E for Eklavya

In ancient India when King Dhritrashtra ruled the land, there was a boy Eklavya who was the son of a tribal chief in the kingdom of Magadha.He wanted to master the skill of archery under the tutelage of  Sage Dronacharya, the royal teacher in the kingdom of Hastinapur. 

Eklavya did not belong to the upper strata or caste of the society, though he was  as good as any upper class prince in behaviour, dedication and skill. 

Sage Dronacharya did not have the freedom to select his pupils according to the law of Hastinapur and he was a little biased towards Prince Arjuna, whom he wanted to have the fame of best archer. When Eklavya requested Dronacharya to become his mentor, Dronacharya declined citing his caste as the reason.

Eklavya though heart-broken, did not give up. He had made up his mind to improve his archery skills in Dronacharya’s guidance, so he made a clay statue of his mentor and practiced day in day out in the forest. He also hid in trees to see the Pandava and Kaurav cousins who  were instructed by Dronacharya in his ashrama in the forest.

One day while the archery class was going on, a dog disturbed the class barking incessantly. As the teacher and his pupils contemplated for a way to stop the nuisance, the dog came whimpering with his mouth stuffed with arrows. The dog however was not hurt and was not bleeding, it just couldn’t close its mouth. The teacher and pupils wondered about who could be as skilled to carry out such feat!

When everybody realised the master of such accurate skill was none other than Eklavya, Dronacharya asked him who is guru was. Eklavya humbly touched the guru’s feet and told him about the clay idol.

Dronacharya was not only impressed with the boy’s skill but also amazed by his dedication to learn the art. However he still wanted his favorite student Arjuna to be the best archer so he proposed a difficult task as a fee from Eklavya. ‘Gurudakshina’ or a teacher’s fee was given by the student according to the teacher’s choice.

Dronacharya asked Eklavya to sacrifice the thumb of his right hand as ‘Gurudakshina’ as Eklavya had mastered the skill by considering Dronacharya as his teacher. Though Eklavya was dejected because with his right thumb gone he would never be able to be a skilled archer, yet to honor his word and his guru he cut his thumb with a knife and laid it at his teacher’s feet.

This story from the epic Mahabharata, though reeks of social discrimination, teacher’s bias, favoritsm and inappropriate ways which rich people can get away with but I chose to see the greatnes of Eklavya in this story.

Such was this lad’s dedication that he could master the skill by practice alone even after the absence of a mentor. His urge to learn made him cross all hurdles. He couldn’t be an archer when he lived but his name still lives as a great archer and as a great human being who did utmost sacrifice to honor his teacher.

This only goes to prove that dedication, complete surrender to the passion and a strong will goes a long way….

This post is for A to Z Challenge.

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