Eklavya (Sanskrit: एकलव्य, ékalaiva) is a character from the epic Mahābhārata. He was a young prince of the Nishadha, a confederation of jungle tribes in Ancient India. He was the son of Vyatraj Hiranyadhanus, the king of the outcasts in the Kingdom of Magadha. Ekalaiva aspired to study archery in the gurukul of Guru Drona.
Eklavya is called as one of the foremost of kings in the Rajasuya Yajna where he honours Yudhishthira with his shoes. Though he didn't have his right thumb, he was noted as a very powerful archer and charioteer.
In the Mahabharata, Eklavya was the son of Hiranyadhanus, who was King Jarasandha's army commander and leader of the Nishadhas. He approached Drona to tutor him in the arts of war, especially archery. Drona was a Brahmin teacher working under the employ of Hastinapur to teach the young Kaurava and Pandava princes martial arts.
Drona was quite impressed by Ekalavya's sincere desire; however, he soon discovered Ekalayva's background. Foreseeing political circumstances that would engender from training a member of an army that was in opposition to Hastinapur, Drona turned him away. In certain versions of the story, Drona turns Ekalavya away because of Ekalavya's caste, either compelled by his own belief or the rules set forth by Hastinapur. In other versions, it is a combination of Ekalavya's caste and allegiance that influences Drona's decision.
Deeply hurt by Drona's rejection, Eklavya still didn't give up on his resolute will to master archery. He once stayed hidden in the forest while guru Drona was teaching the Kavrawa's and Pandu brothers, after they left to the ashram, Eklavya collected the mud on which his Guru walked, as a symbolic gesture of want to follow his knowledge and foot steps, later he went into the forest and made a statue of Drona under a big old well grown tree. He began a disciplined program of self-study over many years. Eventually, Eklavya became an archer of exceptional prowess, greater than Drona's best pupil, Arjuna. He accepted the statue as his guru and practiced in front of it every single day.
One day when Drona and his students were going out into the forest, Arjuna saw a dog that was unable to bark due to an amazing construction of arrows in and all around his mouth. This construction was harmless to the dog, but prevented the dog from barking. Drona was amazed, but also distressed: he had promised Arjuna that he would make him the greatest archer in the world. Drona and his students investigated, and came upon Eklavya. Upon seeing Drona, Ekalavya came and bowed to him.
Drona asked Eklavya where he had learnt archery. Eklavya replied "under you, Guruji", and showed Drona his statue while explaining what he had done.
Drona then reminded Eklavya that for Ekalayva to truly be Drona's pupil, Ekalvaya would have to pay guru dakshina. Readily, Ekalavya offers to do anything for Drona. Drona stoically asks for the thumb from Ekalavya's right hand. Hesitant at first, Ekalavya asks for Drona to confirm the command; Drona harshly does so. Smiling, Ekalayva cuts off the thumb and presents it to Drona.
This incident glorifies Eklavya's sacrifice and dedication to his guru. However, it also demonstrates the shrewd action that Drona takes to preserve the status-quo and the further political spheres in the politics of Aryavarta. Drona's reasons for the action vary: it is usually some combination of Drona wanting to maintain his promise to Arjuna, and Drona's duty to punish Ekalavya for "stealing" knowledge from him (learning from Drona without Drona's assent).
Later life and death
Later, Eklavya worked as an archer of King Jarasandha. When Jarasandha planned to besiege Mathura, he was aided by Eklavya who was a skillful archer. Eklavya also helped Jarasandha and Shishupala by chasing Rukmini while she eloped with Krishna. After Jarasandha's demise, Ekalavya sought to avenge him by campaigning to destroy Kuntibhoja and every Yadava in Dwarka. During the attack, he is slain by Krishna.
In Indonesian legend, in a former life Eklavaya was king Phalgunadi, killed by Drona and reborn as Dhrishtadamyuna to avenge the killing. In this version, Arjuna gets his name Phalguna from Phalgunadi. Ekalavya's famous and chaste wife Dewi Anggraini was always faithful to Phalgunadi, even after his death and despite Arjuna's proposals of marriage.
- "Eklavya Honouring Yudhishthira". Retrieved 19 November 2013.
- "Eklavya—Foremost of the Kings of Rajasuya Yagna". Retrieved 19 November 2013.
- "Eklavya—A Powerful Archer and Charioteer". Retrieved 19 November 2013. Cite error: Invalid
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- "Eklavya's Death". Retrieved 19 November 2013.
- Krishna Dharma. Mahabharata: The Greatest Spiritual Epic of All Time. Los Angeles, Calif.: Torchlight Pub, 1999. Print.
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- Dowson, John (1820–1881). A classical dictionary of Hindu mythology and religion, geography, history, and literature. London: Trübner, 1879 [Reprint, London: Routledge, 1979] Encyclopedia for Epics of Ancient India