The mythological hero Ekalavya hailed from a tribal society. In his quest for knowledge, he visited the Gurukul of Dronāchārya, the teacher-trainer of the Kauravas and Pāndavas. These children of the royal dynasty learnt language, scriptures, martial arts, archery besides getting vocational training pertaining to science and technology from this great teacher. However, Drona abruptly denied his admission to his Gurukul with the plea that a poor tribal boy cannot be educated at par with the princes.
Disappointed though, Ekalavya, determined to learn knighthood tactics, put a symbolic statue of Guru Dronāchārya and started practising archery in the thick of the forest. On the other hand the young princes completed their training and one day went to the forest with Guru Dronāchārya for haunting. Their pet dog ran ahead and started barking at Ekalavya, engrossed in practising archery at that time. He was unable to concentrate on his practice due to the great noise created by the dog. He therefore hurled a bunch of arrows into its mouth and shut him up who in turn ran back to its masters.
Alas! The dog’s mouth was sealed with a bunch of arrows and yet not a drop of blood! What to speak of the princes, the Guru himself was astonished to see such skill in archery that was beyond his imagination. Led by the dog, they approached the site of Ekalavya’s place to see him engrossed in solo self-practice
Ekalavya bowed down Dronāchārya’s feet, his manas–guru. On enquiry, he submitted that he had established his reverend Guru’s idol and took inspiration from him every day during his practice. Although he was not among his direct disciples, Dronāchārya himself was his teacher whose memory was instrumental in his success in the art.
It is said, Dronāchārya was afraid of the king’s wrath because this tribal boy had surpassed all his direct disciples in skill. He wanted to project Arjun as the greatest archman of the times, but for Ekalavya it may not be possible. He therefore, asked Ekalavya to pay guru- dakshinā, the fee for getting the training from him; and on his demand, Ekalavya cut his right thumb and offered it to his Guru who never taught him a single tactic! Archery is not possible without the right hand thumb as you have to stretch the bow-string with the arrow up to your ears in order to aim and hurl it unto the target. This Drona did with the mala fide intention to subdue Ekalavya and make him inferior to Arjun in the art of archery.
This historical incident stands a blot and unrivalled in the great Indian ‘teacher-disciple tradition.’ Nevertheless, Ekalavya has set a glaring example that even a poor unprivileged person who is deprived of minimum amenities of life and education can also excel in any field of knowledge, science and technology if s/he is resolute to achieve it by dint of his determined efforts and practice.