The Bheeshma requests Dronacharya to be the warfare teacher to the Kuru princes, when he finds out the supremacy in him. The heart-breaking incident between his old school mate Drupada had filled Dronacharya’s heart with rage and he was desperately waiting for a chance to set things even. He gladly accepts the offer and vows to remain loyal to the royal household of Hastinapura and eventually tells his pupils that his ultimate Guru Dakshina will be the crown of Drupada after being defeated by them.
He spares no effort in training his students and puts all his skill and knowledge to teach them. Like any other teacher who would have a soft corner for his favorite student, Dronacharya falls in love with his student Arjuna, even more than his own son Ashwaththama. He also determines that he will make Arjuna the most supreme archer in the whole world. When he finds Ekalavya or Ekalaiva to possess all the potential to be a threat for Arjuna’s supremacy, he asks for the right thumb of Eklavya as his guru dakshina. Hence Drona is accused as being partial etc. But the reality behind the story is not his favoritism towards Arjuna, but it was his loyalty towards Hastinapura. Read on.
Dronacharya seems to have displayed a greater degree of responsibility and loyalty than just being the guru of the Kurus or in protecting Arjuna’s superiority in archery among others. Ekalavya’s father, the king of Nishads was one of the army commanders of Jarasandha. Jarasandha was a known adversary of the Kurus and was more powerful. Even Krishna had to shift his kingdom because of Jarasandha’s threat. Later, Bheema kills Jarasandha with the tip of Krishna the all knower, during the Pandavas’ quest in performing the Raja Sooya Yagna.
Dronacharya had an insight that Ekalavya might misuse the knowledge he obtained by watching him teach the princes in disguise against the very Kurus to whom Drona was loyal. His loyalty was to even lay down his very life in spite of knowing that he was not in the side of dharma or righteousness during the big war. So he asks for the right thumb of Ekalavya, the ultimate requirement for a great archer.
Thus, the claim of Dronacharya cheating the so called ‘low caste’ Ekalavya is rubbished. But it is true that he wanted no one in route of his pupil Arjuna towards supremacy. So he indeed might ask for his thumb to cut him out of the race but more so, to cut him out of turning against the Kuru race itself. Be it not for Arjuna, Ekalavya may well use his archery skills against Hastinapura, Dronacharya might have thought.
It is said that Ekalavya indeed worked as a confidant of King Jarasandha later on when he could not become an archer. At the time of Rukmini’s Swayamvara, he acted as the messenger between Shishupala and Rukmini’s father Bhishmaka, at Jarasandha’s behest. Ekalavya gets killed by Krishna during the latter’s conflict with Jarasandha’s army.
Image Courtesy: The Amazing Amar Chitra Katha & Saryth