Dronacharya and Arjun: Heroes or villains?
This week's column begins with a tale from Hindu mythology.
'Thousands of kings and princes, hearing of Drona's skill, came to Hastinapur with the purpose of learning from him. Among them was Ekalavya, son of Hiranyadhanus, king of the Nishadas.'Drona, prudent in dharma, refused to accept a Nishada as his pupil.
But foe-smiting Ekalavya bent his head at Drona's feet and went to a forest where he made a clay statue of Drona.Worshipping the statue as his acharya, Ekalavya started practicing the use of weapons before it without fail, every day. 'The Kuru and Pandu princes one day, with Drona's permission, set out in their chariots on a hunting expedition.
Behind them, carrying equipment for the hunt, came a servant accompanied by a dog. They made their way through the forest with casual ease and it so happened that the dog came to where Ekalavya was. 'The Nishada was black, his skin coated with dirt, his hair matted, he had a dark deerskin on. The dog began barking at him. With incredible swiftness, Ekalavya aimed at the sound and shot seven arrows in succession into the dog s mouth. The dog ran howling back, arrows protruding from his mouth, to the Pandavas and they could hardly believe what they saw. At first they were impressed by the swiftness and precision of the bowman who shot seven arrows in this manner then ashamed. Then they began looking for him, the unknown marksman in the forest. Soon enough, they stumbled on him, practising archery they asked: 'Who are you? Whose son?' 'The son of Hiranyadhanus, King of the Nishadas,' he said, 'A pupil of Drona, struggling in the skills of warfare. Kunti s son Arjuna, brooded on the prowess of Ekalavya and went privately to Drona, knowing Drona s love for him and said, You once embraced me, and joyfully told me no pupil of yours would equal me in bow-skills.
Drona thought for some time; then, taking Arjuna, the ambidextrous savyasaci with him, went to Ekalavya. Son of the Nishada king did obeisance before Drona as a pupil would before a guru. Drona asked, If you are my pupil, where is my teacher-tribute? Ekalavya, overjoyed, replied to Drona: Command me, my Lord, all I have is yours. Greatest among Brahma-knowers, ask for anything. Drona replied, As dakshina (teacher-tribute) give me your right thumb. Ekalavya, faithful to his promise, heard the fearful cut off your thumb cheerfully, and unhesitatingly handed it to Drona.Arjuna was pleased. His anxiety disappeared. None will equal Arjuna, Drona s words now had truth. This in short is the story of Ekalavya, taken from Pratap Chandra Roy s translation of the Mahabharata. His story mirrors the essence of Varnashram Dharma which pre-destines the doom of an ancient civilization, condemns its members to grow with guilt, facelessness, and self-doubt in their abilities. Apologists of the Order may well argue that the great Hindu epic Mahabharata was authored over two thousands year ago and since then, the civilization has travelled long to enter the age of reason, humanity and justice, thus decisively distancing itself from its dark past.
The self-contained, but nervous Chatur-Varna mind has an unlimited capacity to swallow insult and humiliation, making it totally unfit to think coherently, ever. Thus, the Varna intellect found it logical, about a decade back, to institute an award in the name Dronacharya for best coach of the year. While in the epic itself, Drona is neither a best teacher nor an ideal to follow. He represents the ugliest aspect of the then evolving Chatur-Varna order, who plays a villain to the very notion of gurutwa, and therefore a symbol which, in logical reasoning, emerges as the negative point of reference.
Likewise, Arjuna was never the best archer of his time, but emerged to be one through sheer deceit. Yet the Arjuna Award was instituted for best sports-person of the year. And the Varna society unhesitatingly took these two abuses in sports-man like spirit.
Then isn t it logical that a society whose moral foundations are laid on bricks of deceit and incompetence is pre-destined to collapse in any game of fair-play and competence? During these Olympic, too, India failed to win gold. It has never won any in an individual event. One single Drona has mercilessly mauled a billion Indians for a bronze. But can one single Drona achieve this feat?
In all likelihood, Dronas are omnipresent in every Varna-person who together make a civilization of bronze though it sadly asks for gold. Worse still, India s continued humiliation at international forums has made Indians strong in at least one or two senses we can withstand any amount of humiliation and can never feel ashamed of our Dronacharyas!