Ekalavya – The epitome of mastery & devotion in Mahabharata

If you have to put in a lot of efforts to achieve something that you cherish a lot, how would you feel when someone asks you to forfeit that very same thing? Especially if that someone was a person whom you respected a lot and was the inspiration behind your achievement… Add to this – you are never going to get that something which you cherish, back again!

Ekalavya, a character in the Hindu Mythology ‘Mahabharata’, was in such a situation and did what no one else would have done… Β  Short version of his story is given below.

Ekalavya was the son of a Tribal chief who wanted to learn archery. He had heard of a great teacher called Dronacharya (Also called Drona) who was teaching the royal princes of Pandavas and Kauravas in his ashram. Ekalavya too wanted to learn archery from him, so he approached Drona and requested him to teach archery.

But Drona refused to teach him saying that he only teaches royal princes or people of such cadre. Ekalavya’s heart was broken, but his will was not.

So, he made a statue of Drona in clay and started practicing archery by himself. With time, enormous efforts and determination he became a master of archery, learning and practicing the skill by himself.

Once, when he was practicing in the forest, Dronacharya and his shishyas had come to a forest visit. They brought a dog along with them and it was continuously barking – thereby disturbing Ekalavya’s practice.

Without seeing the dog (and just by listening to its barking sound), Ekalavya was able to hit seven arrows in its mouth in a manner that the dog was not hurt but just stopped barking. When Drona and his pupils saw the dog, they were astonished at the skill of the archer and wanted to meet the person, who could fire his arrows so accurately.

They found Ekalavya and upon questioning, Ekalavya explained how after being refused by Drona, he built a clay statue of Drona and started practicing archery. Ekalavya was very happy to be praised by his Manasiga Guru Dronacharya for his skills in archery.

But Arjuna, who was the favorite disciple of Drona (whom Drona had promised to make the best archer in the world) was upset at this and asked Drona as to how he could become the best archer in the world when there was this person who could do something that he couldn’t.

So, Drona (in order to keep his promise to Arjuna), says that since Ekalavya considered Drona to be his Guru, he should offer a Guru Dakshina (Something like a fees/ favour as requested by the Guru and given by the students at the end of their training).

Ekalavya is happy that at last he has been recognized by his Guru as a disciple andΒ  feels honoured by this request of Guru Dakshina. Drona asks for Ekalavya’s right hand thumb – which he gives immediately without bothering much about the consequences, which includes that fact that Ekalavya might never be able to practice his archery again!

Ekalavya is a very small and (seemingly) inconsequential character in the events of Mahabharata. But because of his sacrifice, his name becomes very famous and his story is still remembered. I remember reading this as a non-detailed lesson in Tamil. Thus the name Ekalavya has become an epitome of mastery (of his skill) & devotion (to his guru).

So, what do I infer from this? – Self learning is the best way to learn! πŸ™‚

Also, Arjuna might still not have been the best archer in his own kingdom (forget the world), as he had some worthy competitors. Besides, except in breaking the Chakravyuh, Abhimanyu could be considered as equal to Arjuna (in his archery skills) and he was much much more braver than Arjuna.

Arjuna perhaps did not know that the best way to become the best was not to drag others down, but to rise himself to reach (or better) their heights. If Arjuna had practiced, he could have learnt this skill himself (as he did in other situations – like learning to shoot an arrow in the night), but instead he lowers his stature because of this incident. I don’t know what to infer from Dronacharya’s act.

In doing what he did, was Ekalavya wiser (than what he should be in his age) in his thoughts? Because, only a very wise person can let go something that they desire very much. Perhaps, Ekalavya knew something that Drona didn’t. Or maybe it was just an act of extreme devotion.

Whatever it is, his name has been etched in the minds of people permanently.

Destination Infinity

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21 thoughts on “Ekalavya – The epitome of mastery & devotion in Mahabharata

  1. I am of the beleif that as usual the so called WISE ones always played with guile and deception … Dronacharya did this to Eklavya.. which was wrong of him .. and I have my reservations about Arjun ..

    We have seen in history and myths that almost all wars were won by deception and the pandavs won over the enemy with deception and that too a lot of them …


    1. I do agree that there is no ‘wise’ person, and all the people who call themselves so have projected/marketed their image that way… Maybe we might have some ‘relatively’ wise people?

      It is an irony that Dronacharya, after making Arjuna the best archer (presumably) in the world (by every means) gets killed by Arjuna at the end! So, there is some eternal justice?

      Destination Infinity

      1. See we cannot blame Drona for what he did because he ate the salt of the Kingdom right? That is the reason why he is helpless in all these situations and has to take sides with Duryodhana in the battle.

        1. I can understand why Drona had to take sides with Duryodhana in the battle, and perhaps he was right in doing so. But in this incident, he should have just asked Arjuna to practice and learn this skill. Ekalavya could have been an inspiration to learn something new!

          But some people say that disrespecting Drona and still learning archery in-spite of being refused by Drona was against the law (in those days) and Ekalavya could have got a bigger punishment. If that is the case, then the law is wrong.

          Destination Infinity

  2. Well, I personally believe that devotion to one’s teacher is good but it is wise to understand when the teacher is making an irrational demand.
    Nevertheless, its a mythical story and Eklavya name will always be remembered for his skill and devotion πŸ™‚ πŸ™‚

    1. There is one quote that I remember, ‘No employer can rob his employee of one important thing – experience’ which says that no matter how badly you get treated by the employer, you ultimately gain experience.

      There are situations where persistence is required even if we think that the teacher is making irrational demands. We might learn more irrespective of the intention of the teacher!

      Destination Infinity

    1. There is some balance ingrained into the system in spite of what the wise, and treacherous think and do!

      Destination Infinity

  3. Eklavya became famous because of this act πŸ™‚ Great post.. I had actually forgotten how Drona happens to meet Eklavya in the forest.. your post made me remember again..

    1. I studied this as a lesson in Tamil ‘Non-detailed’ portion. Somehow, I remember this one in particular, quite clearly!

      Destination Infinity

    1. Yeah, at his age chances of this being an act of devotion is indeed higher… I too guessed that.

      Destination Infinity

  4. I remember the story of Ekalavya but not in such detail. Thanks for the recap.

    Even a sage like Drona was a bit mean minded and greedy. How cruel of him to ask for the right hand thumb as Gurudakshina!

    I liked Karna’s character better than of Arjuna or Bheema (Karnan movie influence, maybe!).

    Mahabharata has got all the ingredients for thousands of films for our Bollywood and Kollywood to take! They need not steal from foreign films at all, if they read this epic!

    1. I should see that Karnan movie one day – not seen it yet! Yes, Mahabharata is one of the best story ever to be told!

      Destination Infinity

  5. I read this story in childhood. I think it is not fair to blame Arjuna. Drona asked for his thumb..not Arjuna. Arjuna did not care. But of course Eklavya devotion is unmatched.

    In any case I think Arjuna could not win Karan but ……..you know what happened there

    1. Its not fair to blame Arjuna, but by being silent (about an action which was done on his behalf) he has definitely lowered his stature.

      Destination Infinity

  6. oh have u read the palace of illusions? a must read. it will make u fall in love with mahabharata once again and for us girls with Karna πŸ˜€

  7. I guess this book was also made in to a movie right? Anyways I need to read that book ASAP!

    Destination Infinity

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