Mahabharata Stories: 21 – Disciple of a New Discipline

Each individual has an inherent nature, unique. However, based on the individual’s tendencies, there are four categories under one of which he may be comfortably placed. This is for the purpose of clear devolution of an individual’s role in society based on his capacities. This pristine intention was, however, soon corrupted to its present status where the individual is given the ascribed distinction based simply on his family of birth. Caste, bringing in its mention varied negative images, has wreaked havoc indeed to our society.

Once, towards the completion of their training under master Drona, Duryodhana happened to complain of the master’s bias for Arjuna. In order for Duryodhana to see for himself the difference between Arjuna and the other Kuru princes, a contest was held.

There was a tree on whose top branch was a fruit, which the contestants had to bring down with an arrow. Many tried but could not shoot even anywhere close to the fruit. Then Arjuna took aim and shot once, and got his arrow to bring down the fruit.

When Dronacharya asked of them what they could see as they took aim to shoot, they spelt out things they saw which included the tree trunk, its branches and leaves, the fruit and even the clouds and sky beyond. Only Arjuna said: Master, as I took aim I could see only the stalk of this fruit!

It was thus proved beyond doubt that there was none to excel Partha in archery.

Later on, the princes, along with Dronacharya, went for a stroll into the woods. Their pet dog came along. In the forest, they heard a rustling sound and their dog ran in that direction, barking. Suddenly the barking stopped. Wondering what might be wrong, they went over to where the dog had gone and they found its mouth filled with arrows so as to stop it from barking, yet not a drop of blood flowed out! As they stood struck with amazement at the skill and of who the person possessing of it might be, a young boy emerged shyly from behind the trees. He went over to Drona and prostrated saying: Master! Thank you! By your grace I have learnt to shoot well!

Drona remembered this lad, Ekalavya the Nishada prince. Earlier on he had come to Dronacharya requesting of him to be his master but he was turned down as he was of a clan considered impure.


Ekalavya said: Sire! I made a clay image of your revered self and prayed to you everyday to teach me archery. In your presence I practiced hard. By your generous grace, I have progressed well!

The thought uppermost on Drona’s mind was that he had vowed that there would be none to surpass Arjuna in archery; he would be taught so well. But now he knew that there was no way Arjuna could come anywhere near this boy in skill! He said: I am happy that you have learnt well, my boy! Now are you not going to pay the Gurudakshina (offerings to the teacher)?

In all humility, Ekalavya said: Anything you ask for, sire!

Drona said: I want your right thumb!

Ekalavya took out a crescent shaped arrow from his quiver and, holding it with his left hand, simply severed his right thumb and placed it respectfully at the master’s feet!


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