If Drona rejected Eklavya due to his character deficiency, then why didnt he reject Duryodhana too?

by Chaitanya Charan dasDecember 1, 2012

From: Purushottam Kumar

Why Drona accepted Duryodhana his student but not Eklavya?

Question: In your answer to the question “Can you kindly clarify the position of Eklavya?”, you mentioned that “Eklavya had the competence to become a great archer, but not the character. And Drona told him that he will not educate him, not just only because he was not born in the kshatriya family but because he had character deficiency.”However we see that Drona had no hesitation in imparting knowledge to characterless Duryodhanda, although Dronacharya was very much aware about the character of Duryodhana. Drona asked Eklavya for this right thumb because he thought that Eklavya would misuse his knowledge. The same logic he could have applied for Duryodhana also. Why was Dronacharya very selective in applying the “Principle of Character”?

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Transcription: (By Keshav Gopal P and Ambuj P)

Edited By: Anshu Todi Mataji


Firstly, it is not that Dronacharya is a pure devotee of God and all his actions should be considered flawless and perfect. Dronacharya on the day when he was eventually killed by Drishtadyumna, the fifteenth day of the battle, started using celestial weapons against ordinary soldiers and slaughtered them mercilessly.

At that time the seers appeared in the sky and told him, you have violated the principles of religion, you should not fight. You have violated the principles of martial codes and should not fight any more, give up your weapons.  Dronacharya was the person who suggested killing Abhimanyu by attacking him simultaneously through six warriors. Certainly he was an exalted person in terms of his martial calibre.  The Pandavas accepted him as their martial teacher, which indicates that he is not an ordinary person rather a special personality. But at the same time we should not equate speciality with perfection.


The Mahabharata doesn’t just describe ideal people, it also describes real people. And as far as real people are concerned, it is always possible that there can be certain miscalculations. There can be certain mistakes. Regarding this specific context of the situation, Dronacharya,  as we all know, was a Brahmana and had good Kshatriya skills.

Somehow he was a very poor Brahmana. He was so poor that he couldn’t arrange for milk for his infant son, Ashwathama. And when he was in such indigence, such poverty, he came to the Kaurava kingdom and was hired as a priest.  Although he was a Brahmana and was given the respect of the priest but he was hired primarily as a martial teacher for the princes in the Kuruvansha. These princes included the Kauravas as well as the Pandavas. So it was part of his job  to train the princes of Kuruwansha.


Now, did he have the power to reject certain students? Actually speaking what he was expected to do, he did. And beyond that it was his discretion whether he will accept more students or not. So he started an academy that  was primarily meant for the Kauravas and the Pandavas, the princes of the Kuruwansha. But then he was a famous archer and his fame was spread so far  and extensive that many other princes also came.  When Drishtadyumna, who was destined to kill him came, Dronacharya thought that it is the will of the providence  to happen. He was so broadminded that he even trained Drishtadyumna. Then as we know Eklavya wasn’t trained by him.


Also we shouldn’t think that the caste is completely unimportant. We should not go to the two extremes of making caste as all important and making caste as entirely unimportant. In  traditional Vedic society, if there is a Brahmana father and Brahmana mother, then it is quite likely that a soul with Brahminical propensity will be attracted. And by that he will be able to become a Brahmana.

Further the child also lives in a Brahminical culture where the parents are practising Brahminical life style. So naturally that will also have influence. Just like even if we don’t consider transcendental factor of the soul already having Brahminical characteristics, the very fact that a person is born in a family where mother and father are doctor, then child has a head start towards becoming a doctor if he or she decides to. If that person already had the inclinations then certainly the home environment is more conducive.

If we take this principle further, not just homes environment but also the past life inclinations are added by the principle of the consciousness of the parents attracting the corresponding souls at the time of conception Then we can understand that the caste is a significant factor.

The Varnashrama system became perverted when the caste discrimination was fossilized. Caste distinction was not made  a living system for engaging people according to their nature. But it was made into a fossilized inflexible absolute system. In general it was expected that somebody born in a Kshatriya family would be a Kshatriya.


Another question is did Drona knew fully about the character of Duryodhana? Well, at least not initially. Before Drona came there, actually Duryodhana had not  done anything wrong publicly. The Pandavas had  a short time before coming to the kingdom of Dhritarashtra, which was their own kingdom, Pandu’s kingdom.

The Pandavas were earlier living with their father Pandu who was living with his queens in the forest near the Himalayas. Pandu met an unfortunate end. Madri went in a funeral pyre with him and Kunti came back with  his sons. Slowly Duryodhana started inflaming. So at that time when Drona just came back and started training all the students, he was in financial dire state and was offered a post of becoming a martial teacher of the Kuru princes which he accepted. He was in a situation of necessity firstly.


Secondly, Duryodhana had not openly exhibited his antisocial, irreligious tendencies. Although he had tried to poison Bhima but Yudhistra had decided not to talk about that publically. Because that would make Duryodhana all the more hostile. Although Vidura knew about it but Bhishma Pitamaha did not know about this attempt on the life of Bhima, at least that time. And certainly Drona did not know about it.

Therefore, from the point of view of antecedents, Duryodhana had not exhibited anything immoral and Dhritarashtra was a weak hearted king, in the sense that he was attached to the kingdom. But as long as Pandu was living Dhritarashtra had never tried to usurp Pandu’s kingdom. He didn’t do anything wrong directly. Certainly, he felt disappointed that he could not be the king in spite being the eldest among brothers. But till that time when Dronacharya started his education in academy of Drona, Duryodhana had not done anything wrong publicly.


Eklavya was rejected not just of his character deficiency, which was definitely there, and became evident later, but also because he belonged to a clan of people who, not just because of their caste but because of their activities, were considered antisocial. The purpose of all this discussion is not to say that things are right  or wrong. . To make the absolute judgement of  what is right or  wrong is not very easy in real life.

Especially when we are trying to understand the culture that existed thousands of years ago. But the broad principles are that there is a certain logicality, certain rationale to certain decisions. If we understand the rationale then we can see how within that rationale it is not an absolutely wrong decision. Still that rationale was not the absolute one, rather it brought a perspective that a decision could have been counter-productive.


To summarize, Drona is not to be considered a pure devotee, at least not on the level of Bhishma, and he may also commit mistakes. He was a liberal Brahmana, and was a martial teacher. It is not that everything about him was perfect. Secondly, at the time when he came, Duryodhana had not exhibited his tendencies. And in general in the Vedic culture Kshatriyas children are expected to become Kshatriyas. Thirdly, Drona was in a situation of necessity at that time and that’s why he took up the service of training the Kuruvansha princes.


Beyond training them, if he wanted to train anyone else or not that was his personal choice. Naturally because he employed with Kuruwansha, and there was a person who is coming from a race who troubled the Kuru administrators. So he would naturally not take that person in the academy. That was because of multiple reasons. One of them was character deficiency in Eklavya. Second was the activities of the people to which he belonged to and third was his caste. So there is a reason for what Dronacharya did.

When we understand this, it makes sense in its own perspective. Also, it may not be the absolutely perfect decision, but there was a certain cultural context and social-economic situation in which Drona was operating and that’s why he took the decision of training Duryodhana in military warfare.

Thank You


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Chaitanya Charan das

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