Eklavya is the story of young tribal boy. This story is a very important part of the Mahabharatha. It depicts the eagerness of a student to learn from his chosen Guru, without caring for what the consequences may be. It shows the students loyalty to his chosen Guru, who had refused to accept him. This story also shows how a person, however low he may be by birth can aspire for things seemingly beyond his reach.
Eklavya was a young tribal boy. He loved to accompany his father who was a tribal chief on hunting expeditions. One day he came across the gurukula (school) of Dronacharya. Drona was instructing the Pandavas and Kauravas in the art of warfare. Eklavya stood transfixed as he saw the wonders that a bow could do. He thought of the many times that he and his father had missed their aim, while hunting deer. These boys, he thought, never seemed to miss anything. Their teacher was teaching them all the tricks.
Eklavya asked his father about this grand looking man who was teaching the young boys. His father explained that the man he was seeing was none other than the great Dronacharya, who was famed for his prowess in warfare. He had been able to lift a ring, which had fallen into a well using thin blades of grass – such was his skill!
“Oh! How I wish I could learn from him,” said Eklavya.
“Son, he has been engaged by Bhishma to teach the princes of the Kuru dynasty.” Replied his father.
“I shall try,” replied a stubborn Eklavya.
He went to Dronacharya, and asked him to accept him as a student. Drona refused, telling him that he taught only kshatriya, and Brahmin youth. A dejected Eklavya then took a decision. He would become the best archer, and his teacher would be Dronacharya. He went deep into the forest, which was his home and fashioned a statue of Drona out of clay. He worshipped this clay image and took it to be his Guru. He practiced with bow and arrows relentlessly and gradually became very good in the art of archery. All this time he never forgot to tend to his clay Guru.
One day, Eklavya heard a dog barking loudly. Seeing that the dog was distracting him, he took up his bow and shot five arrows into its mouth. He shot the arrows in such a way that the dog, though unhurt, could no longer close its mouth. It ran whimpering to Dronacharya’s gurukula.
The princes and Drona saw the Dog and wondered who had shot the arrows in such a wonderful. After finding out that it was Eklavya, who said that he was Dronacharya’s student, Arjuna was upset. He reminded Dronacharya of his promise that he would be the world’s best archer. How could Dronacharya have taken up a tribal boy as his student and made him a better archer too, wondered Arjuna.
Drona went to Eklavya with all his students, where he saw the boy practicing in front of his clay image, which had fresh flowers around it. Eklavya ran to him and fell at his feet saying, “Guruji, thanks for coming here, after so many years of learning from your image, I have the good fortune of seeing you.”
With his heart full of admiration for the young boy, Dronacharya said, “My boy, you have successfully completed your education. Now it is time for my Guru Dakshina. Will you give me whatever I ask of you?” Eklavya happily replied in the affirmative. Drona then said, “Eklavya, you made me your Guru even though I rejected you. For my Dakshina, give me your right thumb.”
Eklavya looked at him amidst stunned silence, and then slowly but surely walked up in front of his guru’s clay imaged, and taking out his knife, he cut of his right thumb. He knew he would never be the best archer now, as without the right thumb it is not possible to let go one’s arrows.