Friday, September 27, 2013

4. Drona and Drupada - A Study in Contrast, Part 2

Drona and Drupda happened to study together under sage Bharadwaj. While Drona was the son of Sage Baharaswaj, Drupda was the Prince of Panchala. They became good friends. Their friendship became so intimate that at one stage, Drupada told Drona that when the former became the King of Panchala, he would gift half of his country to his dear friend Drona.

After completing his studies in the Gurukula, Drupada returned to his country and was eventually crowned as the King. Drona married Kripi, sister of Kripacharya (a descendant of sage Gautama but brought up by King Shantanu, the ancestor of the Pandavas and Kauravas). Drona was engulfed by poverty at the time his son Aswathama was born. He was unable to feed the child even.


At that time, he remembered his Gurukula friend Drupada who had offered to give him half of his country after becoming the king. Drona approached Drupada but the reception he got was not very encouraging. Drupada didn't even seem to remember their friendship. Yet, Drona briefed him of his plight and sought his help, reminding him of his generous promise made in the Gurukula days.


Drupada chided Drona for taking words said during childhood serious and for his temerity in talking about their friendship. He pointed out that friendship could exist only between equals and not between a King and a beggar. Stomaching the insult, Drona pleaded Drupada to at least provide him with a cow to enable him to feed his starving child but Drupada mercilessly showed him the door.


After sometime, Drona was chosen by Bhishma to teach archery and other martial arts to the Pandavas and the Kauravas and Drona's life changed for the better. He was a highly respected and admired teacher of the Hastinapura princes. Arjuna emerged as the most skilled archer and consequently as Drona's favorite student.


When the training was over, it was time for the students to offer Gurudhakshina (honorarium ) to the teacher. Drona used this occasion to avenge his humiliation at the hands of Drupada. He told Arjuna that capturing Drupada and presenting him before himself would be the Gurudhakshina he expected from Arjuna. Respecting the Guru's wishes, Arjuna challenged Drupada for a fight and conquered him. Drupada was chained and brought before Drona.


Drona reminded Drupada how the latter humiliated him when he approached him for help. He pointed out to Drupada that his country Panchala  now belonged to him, having been offered as Gurudhakshina by his disciple Arjuna. He recalled Drupada's words that friendship could exist only between equals and pointed out that having been deprived of his country, Drupada was not fit to be Drona's friend! Yet, Drona said that he was magnanimously returning half of his country Panchala to him, retaining the other half for himself. Drona then released Drupada and sent him back after giving him half of the country back


Now Drupda had suffered a humiliation. He wanted to avenge his humiliation. But he had the wisdom to differentiate between Drona, who perpetrated the humiliation on him and Arjuna, who was only used as a weapon. So, he had no feelings of resentment or anger towards Arjuna. On the other hand, he admired Arjuna's valor and wanted to bring Arjuna to his side.


Drupada performed a Yagna (a sacrificial ritual) and begot as fruits of this sacrifice, a son Drishtadhyumna who would kill Drona in a battle and a daughter Draupati. who would marry Arjuna.


Draupati grew up to be won over by Arjuna in a Swayamvara (a contest among prospective bridegrooms to win the bride) and became his wife.


In the Kurukshetra war between the Pandavas and Kauravas, Dristadhyumna, fighting on the side of the Pandavas, killed Drona who fought on the side of the Kauravas. (It is another matter that Dhrishtadhyumna learned archery from Drona himself and Drona had the magnanimity to teach him the arts as sincerely as he taught the other students, in spite of knowing that Drishtadhyumna would use the  skills to kill him in the war.)


Both Drona and Drupada faced humiliations. One may be inclined to sympathize with Drona but it is also possible to say that Drona had gone too far  by punishing Drupada, since Drupada was under no obligation to help Drona. Anyway, I don't like to go into the question who was more wronged or who was more unreasonable. 


But I think that Drupada's response to the humiliation was more pragmatic than Drona's. While Drona focused only on revenge, Drupada adopted a positive approach. He chose to gain from his defeat by winning over Arjuna. That way, I think that Drupada's approach was more positive than Drona's. This may be due to the fact that Drupada was a king and focused more on winning than on avenging.


Next Post: Three Disciples

Previous Post: Drona and Drupada Part I

Wednesday, September 25, 2013

3. Drona and Drupada - A Study in Contrast Part 1

Most of the people even with a faint idea of the Mahabharata story will recognize the name Drona as that of the teacher of the Pandavas and the Kauravas. Mahabharata is an intricately carved out story with fine character sketches and interesting anecdotes built around even minor characters. One can take up Drona's story alone to elaborate and narrate in an interesting way.

But not many may readily recognize the name Drupada, who is also a key character in the epic. He was the king of Panchala and a childhood friend turned enemy of Drona. Let us look at the events that brought these two characters together first to collaborate and then to conflict.


Drona was the son of Sage Bharadwaja. Sages and scholars were the sources of education and training. At any time, a number of students would be learning at the feet of a sage by staying with him for a number of years. This system called Gurukula was like the system of a residential school in the present times. The main difference is that students didn't pay any tuition fee upfront. Only after completing their studies would the students be expected to make a contribution to the Guru, by way of Gurudhakshina (Guru-Teacher. Dhakshina-contribution). The Gurudhsksina was not always in the form of money. It often involved doing something for the Guru. Students would invariably find out the Guru's preference before offering him (I am using the word 'him' with no hesitation because the Gurus were all men!) the Gurudhakshina.


Without collecting any money from the students, how could a Guru feed his family and the students for years? The students who were invariably bachelors (there were no girl students!) had a duty to seek alms for their food. This was a responsibility enjoined on all bachelors with a view to make them learn the virtue of humility. The food grains collected by the students would not only cover their needs but the needs of the Guru's family also. The idea was to free the scholar from the rigors of earning for his family and encourage him to focus on continued learning and research.


The simple yet immensely powerful system produced many scholars from among the students who in turn carried the legacy of imparting education to a next generation of students that would seek these scholars out as their Guru.


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