Post 24: The Ekalavya - Krishna connection. Why Ekalavya is NOT a tragic hero.



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Everyone knows Ekalavya as a dedicated student who practiced archery on his own but credited his success to Guru Drona who had rejected him. Yet Drona asked for his thumb. Only this part of the story appears in Vyasa MB so we think of Ekalavya as a tragic hero and Drona as the 'villain'.

If we go back and trace Ekalavya's roots, we see a different story taking shape. We can also see why Drona rejected him and why he took his thumb.

Ekalavya's back story appears in the Harivamsha and it goes like this.

Devashrava- 3rd brother of Vasudeva (Krishna's father) was rumoured to have another son, Ekalavya, who had been brought up by tribal people.

Why was the child abandoned? Nothing is mentioned but we know that when Duryodhana was born to the accompaniment of donkeys braying, the Kuru elders and advisors asked Dhritrasthra to abandon the child who was very likely to go down the wrong path and bring ruin to the family. Something similar could be the reason.

Else, Ekalavya being shunned early in life could indicate that maybe he had a liking for wickedness and evil. Not one person in the Yadav clan later mentions his name EVER.

An indicator of Ekalavya's liking for violence and cruelty is his shooting arrows at a dog just because it was barking near his practice space. It would have been enough to shoo it off. There was no need to torture it. BTW, note that the 'without causing any pain' part is nowhere mentioned here.

"On seeing the dark nishada in the forest, his body covered with dirt and clad in a dark deerskin, the dog began to bark. When it kept on barking, he displayed great dexterity. In one instant, he shot seven arrows into its mouth. The dog dashed back to the Pandavas, its mouth full of arrows.

On seeing this, the brave Pandavas were extremely surprised. At this
supreme and dextrous feat of shooting blind, they praised the person

who had done this, but were also ashamed of their own skills. O king!"

Ekalavya clearly had some serious enmity with Krishna, which made him side with Jarasandha repeatedly and march against Mathura post kamsa's death. He was also considerably older than Krishna and Krishna fights Ekalavya’s SON in one of the many battles with Jarasandha’s army (which Ekalavya is part of as his ally). This means Ekalavya was old enough to have children when Krishna was a teen. Since Krishna- Arjuna are just 6 months apart in age, Ekalavya was considerably older than regular students too when he approached Drona.

Now, why would Drona reject him when he willingly taught Vrishnis, Andhakas, Karna etc who were not Hastinapur’s princes? He even tutored Dhristadyumna who was destined to kill him.

Drona’s response should be seen keeping in mind that:

He was an employee in Hastinapur's pay so he would naturally assess why this Nishada prince was coming to him to learn, that too when he is much older than the average student. Since we know Ekalavya has already been battling with Krishna, we also know he was not there merely to get trained. He was already a trained warrior. So, Ekalavya's motive was not mere education but to learn from the best because he had not succeeded against the Yadavas so far.

Since Drona’s school also had Vrishnis, Andhakas etc, if he welcomed Ekalavya, a known enemy, into school he would be letting the wolf in among lambs. Also, Jarasandha was no friend of Hastinapur but Yadavas were allies by marriage, sort of (via Kunti). So Drona could not welcome a supporter of Jarasandha into his school.

Drona was aware of Ekalavya's enmity with Krishna/ Yadavas because they (Drona- Ekalavya) originally came from the same parts.

In short, to think of Ekalavya as a tragic wronged hero might be wrong. It WAS unfair of Drona to ask for his thumb but then, Drona had to think of the outcome of handing Ekalavya higher weapons and elite class training that cud be used against his employer, that is Hastinapur.

Ekalavya later died in battle with Krishna and much later, during Ashwamedha, Arjuna faced his son who was then the king of Nishadas, and defeated him. So, despite the unfair loss of the thumb Ekalavya did remain a warrior and he did not forget his enmity with Krishna.
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