed at the same time it was too brutal for him.

References / Gratitude:

  • The illustrated Mahabharata, Dorling Kindersley India, Penguin Random House, 1st Ed. 2017
  • The Mahabharata Set Of 10 Volumes, Bibek Debroy
  • Vannakadal (colourful sea), Jeyamohan

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