By Jatin Mahajan, Batch of 2017
“So be it. I’d like your right thumb as the fee for my training!” exclaimed Dronacharya. “This is outrageous. I unconditionally worshipped you O great Guru despite you shunning me away! My dexterity with the bow is my instrument of rising above this inferiority of your segregated society. I am not going to give it away. Everything is crystal clear to me. This is all a total forgery. Now I shall have my revenge. In this life or the next. Mark my words O great Guru. Mark my words” said Eklavya.
And this event marked the beginning of the vengeance that assumed no limits. Eklavya enhanced his archery and went places to seek guidance and to gain support. He raised an army; an army of outcastes and the so called ‘downtrodden’, those who possessed the skill and the talent but were rejected, humiliated by the royals like him. Gradually, Eklavya became invincible.
“You are a Nishada-putra. I can’t marry a low-born. This is beneath me,” said Draupadi. Time and again, Eklavya was oppressed. Only this time by a spiteful royal woman of Panchal. He had had enough. An alliance with the Kaurava was inevitable. A fierce battle ensued between the Kaurava, the Pandava and Eklavya’s army. But with the Pandava being the common enemy for both the Kaurava and Eklavya, the odds were stacked against the Pandava.
In the midst of the great battle, surrounded by the clash of arms, the pounding of hooves, the rattle of trappings, the shouts of warriors, and the screams of wounded men and beasts, where the dust churned up by the horses dimmed the sun, Krishna arrived to the scene and demonstrated why exactly the Pandavas were blessed by the Divine One. Raising the wheel of a chariot over his head, the Lord raced forward to even out the numbers game. He was magnificent— in protecting Arjuna. He adroitly manoeuvred Arjuna’s chariot in battle, a whip in his right hand and a bridle rope in his left and went on to decimating the enemies one by one.
The war of Kurukshetra saw the mightiest fall one by one. Kaurava lost Bheeshma, Dronacharya, Karna and even Duryodhana, while Pandava sacrificed Drishtadyuman, Drupad and Shikhandi. On the eighteenth day, the only ones remaining were– the Pandava with Lord Krishna, and Eklavya with Dronacharya’s son Ashwathama. Eklavya finally got his long due chance. “Eklavya, this is your moment. Kill them and avenge yourself. I’ll make sure the rest of the Pandava lineage doesn’t see the light of day,” ordered Ashwathama.
Driven by vengeance, Eklavya decided that there wasn’t any option but to confront the Pandava by himself. He valiantly marched into the ring of fire surrounded by the five Pandava princes. “O Pandava, from the very beginning you have been the reason behind creating an outcast of me and my kin and depriving me from learning under the great Guru. Although you have vanquished my army, you have not conquered me,” growled Eklavya.
“O mighty archer! What purpose has revenge ever fulfilled! This war broke out of the lust of rulers for power and glory, or in your case to revenge the humiliation of a former defeat. But O powerful stellar, you have not been defeated. Guru Dronacharya shunned you merely because of his promise to Arjuna. This was neither motivated by prejudice nor by choice. And you must find forgiveness for your Guru for this because never does the human soul appear as strong as when it foregoes revenge and dares to forgive an injury. He who has let go off hatred, who treats all beings with kindness and compassion, who is always serene, unmoved by pain or pleasure, self-controlled, firm and patient, is in the true sense, a great leader. Redeem yourself. Come out of the dark and see the light O mighty warrior, for, by seeking revenge, you start by digging the grave of your own soul,” said Lord Krishna.
“You are indeed the great one O Lord. You have opened my eyes! You have endowed me with wisdom and melted my heart. Throughout my life, I wished to be granted an equal stature, an equal name in the society. You have lit in me the source of light. O mighty Pandava, forgive me for my sins. Please accept me into your fold,” said Eklavya with tears in his eyes.
As he moved towards Lord Krishna to seek his blessings, Ashwathama from a distance sensed that he had sided with the enemy and shot three straight arrows to pierce the chest of the Nishada Prince. He fell into the ground with a heavy thud. As the Pandavas looked on, Lord Krishna severed Ashwathama’s head from his body. There in the dust lied the body of the prince, once an outcast, a champion archer, a fierce commander and finally, a transformed mortal!
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