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The Legend Eklavaya - Adivasi warrior archer | Dalit History

The Story Of Eklavaya | About Eklavaya | Biography And History Of Eklavya

The Story Of Eklavaya | About Eklavaya | Biography And History Of Eklavya

The story of Ekalavaya is known to most Dalits. This is the story of an Adivasi warrior-archer whose aim is so sure that the famous Savarna hero of the epic Mahabharata, Arjuna feels that he is unable to duplicate such a feat. Arjuna is so threatened by  Ekalavaya that he involves his archery teacher Drona into a treacherous plot.This is the story of Ekalavaya detailed below exactly as it appears in Wendy Doniger's book: The Hindus : "Drona was the Pandava’s archery tutor, and Arjuna was his star pupil. One day a boy named Eklavaya, the son of a tribal Nishada chieftain, came to them.

When Drona who knew dharma, refused to accept the son of a Nishada as a pupil, Ekalavaya touched his head to Drona’s feet, went out into the jungle and made a clay image of Drona, to which he paid the respect due to a teacher.

He practiced intensely and became a great archer. One day the Pandavas went out hunting with their dog. The dog  wandered off, came upon Ekalavaya, and stood their barking at him until the Nishada shot seven arrows almost simultaneously into the dog’s mouth.

The dog went whimpering back to the Pandavas, who were amazed and went to find the man who had accomplished this feat. They found him and asked him who he was, and he told them that he was Nishada Ekalavaya, a pupil of Drona’s.They went home, but Arjuna kept thinking about Ekalavaya,  and one day he asked Drona why he had a pupil, the son of a Nishada, who was even better archer than he, Arjuna.

Drona then resolved to do something about this. He took Arjuna with him to see Ekalavaya, and when he found him, he said to Ekalavaya, “If you are my pupil, pay me my fee right now”. Ekalavaya, delighted said, “Command me, my Guru. There is nothing I will not give my Guru”. Drona replied “Give me your right thumb”. When Ekalavaya heard this terrible speech from Drona he kept his promise. He cut off his thumb and gave it to Drona and after that when the Nishada shot an arrow his fingers were not as quick as before.

Arjuna was greatly relieved."  Dalit literature however, frequently uses the motif of Ekalavaya as someone who betrayed himself and others. Shashikant Hingonekar has written:  " If you had kept your thumb    History would have happened somewhat differently   But you gave your thumb and history also  became theirs.  Ekalavaya,  since that day they  have not even given you a glance.  Forgive me, Ekalavaya, I won't be fooled now  by their sweet words.   My thumb  will never be broken"


In the Mahabharata, Ekalavya was the son of Hiranyadhanus, who was King Jarasandha's army commander and leader of the Nishadhas. Ekalavaya wanted to become a disciple of Drona, but was rejected due to Dronacharya obliged to teach only Kuru princes. Not to be discouraged, Ekalavya made a symbolic statue of Drona from the mud he walked upon and worshiped it as his Guru. He began a disciplined program of self-study over many years.

One day when 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. The construction was in such a way that the dog could not bark and yet it was harmless to the animal. Drona was amazed and wished to meet the archer who had completed such a feat. When Ekalavya appeared, Drona asked him who his Guru was. Ekalavya replied that Drona himself was his guru and explained what he had done. Arjuna angrily confronted Drona for breaking his promise to make Arjuna the greatest archer in the world. In order to remedy the situation, Drona asked for the right thumb of Ekalavya as his guru dakshina. Ekalavya was aware that if he offered his right thumb as Dakshina, he would lose his prowess as a great archer. Still, Ekalavya severed his thumb and offered it as Dakshina.

Later life and death

Later, Eklavya worked as an archer for 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 when she eloped with Krishna. After the death of Jarasandha and Shishupala, Eklavya sought to avenge him by campaigning to destroy Kuntibhoja and every Yadava in Dwarka. During the attack, he was killed by Krishna and eventually his army was knocked out by Balarama and his army was forced to flee the battle(who were later defeated by Karna) as all his major allies were killed off.

Indonesian legend

In Indonesian legend, in a former life Ekalavaya was king Phalgunadi, killed by Drona and reborn as Dhrishtadyumna to avenge the killing. In this version, Arjuna gets his name Phalguna from Phalgunadi. Ekalavya's famous and chaste wife Devi Anggraini was always faithful to Phalgunadi, even after his death and despite Arjuna's proposals of marriage.

Legacy of Eklavaya

Eklavya temple

There is an Eklavya temple (Hindi: एकलव्य मंदिर) temple in honor of Mahabharata fame Eklavya in Khandsa village in Sector 37 of Gurgaon city in Haryana state of India. As per folklore, this is the only temple of Eklavya and it is the place where Eklavya cut his thumb and offered to guru Drona.

In honor of Eklavya, Government of India runs a Ekalavya Model Residential School (EMRS) model residential school scheme for Indian tribals. Ekalavya Award is awarded by Government of Karnataka for the outstanding performance in sports.

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