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… 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 and 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! 🙂
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.