Ghritachi (spiritual mother)
Ilavida (half-sister), Katyayini (half-sister), Kripa (brother in law)
|Disciples||Pandavas and Kauravas|
In the epic Mahabharata, Droṇa (Sanskrit: द्रोण, Droṇa) or Droṇāchārya or Guru Droṇa or Rajaguru Devadroṇa was royal preceptor to the Kauravas and Pandavas. He was a friend of Guru Sukracharya, the guru of Asuras, including Mahabali. He was the son of rishi Bharadwaja and a descendant of sage Angirasa. He was a master of advanced military arts, including the divine weapons or Astras. He was also the second commander- in- chief of kaurava army from 11th day to 15th day. He failed 4 times in capturing Yudhisthira (11th, 12th day, 14th day when Arjuna was busy fighting to kill Jaydratha and 14th night. He was beheaded by Dhrishtadyumna when he was meditating to release his soul on the battlefield.
Birth and Early Life
On a river side, Bharadwaja saw an apsara named Ghritachi. He was filled with desire and his seed fell into a pot or basket. Inside it, a baby boy developed who was named Drona as he was born in a pot.
Drona spent his childhood in his father's Ashrama. He was taught by Agnivesa, a disciple of his father, the knowledge of the Agneya weapon. There he met Drupada, the prince of Panchala. They became best friends and Drupada promised Drona that he would give him anything. They studied together under Bharadwaj. Later, Drupada returned to his palace and Drona went to Parshuram, an incarnation of Vishnu, and learnt weapon skills. He also gained many celestial weapons.
Once, Drona's son Ashwatthama was playing with his friends. His friends were drinking milk and he wanted to drink it too. But his friends mixed flour with water and gave it to him. This enraged Drona and he remembered Drupada's promise. He went to Drupada's palace and asked him to give cows. But Drupada, filled with pride and ego, refused. He also insulted Drona by asking how a beggar could be his friend. This outraged Drona and he wanted to take revenge from Drupada.
Teaching the Kuru princes
Burning in rage, Drona wanted to take revenge from Drupad. While at Hastinapur, he came across the Kuru princes at play, and was able to use his abilities to help the princes solve some of their problems. He used grass to take out the ball from which they were playing. Amazed, the princes went to their grand uncle Bhishma. Bhishma instantly realized that this was Drona, and asked him to become the Guru of the Kuru princes, training them in advanced military arts.
Of all the Kaurava and Pandava brothers training under Drona, Arjuna emerged as the most dedicated, hard working and most naturally talented of them all, exceeding even Drona's own son Ashwatthama. Arjuna assiduously served his teacher, who was greatly impressed by his devoted pupil. Arjuna surpassed Drona's expectations in numerous challenges. As a reward, Drona gave Arjuna mantras to invoke the super-powerful divine weapon of Brahma known as Brahmashirshastra, but told Arjuna not to use this invincible weapon against any ordinary warrior.
When Arjun, inspired by his brother Bhima's nocturnal eating, mastered archery in absolute darkness, Drona was moved. Drona was greatly impressed by Arjuna's concentration, determination, and drive, and promised him that he would become the greatest archer on earth. Drona gave Arjuna special knowledge of the divine Astras.
A strong criticism against Dronacharya is towards his unkind treatment of Ekalavya. However, it can be argued that Dronacharya was merely abiding by his duty.
Ekalavya, the son of a Nishadha chief, approached Dronacharya seeking his instruction. But since his father was a general under Jarasandh, the ruler of Magadha (an enemy state), Dronacharya refused to train him alongside Kauravas and Panadavas. Undeterred, Ekalavya began study and practice by himself, having fashioned a clay idol of Dronacharya's to watch over his training. Solely by his determination, Ekalavya became an archer of exceptional skill.
One day, Ekalavya's focus in training was disturbed by the barking of a dog belonging to the Kuru princes. Ekalavya fired arrows that filled up the dog's mouth without spilling blood or causing injury to the dog. The Kuru princes were amazed by the trick and looked for the archer when they saw Ekalavya, who introduced himself as a pupil of Drona's. This enraged Arjuna, who accused Ekalavya of treachery and demanded Drona to punish him for illegitimate study. Drona was in a tangle: on the one hand, he greatly admired Ekalavya's skill and dedication; on the other hand, Ekalavya had indeed been training as his pupil without his consent, albeit being guided only by his idol. To resolve the matter, Drona accepted Ekalavya as his student, but demanded the thumb on his dominant hand as gurudakshina, or teacher's payment, in order to limit his abilities and further growth in archery, thus pacifying Arjuna. Ekalavya, being an exemplary disciple, immediately cut off his thumb and presented it at Drona's feet. Moved by Ekalavya's sacrifice, Drona blessed him to attain mastery even without his thumb.
After Drona completed the formal training of the Kuru princes, he demanded that they invade Panchala and bring him Drupada as their Gurudakshina. Arjuna succeeds in defeating Drupada and brings the captured king to Drona. Drona reminds Drupada about their days of friendship and his false promise before taking away half of the Panchala kingdom. Drona would make Ashwatthama the king of the annexed half of the Panchala kingdom. This action would lead Drupada to perform a sacrificial yagna in order to beget a son who would kill Drona. The sages Upayaja and Yaja helped him to beget such a son Dhrishtadyumna. The sacrificial fire also yielded a woman, Draupadi 
Weapons of Drona
Drona held the invincible sword of Lord Brahma. Bhishma once told the story of this sword to Pandava prince Nakula. This sword was the primordial weapon created by the gods for the destruction of evil. The name of the sword was Asi, the personification and the primary energy behind all the weapons ever created. As per Bhishma, the constellation under which the sword was born is called Krittika, Agni is its deity, Rohini is its Gotra, Rudra is its high preceptor and whoever holds this weapon obtains victory for sure.
Role in the Kurukshetra War
Dronacharya had been the preceptor of most kings involved in the Kurukshetra War, on both sides. Dronacharya strongly condemned Duryodhana exiling the Pandavas, as well as the Kauravas' general abuse towards the Pandavas. But being a servant of Hastinapura, Dronacharya was duty-bound to fight for the Kauravas, and thus against his favorite Pandavas. After the fall of Bhishma on the tenth day, he became the Chief Commander of the Kuru army on 11th day of war.
Duryodhana manages to convince Drona to try to end the war by capturing Yudhishthira. Though he killed hundreds and thousands of Pandava soldiers, Drona failed to capture Yudhishthira on days eleven and twelve of the war, as Arjuna was always there to repel his advances.
On the 13th day of battle, Dronacharya formed the Chakravyuha strategy to capture Yudhishtira, knowing that only Arjuna and Krishna would know how to penetrate it. The Trigartas were distracting Arjuna and Krishna into another part of the battlefield, allowing the main Kuru army to surge through the Pandava ranks.
Unknown to many, Arjuna's young son Abhimanyu had the knowledge to penetrate the formation but did not know the way out. At the request of Yudhishthira, Abhimanyu agreed to lead the way for the Pandava army and was able to penetrate the formation. However, he was trapped when Jayadratha, the king of Sindhu, held the Pandava warriors who were following him, at bay. Abhimanyu did not know how to get out of the Chakravyuha, but embarked upon an all-out attack on the Kuru army, killing tens of thousands of warriors single-handedly. Drona is impressed with Abhimanyu and praises him endlessly, earning the ire of Duryodhana. With his army facing decimation and spurred on by Duryodhana's criticisms, Drona asked the Kaurava warriors to simultaneously attack Abhimanyu, to strike down his horses and his charioteer and to disable his chariot from different angles. Left without support, Abhimanyu began fighting from the ground. Exhausted after his long, prodigious feats, Abhimanyu was eventually killed.
The devious murder of his son enraged Arjuna, who swore to kill Jayadratha the next day or immolate himself. Drona constructed 3 combined vyuhas to protect Jayadratha, first was the Shakata vyuha then was Padma Vyuha and last was the Srigantaka vyuha and at its rear was Jayadratha and stood at the head of the box formation or shakata vyuha
In the early part of the day, Arjuna and he duel, and Arjuna is unable to bypass his preceptor. With Krishna's prodding, Arjuna circumvents Drona. When Duryodhana rages at Drona, Drona replies and that he intends to capture Yudhishthira while Arjuna is away and would only hasten their victory. In a notable battle, Drona attempts to capture Yudhishthira but is stopped by Dhristadyumna. Drona severely wounds his friend's son, disarming him and forcing him to retreat. When he attempts to chase after Dhristadyumna, he is checked by Satyaki, who insults his teacher's teacher and issues a challenge. Their combat is described as fierce and despite being able to hold off Drona for several hours, Satyaki eventually tires and has to be rescued by the Upapandavas.
Later in the day, Yudhishthira sends Satyaki to aid Arjuna. When Satyaki comes upon Drona, he circumvents him, saying he must follow in his teacher's footsteps. When Yudhishthira later sends Bhima, Drona recounts what happened with Arjuna and Satyaki, and hence makes sure he does not allow Bhima also to circumvent him. Angrily rebuking him, Bhima shatters Drona's chariot with his mace. Drona takes up another chariot, only for Bhima to smash that one as well. In total, Bhima smashes eight of Drona's chariots and is able to bypass his guru.
On the 14th night (as the kuravas were not ready to stop) of the Mahabharata war, Drona is instigated by Duryodhana's remarks of being a traitor as he was not able to protect Jaidrath. Sensing his end is near, he used the Brahmastra against the common Pandava soldiers. At that moment, all the Sapta Ṛṣis appeared on the sky and requested Drona to retract this ultimate weapon used on ordinary soldiers. Dronacharya obeyed, retracting the weapon. The rishis continue and berate Drona for violating the rules of war, criticizing him for using divine weapons so indiscriminately. Drona reiterates that he is sworn to do all he can to protect Hastinapur, and that, moreover, he wants to do so for all that Dhritarashtra has given him.
On that day, Drona kills many Pandava soldiers, including Virat in arrow-play and Drupada in a sword fight. Lamenting the deterioration of their friendship, Drona pays his respect to Drupada's corpse.
Knowing it would be impossible to defeat an armed Drona, Krishna suggested the Pandavas a plan to disarm their teacher. His idea was that Bhima first kill an elephant named Ashwatthama, and then claim to Dronacharya that he has killed Dronacharya's son with the same name. After killing the elephant, Bhima loudly proclaimed that he had killed "Ashwatthama". Disbelieving him, Drona approached Yudhishthira, knowing of Yudhishthira's firm adherence to Dharma and honesty. When Dronacharya asked for the truth, Yudhishthira responded with the cryptic "Ashwatthama is dead. But the elephant and not your son." Krishna also knew that it would be impossible for Yudhishthira to lie outright. Under his instructions, the other warriors blew trumpets and conchs, raising a tumultuous noise in such a way that Dronacharya only heard that "Ashwatthama was dead", and could not hear the latter part of Yudhishthira's reply. In other versions of the story, it is told that: Drona, in grief, simply does not process the final part of Yudhishthira's statement.
Then Drona descended from his chariot, laid down his arms and sat in meditation. Pandavas wanted to use this opportunity to arrest him, but enraged by the death of his father and several Panchala warriors, Dhrishtadyumna took this opportunity and beheads him, in a gross violation of the rules of war. Krishna justified the act saying Drona's role in killing of Abhimanyu.
Analysis and modern assessment
Drona is regarded as the first test tube baby (theoretical). Drona's demand of guru dakshina from Ekalavya, in the form of his right thumb, is also scrutinized. In some folklore, Saraswati cursed Dronacharya with an unarmed and humiliating death for Drona's actions. Saraswati said that knowledge belonged to all, and that it was an acharya's duty to spread that knowledge everywhere. Despite whatever reasons he gave, Drona cheated Ekalavya and Karna to achieve something for himself-to protect his promise to Arjuna that he would make Arjuna the world's greatest archer, as well as his oath to Hastinapur.
Drona was somewhat parallel to Bhishma both in martial powers, and, compelled by the refuge they had given him, in his unwavering commitment to fighting for Hastinapur irrespective of who the ruler was and whether or not the cause was just. Like Bhishma, Drona is criticized for his pride and conceit, siding with adharma despite knowing of and acknowledging the righteousness of the Pandava cause. Krishna criticized this reasoning as mere pride-Drona wanted to put his obligation to Hastinapur over dharma so that no one questioned his honor.
Dronacharya was criticized for many of his actions during the war:
- First, as a Brahmin, and secondly, as the princes' teacher, he should have removed himself from the battlefield.
- Dronacharya tried to use Brahmastra , celestial powerful weapons against the Pandavas' common foot-soldiers. But when Lord Krishna stopped him, Drona argued that his first obligation was to defeating his enemy and defending his soldiers, by whatever means he possessed.
- His responsibility for the devious and brutal murder of Abhimanyu, as he was the Kaurava army chief at the time.
- Symbol of casteism: As Drona asked Ekalavya to cut off his right thumb as Guru Dakshina (fee for teacher). Ekalavya cut off his thumb and presented it as Gurudakshina to Dronacharya. In reality, he was not a teacher of Eklavya, still he asked right thumb from an archer.
Droncharya's overarching actions during the war are portrayed differently. When he became commander-in-chief, the rules of war were averted. Divine weapons were used against ordinary soldiers, war continued throughout the night, warriors no longer engaged each other one-on-one, etc. Specifically, he was willing to try to end the war by capturing Yudhishthira, while Karna was not, as he considered it lacking honor. He is compared directly to Karna, who, not even knowing that he was a kshatriya, still intuitively understood the kshatriya code/way-of-life. In other versions, Drona's differences in strategy are shown as a difference in philosophy- Drona believed, that as the commander-in-chief of the Kaurava army, his goal was to ensure the protection of his soldiers through any means necessary. By choosing to uphold the rules of war and the concept of honorable acts over his soldiers' lives, he would be doing them a disservice.
He remains a revered figure in Hindu history, and a pillar of the Indian tradition of respecting one's teacher as an equal not only of parents, but even of God. The Government of India annually awards the Dronacharya Award for excellence in sports tutelage to the best sports teachers and coaches in India.
It is believed that the city of Gurgaon (literally - "Village of the Guru") was founded as "Guru Gram" by Dronacharya on land given to him by Dhritarashtra, the king of Hastinapura in recognition of his teachings of martial arts to the princes, and the 'Dronacharya Tank', still exists within the Gurgaon city, along with a village called Gurgaon. Indian Government (Haryana), on 12 April 2016 decided to reinstate and change the name of Gurgaon to Gurugram.
|Wikimedia Commons has media related to Drona.|
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