Everything does pass, and we can endure and we can survive!! – Rahul Dravid
Everyone knows the story of Ekalavya. It has been propogated widely that a brahmin refused to teach a low caste guy. And that he didn’t want Ekalavya to overtake Arjuna’s skills and so he asked for Ekalavya’s right thumb. Ekalavya, without hesitation cut it off and gave it to Drona. What a cruel guy Drona is and how great Ekalavya is! Down down brahminism! Is Drona fit to be a teacher? Weren’t Brahmins supposed to be people of the highest character?
Those who say that Mahabharata advocates Brahminism, think again. The same Mahabharata which refused to teach Karna and Ekalavya taught Krishna. Krishna was a Yadava by birth and a cowherd by upbringing. Why then did Guru Sandipani take Krishna and Balarama as his pupils? Even before The Mahabharata, in Ramayana, Guha – the Nishada King is hailed for his friendship and character. Neither Ramayana nor Mahabharata limited learning to people of high castes alone. They do not advocate lowly stuff.
The author of The Ramayana – Valmiki Rishi was a hunter by birth and a thief by choice in his adult life. He gave up those things and lived a life of remorse and utmost devotion. Based on his character and learning, he was then deemed as a Rishi. The author of The Mahabharata was Veda Vyasa – who was born of a fisherwoman, Satyavati. It is his learning and moral conduct that elevated him to the status of Rishi.
Obviously, it was not caste that made Drona refuse Ekalavya. Being a learned man, Drona definitely would have had a better reason.
From the time the Pandavas set foot in Hastinapura, Duryodhana has displayed open hatred for them. He always wanted them dead. All elders responsible for the country’s welfare knew that a war between Pandavas and Kauravas was inevitable. The Pandava hopes rested mainly on Bhima and Arjuna. Duryodhana knew that he could excel Bhima in mace war fare. There were none among his brothers who could match Arjuna’s prowess. He was on the lookout for someone who could excel Arjuna right from his Bala parva.
Ekalavya’s family was duty bound to serve the throne of Hastinapura. Hence, if there would be any battle, Ekalavya would take Duryodhana’s side. This was known even before Drona refused to teach Ekalavya. Karna too was of the same mould. Being Dhritharasthra’s charioteer’s son, his alliegance lay with the King. Hence it was Drona’s primary duty to refuse these two and anyone else who may become better at archery than Arjuna.
Drona was the chief Acharya of the Royal Court of the Kurus. One of his primary duties is to choose and train those pupils who will give their utmost to safeguarding their motherland. He had to be extremely careful in selecting his students because warfare as a skill could not be given to all and sundry. He needed to ensure that his students will make good use of weapon technology and not misuse it. He had to select people with such nature. He had to give training to those who had the mental capacity to choose between right and wrong. Neither Ekalavya nor Karna fit that criterion. Hence he refused to train them.
Why then did he train Duryodhana and his 99 brothers? Not teaching Duryodhana was not a choice he had. Also, as princes of the Kuru race, as Kshatriyas, it was the responsibility of Duryodhana and co to protect their country. For this, they needed to be trained. It was their duty to defend their country. A Kshatriya life belonged to the motherland. It was always at stake. That Duryodhana did not fulfill his duties should not be carried over to Drona. That they fought for selfish needs was not Drona’s fault.
Look at the state of Hastinapura when Drona stepped in. It had a power hungry King, an evil minded Duryodhana who was hell bent on destroying the Pandavas by any means possible and a helpless Bhishma who would stick to his oath come what may. Both Bhishma and Drona pinned their hopes on the Pandavas. They were the only hope to a country that needed ethical and skilled leaders. Hence it was important, in lieu of the country’s welfare and in the aim of building a better tomorrow that no one was better at warfare than the Pandavas.
Both Drona and Bhishma knew that in case of war, they would take Duryodhana’s side. Hence Drona took upon himself the responsibility of making sure that no one else was better at war than the Pandavas. Hence he refused to take in anyone who had alleigance to the Kauravas and to Duryodhana in particular. He trained Dhrishtadyumna (his sole enemy’s son) and many others. Because he knew that Dhrishtadyumna had the capacity to choose between right and wrong.
In order not to hurt the guys, he told Ekalavya and Karna that he was a teacher to the princely race and that he did not admit those who were not Kshatriyas into his training programme. In fact, Karna demonstrated great understanding of this event later in his life. Drona did his duty towards his country – which is the prime duty of every citizen at the cost of all other things.
It is very easy to sympathize with orphans, poor people and those who claim to be of low caste. It is difficult for us to put them on even standards as others. But if all society would keep everyone on an even standard, those who really have the right attitude and earnestness to learn will come up. And that would pave way for higher standards and a better future. This is what Drona did. Shouldn’t he be applauded?
I was explaining all this to someone recently. She heard me out, nodded in understanding, all that. But then she also had one question – what did Drona do with that thumb? 🙂 I couldn’t find an answer to that in the Mahabharata. If you know, please tell me.