Eklavya (Sanskrit: एकलव्य, éklavya) is a character in the Hindu epic Mahābhārata. He is a young prince of the Nishadha, a confederation of jungle tribes in Ancient India. Eklavya aspires to study archery in the gurukul of Guru Dronacharya, who was regarded the best tutor in the use of weapons and war strategy at that time. He is son of Vyatraj Harinyadhanu, a talented soldier in the army of King of Magadha. The kingdom of Magadha was ruled by Jarasandha at that time. The relations between Magadha and the Kingdom of Hastinapura were not friendly.
Eklavya sincerely sought the mentorship of Drona for learning the use of weapons and martial art. But Drona discouraged him from this aim and ultimately rejected Eklavya on account of his caste. However, out of respect for Drona, Eklavya embarked upon a program of self-study, using a clay image of Drona as his inspiration. Eventually, Eklavya achieves a level of skill superior to that of Arjun, who was Drona's favorite and most accomplished student (but belonging to the Royal Family of the Pandavas). The Pandavas come across the boy in the forest one day, and Eklavya tells them about himself and his deep regard for Guru Drona. After knowing this, Drona consults a wise priest, Vyasa Maharshi. He reminds Drona that Ekalvya's father, Hiranyadhanva, fought against the kingdom that Drona serves. Knowing all this, Drona was mindful of the challenge Eklavya posed to his own protege, Arjun. In a shrewd move, Drona demands that Eklavya cut off his right thumb as a gift to his "teacher" (in Indian culture, a teacher's request cannot be denied). This would preclude Eklavya from being as skilled or even better than Arjun. Since Eklavya always trusted and respected Drona as his mentor, he agrees to the demand without hesitation, and sheers off his right thumb with his own weapon. Some regard Drona's demand for Eklavya's thumb (along with his refusal to accept him as a student) as cruel and undeserved, and politically motivated. But others have seen Ekalavya's education as an act of disrespect toward Drona (contrary to Eklavya's own sentiments), and subsequently a challenge to the empire Drona served.
In the Mahabharata, Eklavya was born the son of Nishada king Hiranya Dhanyu. a lower caste not allowed to practice the martial arts in ancient times. However, he was determined to become an archer, and began to teach himself. He knew from his elders that he would never be accepted into formal training. However, he firmly believed that his dedication, hard work and sincerity will earn him a spot with a great tutor of that time, Drona.
Drona was the Brahmin teacher appointed by the Royal Family of Hasthinapura to teach the young Kaurav and Pandav princes the martial arts. He himself had been trained by Parashurama, sixth incarnation of Vishnu who himself had been trained by Shiva.
Upon reaching Hasthinapura, Eklavya managed to gain an audience with Drona. The guru was quite impressed by young Eklavya sincere desire and he asked about the background of the boy. Upon finding out he was not high caste, Drona turned him away. Drona was being retained by the Kingdom of Hastinapura and could not accept students of his own will.
Deeply hurt but still resolute, Eklavya returned home and made a statue of Drona. He accepted the statue of Drona as his guru and practiced in front of it every single day. His belief that the statue would teach him kept the boy determined. One day the young Kaurava and Pandava princes from Hastinapur came hunting with their teacher Drona in the jungle where Eklavya lived. While the princes were hunting around in the jungle, they camped for the night. It was amavasya and the night was completely dark. A wild dog started barking and was disturbing everyone's sleep, but no one would go out into the dark. Then suddenly the sound of a shooting arrow was heard and they saw the dog with its mouth sewn shut by arrows. Amazed, Arjuna asked Drona how this could be, to which he told him it was shabda bhedi, or aiming by sound, a skill that Arjuna had not learned yet.
Drona mapped the direction of the arrows and lead his students to the place from where the arrow came. There they found a dark young boy practicing archery. Drona recognized him and asked him if it was he who shot the wild dog, and Ekalavya confessed that it was him.
Impressed and curious, Drona asked Ekalavya who his teacher was. The boy bowed to Drona with respect and touched his feet, replying: "Acharya (Sir), it is you who taught me everything I learnt".
Drona was amazed and asked him how the boy could learn from him in the forest while Drona at the palace with the royal princes. Ekalavya showed them the statue of Drona that he made, explaining that he had accepted the form Drona in the statue as his guru, and with meditation and discipline had trained. Drona now remembered that Ekalavya was from Magadha where Jarasandha was king, a tribe that was enemies with the kingdom of Hastinapura. His father Vyatraj Harinyadhanu was a soldier.
Drona thought for a second, then said, "If I am your guru, then you must give me guru dakshin" Eklavya replied that he would pay anything Drona asked, to which the guru responded that he wanted the right thumb of Ekalavya. Without hesitation, Ekalavya cut off his thumb and gave it to his guru.
Ekalavya is called as one of the foremost of kings in the Rajasuya Yagna  where he honors Yudhishtara with his shoes . He is noted as very powerful, though deprived of his thumb . Arjuna later defeated the mighty  Ekalavya in battle  & killed him, where Ekalavya was hailed as resplendent & looking like Rama , matching Arjuna in battle despite his imposed physical disability.
Self-training in the forest
Ekalavya is determined to master archery, and goes into the forest. He begins a disciplined program of self-study over many years. Eventually, Ekalavya becomes an archer of exceptional prowess, greater than Drona's best pupil, Arjuna.
One day while Ekalavya is practicing,he hears a dog barking. Before the dog can shut up or get out of the way, Ekalavya fires seven arrows in rapid succession to fill the dog's mouth without injuring it. The Pandavas come upon the dog, and wonder who could have accomplished such a feat. Searching the forest, they find a dark skinned young man, dressed in all black with long hair and strong muscles. He introduces himself as Ekalavya, a pupil of Drona.
Upon hearing of the incident, Drona is impressed but also angered. When the young man presents himself to Drona, the guru accepts him but demands his right thumb (which is essential to position an arrow on the bow-string) as gurudakshina. Ekalavya complies, but cripples himself and thereby ruins his abilities as an archer.
According to the Mahābhārata, Drona was fulfilling his dharma to protect the fated superiority of Arjuna. He has been criticized by some scholars for demanding something that was not his due. The deterministic suggestion also points out the contradiction that if Arjuna's superiority was truly fated, Ekalavya's mastery of archery would have no consequence on the destiny of the Pandavas. In Mahabharata, Drona tells his son that education is for everyone and that they cannot close the doors of education on anyone. He claims he took Eklavya's right thumb as he did not get his education in the right way but stole his education by watching Drona teach others.
Others have suggested that Dronacharya suspected Ekalavya learned his skill by secretly observing the training sessions of Arjuna and his brothers. In this scenario, although Drona could have demanded an even greater punishment for covert martial training under the law of the time, he asked only for Ekalavya's right thumb.
Ekalavya has been lauded by many Indians, including Adivasis, as a paragon of achievement who achieved great heights of accomplishment through his own self-initiative, to which the nobles of the Kuru house could only aspire through formal tutelage. Ultimately, however, the Mahābhārata does not settle these moral ambiguities, and leaves the tale open to speculation and discussion. Ekalavya later learned to shoot again using only four fingers and left-handed and was a mighty warrior hailed in several places in the Mahabharata.
Later life and death
Later, Ekalavya worked as a confidant of King Jarasandha. At the time of the Swayamvara of Rukmini, he acted as the messenger between Shishupala and Rukmini's father Bhishmaka, at the request of King Jarasandha. Ultimately, Bhishmaka decided that Rukmini would marry Shishupala, but instead she eloped with Krishna. Ekalavya is later killed during a conflict between Krishna and King Jarasandha's army.
In Indonesian legend, in a former life Eklavaya was king Phalgunadi, killed by Drona and reborn as Dhrishtadamyuna to avenge the killing. In the this version, Arjuna gets his name Phalguna from Phalgunadi. His famous and chaste wife Dewi Anggraini was always faithful to Phalgunadi, even after his death and despite Arjuna 's proposals.
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