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.


Next Post: Drona and Drupada (contd.)      

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