Teacher and disciple – Drona and Ekalavya
Indian culture gives tremendous importance to Guru or the teacher. In Indian culture, Guru or a teacher is greater than father. Here is an Indian story of Ekalavya who epitomises the role of a shishya, or pupil.
In Mahabharata, Ekalavya is introduced as a young boy who wanted to study archery in the gurukul of Dronacharya. This was during the time when the Pandavas and Kauraves were young and being taught by Guru Dronacharya in his ashram.
Guru Drona was the teacher for both Panadavas and Kauravas. Dronacharya only taught princes and therefore refused to become teacher Ekalavya as he was a member of a low caste.
After being rejected by Dronacharya, Ekalavya decided to do self-study with a clay image of Dronacharya which he built himself. He considered Drona as his teacher. Ekalavya respected and worshiped the image of Dronacharya and overtime he became an exceptional archer, matching Dronacharya’s student Arjun.
One day while Ekalavya is practicing, he hears a dog barking. Before the dog can shut up or get out of the way, Ekalavya fires seven arrows in rapid succession to fill the dog’s mouth without injuring it. Dronacharya, Pandav and Kaurav princes come to the “stuffed” dog, and wonder who could have pulled off such a feat of archery. Searching the forest, they find Ekalavya, who introduces himself to them as a pupil of Dronacharya.
Dronacharya tells Eklavaya, “Now that you have gained all this knowledge from me, wont you give me Guru Dakshina in return?” Ekalavya replied, “Of course, I will give you anything you want, just ask.” Dronacharya cruelly asks for Ekalavya’s right thumb, knowing that without a thumb Ekalavya can longer do archery.
Ekalavya, without hesitation cuts his thumb and hands it to Dronacharya. It’s said that one of the main reasons that Dronacharya asked for Ekalavya’s thumb was that he wanted to protect Arjun’s status as the greatest archer and he saw Ekalavya as a massive threat, as well as punishment to Ekalavya for stealing knowledge which wasn’t given to him.
While this stands in good stead for Ekalavya, who respected his teacher, but at the same time, this act puts a question mark on the teacher Dronacharya.