The Dedication of Ekalavya – good or bad?
The tale of Ekalavya is a most popular tale from the Hindu epic Mahabharata. Often Dronacharya is ridiculed for being a racist by the feminist and the Ambedkar societies. However, there is a other side to this tale as well which remains forgotten. So let’s re-open it. Happy reading!!
History: According to Hindu legends, Ekalavya was the son of a poor hunter and wanted to learn archery to save the deer of the forests from the lion. He heard about Guru Dronacharya and wanted to be his pupil. However, Dronacharya only taught the royal family and under state law was forbidden to teach any other person. So he did not accept Ekalavya as his pupil. But Ekalavya accepted him as his Guru so he build up a clay idol of Dronacharya and started practicing archery in front of that. With time he grew more skilful than Arjuna. When Arjuna came to know about this, he accused Dronacharya of treachery. Dronacharya not knowing what has happened approached Ekalavya. He asked him for Gurudakshina. Ekalavya at once agreed. Dronacharya then asked for his right thumb as he knew that without the thumb Ekalavya cannot shoot arrows. Thus Arjuna remained the most powerful and skilled archer. Ekalavya at once agreed and severed his right thumb. This is one side of the story which is often misinterpreted by certain scholars who ridicule Dronacharya. However, there is a other side of the story as well. Let’s look into that. Ekalavya was undoubtedly the epitome of devotion. He teaches us the path to self learning. But the question arises that whether his devotion was good or bad? For this we must look into a few instances from his life.
The forgotten tale: Once Arjuna chased a wild boar. Even after repeated attempts he could not kill the boar. All his arrows were wasted. Suddenly he saw an arrow pierce the boar. Arjuna was angry as his prey was stolen. He then came across Ekalavya who claimed to be Dronacharya’s pupil. If we deeply look into Mahabharata then Ekalavya was a prince of the forest tribe Nishadha. Though it is regarded as a low caste in the Hindu hierarchical caste system but it was equal to the Kshatriyas among the Nishashads. His father Hirnadhanu was the army general of King of Magadha, Jarasandh. So they were neither a tribe nor a Dalit. There were almost equal to the Kshatriya. After his father’s demise, Ekalavya inherited the throne of Shringver state. He built a powerful army of Nishads and Bheels. He expanded his kingdom. Once when Ekalavya was practicing archery, a wild dog was barking very loudly. Irritated at his concertation being broken, he filled the dog’s mouth with seven arrows in fast succession. Dronacharya was shocked by his utmost dedication. However, Ekalavya did not the view of humanity in him. He silenced an innocent dog whose nature was barking. Dronacharya had divine sight and understood that of Ekalavya had expertise in archery he could be danger to humanity. But the views of Dronacharya have somehow buried under the passing ages and the time waves. By not giving entry to Ekalavya in the Gurukul, Dronacharya wanted to restore faith for the humanity’s welfare. He was only restoring the divine tradition. A good teacher must teach anything that destroys the humanity. The purpose of teaching must be right. Dronacharya was farsighted and knew that Ekalavya was suppressed by doubt and had high ambitions of being the greatest. He aspired high success and could be a danger on the path of Dharma. Dronacharya understanding this forbid him from archery. Though whatever happened with Ekalavya is sympathetic but according to the great teacher Dronacharya this was the needful.
Modern means of archery: Seeing Ekalavya’s great skill, Dronacharya blessed him that he can continue archery even without the thumb. Ekalavya mastered this method of archery without his thumb. He was the founder by the new art of archery by the index and the centre fingers. A new method of archery was born invented by Ekalavya which the world follows today. It is treated as a modern art of archery. Thus Dronacharya made Ekalavya immortal on the pages of history. Whenever dedication is referred, the one name that comes up in mind is Ekalavya and not Arjuna. However, If dedication is not on the right path it can be fatal. Arjuna refused to fight the battle of Kurukshetra as it would result in the destruction of humanity. Even after repeated insults and atrocities by the Kuravas, Arjuna at first refused to fight. But humanity hardly mattered to Ekalavya. He only wanted success and this can be understood by his act of violence towards the innocent dog. He is often referred to as a ‘Kupatra’ in Sanskrit whose dedication was on the wrong path. Thus Dronacharya wanted to save the humanity but his thoughts have been constantly criticized.
So this was the tale of an immortal figure on the pages of history. He was an epitome of dedication and self learning. We tried to clear some common misconceptions about Dronacharya who is often misunderstood. Keep following us for more. We will be back soon with more interesting facts. Till then stay safe and healthy.