In olden days when vast areas were covered with dense forests full of wild animals like tigers, panther and elephants, men used to hunt with spears and arrows. They had to be proficient in spear-throwing and archery. To keep themselves fit, they undertook a good deal of wrestling, running and swimming. There were many hunting tribes who lived in the forest. Ekalavya was the name of a boy who belonged to a family of one such tribe, the Bhils. When he reached the age of ten years, he told his father hat he wanted to be an expert archer and asked him to try and get him the best teacher. His father told
Ekalavya that Dronacharya was the best but he was engaged by the Kauravas and the Pandavas to train their princes in archery. It was therefore, not possible for Ekalavya to learn from Dronacharya.
On hearing the words of praise about Dronacharya from his father, Ekalavva became more determined than ever to learn from him. He. therefore. sought his father's permission to go and stay in the Ashram of Dronacharya.
Ekalavya then left his home to meet Dronacharva
and to request him. Dronacharya gave Eklavya a
patient hearing but told him that as he was in the pay
of the Kauravas and the Pandavas. He could not accept
anyone else as a student. He also told Eklavya that
to attain excellence in any subject, it did not really
matter who the teacher was as long as the student
followed three basic principles : intense desire lo learn.
faith in his teacher and a desire for constant, practice.
With these words of advice. Ekalavya left Dronacharya:
though disappointed, he was full of respect for this
He was still keen on learning how to be a great
archer and decided that since he could not have the
real Dronacharya as his teacher, he would make a
clay image of him and draw due inspiration, while
practicing archery. He stayed alone in the jungle and
started learning and practicing continuously. His desire
was intense and his faith in the clay image was very
great. As the occasion demanded, he would reproach.
punish or congratulate himself, as if the real Dronacharya was doing this to him.
Time went by and Ekalavya became very proficient
in archery. This was proved one day when the Kaurava and the Pandava princes went out on a hunting expedition.
Under the supervision of Guru Dronacharya and accompanied by chariots, attendants and dogs. They went out for the forest to evaluate their training. They happened to come to the same forest where Ekalavya had made his home- He was at that time practicing hitting a bird in flight, cutting a falling leaf in half and piercing a fruit on top of a tree by taking aim from its reflection in the water of a lake underneath.
One of the hunting dogs discovered him and went scurrying off towards the princes. Ekalavya heard the barking of the dog and sent an arrow straight at Him, which hit the centre of the dog's mouth and plugged it, without hurting the animal at all.
The baffled dog returned to its masters with the arrow stuck in its mouth. Seeing the dog. the princes were very astonished and set out in search of the archer who could perform this remarkable feat. Along with Dronacharya, they came upon Ekalavya who "as busy with his practice. Seeing Dronacharya, Ekalavya was extremely happy and prostrated himself at the feel of his master.
What Ekalavya had done to the dog aroused the
envy of Arjuna. who ranked as the best archer amongst
the students of Dronacharya. Looking suspiciously
at Dronacharya. he asked Ekalavya who his master was. Ekalavya pointed to the clay image of Dronacharya and told Arjuna that was his teacher.
Dronacharya then said that if Ekalavya considered
him as his teacher, he should be ready to pay a
tuition fee. Ekalavya was very pleased to be called
a student of Dronacharya and offered to pay whatever
fee he wanted.
Dronacharya now saw his chance of clearing him-
self from the suspicion of the Pandava princes- He
demanded the right thumb of Ekalavya as tuition fee.
All those present were stunned by the demand, but Ekalavya did not hesitate even for a moment He immediately cut off his right thumb and placed
it before Dronacharya. Thus he was made an invalid for life and would no longer be able to handle bows and arrows. Arjuna could continue to remain the
best of Dronacharya's students. Ekalavya's devotion to his teacher was indeed very great.
Not only were the princes and attendants deeply moved by this sacrifice, but even the Gods in heaven were moved and they showered flowers on Ekalavya.
The princes commended him for his devotion and
expressed sorrow at the loss of his thumb. They
were worried about Ekalavya and asked him how he
was going to hunt and obtain food for himself now.
But Ekalavya told them not to worry as he would
still be able to take care of himself. Dronacharya
and the princes then left the forest.
Ekalavya soon started practising archery with his
feet and was able to make a comfortable living in due
course of time. Dronacharya deprived Ekalavya of
the honour of being the world's best archer but
Ekalavya's name will continue to be immortal as one
whose devotion to his teacher had no parallel.