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This chapter talks about a section from the Mahabharat. Eklavya comes to Drona to become his pupil, but he is not accepted. However, he is devoted to Drona and develops great skill at archery through practice. This makes Arjuna very angry and leads to a tragic fate for Eklavya.
Drona– the Great Acharya who taught the Pandavas and the Kauravas
Arjuna- one of the Pandava princes
Eklavya– son of the hunter chief of the southern forest who wants to become Drona’s student
Drona was standing under a tree surrounded by the Pandava and the Kaurava princes at his ashram. He said he was very glad that they had learnt all the tricks of archery. Arjuna said that he had not taught them the art of shooting at an unseen object yet. Drona said it was the most skilful trick in archery, aiming at an object just by the sound. They would learn it soon.
Suddenly a boy entered and bowed to Drona. He said he was Ekalavya, the son of Hiranyadhanus. Drona asked if his father was the hunter chief of the southern forest. Ekalavya said he was, but he had passed away. Drona said it was a pity because he was a bold hunter. He then asked Eklavya what brought him there.
Ekalavya said wolves had increased in his forest and the fawns had no safety. So, he wanted to learn archery to protect the fawns. He asked Drona to take him as one of his pupils. Drona said his thought was very noble. However, Arjuna interrupted them by saying Drona could not take Eklavya as a student because he was not a prince.
Ekalavya asked Drona to teach him archery just enough to save the poor animals. But Drona said he could not take anyone other than a Kshatriya or a Brahmin as his student. But Eklavya had his blessings. Ekalavya decided Drona would be his Guru from far away. He would learn archery with his blessings. Saying so, he prostrated before him and left.
Two years later in the forest, Drona’s idol stood decorated with flowers under a tree. Ekalavya was bowing before it with some deer grazing peacefully at a distance. Addressing the idol, Ekalavya said that the Great Acharya had taught him archery well within these two years. He exclaimed he was lucky to have him as his Guru because he had reached his goal- the fawns were free from trouble.
Suddenly he heard the barking of dogs at a distance. He shot arrows in the direction of the barking so his fawns would not be disturbed. He thought it was a big party of hunters. However, Drona entered with Arjuna and other princes and a poor dog with arrows in its mouth.
Ekalavya prostrated before Drona to pay his respects. Drona remarked that he had gained amazing skill in archery in this short period, so his teacher must be a great one. Arjuna was surprised that Eklavya had mastered the art of shooting arrows by detecting the source of sound.
Ekalavya said it was all the result of Drona’s blessings. He learnt all the tricks of archery under his kind guidance. Arjuna exclaimed that Drona had promised to make him the greatest archer in the world. But Eklavya was better than him and he said Drona was his guru.
Drona said that he had always been with Arjuna. It was Eklavya’s devotion that made him a good bowman. Arjuna said that whatever it might be, Drona had not kept his word. Drona said that if Eklavya claimed him as his teacher, he would have to give him a Gurudakshina. He demanded Eklavya’s right thumb as Gurudakshina.
Ekalavya went to the idol, bowed before it, took his knife from his belt, and cut off his right thumb. He put it at the feet of the idol, took it again and came back to Dronacharya. Her gave it to Drona and asked him to accept it and bless him. The forest was free from wolves and his fawns were safe. So, he no longer had any need for his bow.
Eklavya turned to Arjuna and told him that he was now the greatest archer as he would no longer be an archer with his cut thumb. So, Drona’s promise to him was fulfilled. Drona exclaimed that Eklavya was a noble soul and wished for God to bless him.
Even through Eklavya is not accepted as a student by Drona, he uses his devotion and hard work to develop great skill at archery. But this devotion to his guru ultimately leads to his downfall when he cuts off his thumb to appease Drona.