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The poem Buttoo is inspired by the story of Ekalavya from Mahabharata. It chronicles the story of a devoted student and the price he has to pay for his devotion.
The poem is taken from Dutt’s Ancient Ballads and Legends of Hindustan (1882). The rhyme scheme follows as ababc dedfg hijkjklmlm nono pqpqrsrstutuvwvw
“Oh Master, unto thee I came To learn thy science. Name or pelf I had not, so was driven with shame And here I learn all by myself. But still as Master thee revere, For who so great in archery! Lo, all my inspiration here, And all my knowledge is from thee.” “If I am Master, how thou hast Finished thy course, give me my due. Let all the past be dead and past, Henceforth be ties between us new.” “All that I have, O Master mine, All I shall conquer by my skill, Gladly shall I to thee resign, Let me but know thy gracious will.”
Butto through this ballad reveals to Dronacharya why he has been learning archery by himself. Without any name or money, he was embarrassed to approach a prominent guru like Dronacharya. He still acknowledges Dronacharya as his master and holds him in high regard. He praises Dronacharya and admits that it was he who inspired and bestowed wisdom on Buttoo. Buttoo paid tribute to Dronacharya, thus the master requests that he be paid. Butto pledges his everything to his teacher, Dronacharya’s wish is Buttoo’s command.
“Is it a promise?” “Yea, I swear So long as I have breath and life To give thee all thou wilt.” “Beware! Rash promise ever ends in strife.” “Thou art my Master – ask! oh ask! From thee my inspiration came, Thou canst not set too hard a task, Nor aught refuse I, free from blame.” “If it be so – Arjuna hear!” Arjuna and the youth were dumb “For thy sake, loud I ask and clear, Give me, O youth, thy right-hand thumb. I promised in my faithfulness No equal ever shall there be To thee, Arjuna, - and I press
Dronacharya takes a very powerful promise from Buttoo, one where Buttoo will deliver to any wish of his. Buttoo, confident that his master will not seek for anything too hard, once again prompts his teacher to make a demand. Dronacharya satisfied with Buttoo’s persuasion calls for Arjuna’s attention as he declares his wish. Nothing could have prepared Butto for what followed next. Dronacharya asks for Buttoo’s right thumb. Dronacharya had very faithfully made a promise to Arjuna that there will not be an archer as excellent as him.
For this sad recompense - for thee.” Glanced the sharp knife one moment high, The severed thumb was on the sod, There was no tear in Buttoo’s eye, He left the matter with his God. “For this,” – said Dronacharya – “Fame Shall sound thy praise from sea to sea, And men shall ever link thy name With Self-help, Truth and Modesty.”
To keep the promise that his master had made, the devoted Buttoo selflessly sacrifices his thumb.Buttoo’s eyes were dry, and he entrusted the situation to his God. Dronacharya assures his loyal student that his story and praise will be shared from sea to sea and all men will remember him as a model of self-help, truth and modesty.
The poem highlights the importance of a promise, how men of respect stay true to their words even in the most adverse situations. It glorifies Buttoo’s selflessness and devotion to his teacher, his role model.