By Kamlesh Tripathi
Once while Dronacharya was imparting astra-shastra (Astra– is a fierce form of mantra that comprises of destructive frequency. Shastra– is essentially a physical weapon) knowledge to Kurukul children—Kauravas and Pandavas in Hastinapur, one day a black and tough appearing Bheel (tribal) child came up to him. He first bowed and said pranam (greetings) and then said—‘Acharya! (teacher) my name is Eklavya. I have come with the hope that you will be kind enough to teach me astra management, as you are teaching these children.’
Acharya appreciated the humbleness in the child; but he couldn’t have given permission to a Bheel to stay with the Rajkumars (princes). He therefore said—‘Son! For knowledge of weapons to hunt animals you can ask your Guru, but as far as learning of astra is concerned it is not a must for you, as the same is required only when you have to rule a kingdom or fight a war.’
Upon hearing this Eklavya was disheartened. But his enthusiasm had still not died down. He was determined to learn astra-shiksha. So somewhere there only and not far from Dronacharya’s gurukul (residential school) he built a cottage and along with that he also made a bust of Dronacharya and established it in front of his cottage. And thereafter with his bow and arrow he started vigorous practice.
One day Dronacharya along with his shishyas was roaming around the jungles, when a dog of Pandavas by mistake dawdled away to where Eklavya was practicing his targets in full flow. The dog at the frightful sight of a dark and tough Bheel with a bow and arrow started barking. This spoiled Eklavya’s concentration and to stop the dog from barking he filled it’s mouth with arrows but without piercing it. This frightened the dog so much that he immediately retracted and ran towards Pandavas.
On seeing the dog both Pandavas and Kauravas laughed at its condition, but Arjun was immensely surprised. He realized someone had immaculately aimed the arrows in such a manner that none of the arrows had pierced its mouth, even when his mouth was completely packed with those arrows. And it was evident that the arrows were shot by some very proficient archer. Acharya Dronacharya was also stunned and immediately decided to discover this wondrous archer.
Meanwhile, when Eklavya saw Dronacharya, he rushed towards him to pay his respects. On seeing his bust in front of the cottage Dronacharya was stunned. But just then Arjun who was right behind him slowly whispered in his ears—‘Gurudev! You had given a word that amongst all your shishyas I will be the topmost archer; but in front of him I look petty. Now how will you protect your own word?’ Upon hearing Arjun’s comment Achraya tried to reassure him. He then decided to demanded guru-dakshina (tradition of repaying one’s teacher or guru after the period of study) from Eklavya; and when Eklavya asked—‘Acharya what can I do for you that will make me blessed?’ Acharya hesitatingly replied—‘You need to give me the thumb of your right hand as guru-dakshina.’
Eklavya who was otherwise matchless in strength and a stalwart suddenly turned patient. He heard his guru and then took out his sword and cut his right thumb and placed it near his feet. After losing his thumb he had ceased to be an ace archer and by performing the skill with his left hand he wouldn’t have been in the list of top archers of his times. But because of his sacrifice and unquestioned loyalty towards his guru Dronacharya he became immortal in the annals of mythology.
There is no mention about how Dronacharya must have felt receiving Eklavya’s thumb as guru-dakshina. And at that moment did he feel small? But yes, ultimately he blessed Eklavya to immortality.