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What is the story behind Eklavya's Gurudakshina to the ever-controversial Guru of Indian history?

Updated: Dec 22, 2021

This blog is all about the narrative of Eklavya and Dronacharya which has been a memorable and ever-discussed context in Indian history as a wonderful example of Gurubhakti and Gurudakshina. So come on, let’s go deeper into this particular part of the Mahabharata.

One day Hiranyadhanu's son Eklavya came to Drona and expressed his interest in learning archery. Hiranyadhanu was called Nishadraj which means the king of the lower casts e.g. fishermen, hunters, fowlers, etc. But Drona did not think that an untouchable barbarian human being should be a companion or equal of Brahmins and Kshatriyas. So Drona refused to accept him as his disciple. Being refused, Eklavya bowed to Drona and went back with a depressed mind. Then he made a clay statue of Drona in the forest, imagined Drona in it, and took the vow of uninterrupted practicing of archery in front of it. As a result of regular practice in front of that idol, he soon became very proficient in archery.

Then one day the Pandavas and Kauravas went hunting with the permission of Acharya Drona. Near the part of the forest, which they had chosen for hunting, was the earthen Drona's ashram, where, as on other days, Eklavya was practicing archery with strict discipline. When he was trying hard to connect his brain frequencies to his artificial guru, a wild dog suddenly approached him and started barking on him as well as the idol of Drona. Being disturbed, he shot seven consecutive arrows aiming at the dog's open mouth to test the rapid archery technique of his own. The dog, running around hesitantly with the arrows pierced in its mouth, appeared in front of the Pandavas. The Pandavas were astonished to see the dog in that condition and started suffering from inferiority complex to imagine the expertise of its hunter. Finding themselves comparatively inferior in archery, they were very much embarrassed and ashamed. Then they curiously started searching for that super archer throughout the forest and finally discovered Eklavya in the earthen Drona's ashram. When they asked about his identity, Eklavya introduced himself as the son of Nishadraj Hiranyadhanu and a disciple of Dronacharya!

After getting acquainted with Eklavya, everyone immediately returned to the capital and went to Drona and explained everything from beginning to end. Drona's promise that "there is no other archer like Arjuna in the world and never will be" resonated in Arjuna's mind again and again and made him restless. He could not stop himself from going to Drona separately and reminded him of his promise. He reminded him again and again that if Nishadrajkumar Eklavya, being a disciple of Drona oneself, excelled more than Arjuna in the archery, then Drona's promise would be proved false. Seeing Arjuna become such restless, Drona found no other way but to go to the monastery of Eklavya in the forest with him. Going there, Drona was surprised to see Eklavya practicing archery with great attentiveness in front of his clay statue! Eklavya also welcomed Dronacharya and bestowed on him the most respectable reception possible. Dronacharya was overwhelmed! Although he was extremely impressed by Nishadrajkumar's devotion and respect, his motive was quite different. He said that he wished Gurudakshina. Gurudakshina means a gift given to a teacher by his/her student as a token of gratitude for whatever that teacher has taught. On hearing this, Eklavya gladly and unhesitatingly promised to give the desired Dakshina to his respected Guru. Drona said that he wanted the sacrifice of the thumb of the right hand of this heroic disciple Ekalavya as Gurudakshina. On hearing that wish of Drona, Eklavya immediately cut off his thumb from his right hand as per his promise and offered it at the Guru's feet. After that, he bowed to Drona and tried to shoot an arrow with the help of his index finger and middle finger. He saw that the speed of his arrow-throwing became much lesser than before due to the absence of his thumb! So the x-factor that forced Drona to appear in front of him was no more then! Just because of intangibility, he had to pay the price for his skill and expertise even without competing with anyone personally! It was an unforgettable moment in the history of India! If the Gurudakshina which Eklavya had unhesitatingly offered at the feet of his Guru that day had not been done, perhaps, the history of India would have been much different today. However, it is needless to say that this narrative of Eklavya and Dronacharya has become memorable and ever-discussed in Indian history as a wonderful example of Gurubhakti and Gurudakshina.

Arjuna was as pleased as he was surprised to see this strange thing! His dream of being unique and incomparable had no hindrance anymore. At the same time, Dronacharya's promise about Arjuna's invincibility was also preserved. He returned to the capital with Arjuna without any further delay. It was as if he was having difficulty in matching his eyes with that earthy Drona idol of Eklavya. However, he did not let anyone understand that.

Eklavya's sacrifice of thumb of the right hand to Dronacharya as Gurudakshina.
Eklavya's sacrifice of thumb of his own right hand to Dronacharya as Gurudakshina.

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