“Vaisampayana said, ‘Thus worshipped by Bhishma, Drona, that first ofmen, endued with great energy, took up his quarters in the abode of theKurus and continued to live there, receiving their adorations.
After hehad rested a while, Bhishma, taking with him his grandsons, the Kauravaprinces, gave them unto him as pupils, making at the same time manyvaluable presents. And the mighty one (Bhishma) also joyfully gave untothe son of Bharadwaja a house that was tidy and neat and well-filled withpaddy and every kind of wealth. And that first of archers, Drona,thereupon joyfully, accepted the Kauravas, viz., the sons of Pandu andDhritarashtra, as his pupils. And having accepted them all as his pupils,one day Drona called them apart and making them touch his feet, said tothem with a swelling heart, ‘I have in my heart a particular purpose.Promise me truly, ye sinless ones, that when ye have become skilled inarms, ye will accomplish it.’
“Vaisampayana continued, ‘Hearing these words, the Kuru princes remainedsilent. But Arjuna, O king, vowed to accomplish it whatever it was. Dronathen cheerfully clasped Arjuna to his bosom and took the scent of hishead repeatedly, shedding tears of joy all the while. Then Drona enduedwith great prowess taught the sons of Pandu (the use of) many weaponsboth celestial and human. And, O bull of the Bharata race, many otherprinces also flocked to that best of Brahmanas for instruction in arms.The Vrishnis and the Andhakas, and princes from various lands, and the(adopted) son of Radha of the Suta caste, (Karna), all became pupils ofDrona. But of them all, the Suta child Karna, from jealousy, frequentlydefied Arjuna, and supported by Duryodhana, used to disregard thePandavas. Arjuna, however, from devotion to the science of arms, alwaysstayed by the side of his preceptor, and in skill, strength of arms, andperseverance, excelled all (his class-fellows). Indeed, although theinstruction the preceptor gave, was the same in the case of all, yet inlightness and skill Arjuna became the foremost of all his fellow-pupils.And Drona was convinced that none of his pupils would (at any time) beable to be equal to that son of Indra.
“Thus Drona continued giving lessons to the princes in the science ofweapons. And while he gave unto every one of his pupils a narrow-mouthedvessel (for fetching water) in order that much time may be spent infilling them, he gave unto his own son Aswatthaman a broad-mouthedvessel, so that, filling it quickly, he might return soon enough. And inthe intervals so gained, Drona used to instruct his own son in severalsuperior methods (of using weapons). Jishnu (Arjuna) came to know ofthis, and thereupon filling his narrow-mouthed vessel with water by meansof the Varuna weapon he used to come unto his preceptor at the same timewith his preceptor’s son. And accordingly the intelligent son of Pritha,that foremost of all men possessing a knowledge of weapons, had noinferiority to his preceptor’s son in respect of excellence. Arjuna’sdevotion to the service of his preceptor as also to arms was very greatand he soon became the favourite of his preceptor. And Drona, beholdinghis pupil’s devotion to arms, summoned the cook, and told him in secret,’Never give Arjuna his food in the dark, nor tell him that I have toldthee this.’ A few days after, however, when Arjuna was taking his food, awind arose, and thereupon the lamp that had been burning went out. ButArjuna, endued with energy, continued eating in the dark, his hand, fromhabit, going to his mouth. His attention being thus called to the forceof habit, the strong-armed son of Pandu set his heart upon practisingwith his bow in the night. And, O Bharata, Drona, hearing the twang ofhis bowstring in the night, came to him, and clasping him, said, ‘Trulydo I tell thee that I shall do that unto thee by which there shall not bean archer equal to thee in this world.’
“Vaisampayana continued, ‘Thereafter Drona began to teach Arjuna the artof fighting on horse-back, on the back of elephants, on car, and on theground. And the mighty Drona also instructed Arjuna in fighting with themace, the sword, the lance, the spear, and the dart. And he alsoinstructed him in using many weapons and fighting with many men at thesame time. And hearing reports of his skill, kings and princes, desirousof learning the science of arms, flocked to Drona by thousands. Amongstthose that came there, O monarch, was a prince named Ekalavya, who wasthe son of Hiranyadhanus, king of the Nishadas (the lowest of the mixedorders). Drona, however, cognisant of all rules of morality, accepted notthe prince as his pupil in archery, seeing that he was a Nishada whomight (in time) excel all his high-born pupils. But, O oppressor of allenemies, the Nishada prince, touching Drona’s feet with bent head, wendedhis way into the forest, and there he made a clay-image of Drona, andbegan to worship it respectfully, as if it was his real preceptor, andpractised weapons before it with the most rigid regularity. Inconsequence of his exceptional reverence for his preceptor and hisdevotion to his purpose, all the three processes of fixing arrows on thebowstring, aiming, and letting off became very easy for him.
“And one day, O grinder of foes, the Kuru and the Pandava princes, withDrona’s leave, set out in their cars on a hunting excursion. A servant, Oking, followed the party at leisure, with the usual implements and a dog.Having come to the woods, they wandered about, intent on the purpose theyhad in view. Meanwhile, the dog also, in wandering alone in the woods,came upon the Nishada prince (Ekalavya). And beholding the Nishada ofdark hue, of body besmeared with filth, dressed in black and bearingmatted locks on head, the dog began to bark aloud.
“Thereupon the Nishada prince, desirous of exhibiting his lightness ofhand, sent seven arrows into its mouth (before it could shut it). Thedog, thus pierced with seven arrows, came back to the Pandavas. Thoseheroes, who beheld that sight, were filled with wonder, and, ashamed oftheir own skill, began to praise the lightness of hand and precision ofaim by auricular precision (exhibited by the unknown archer). And theythereupon began to seek in those woods for the unknown dweller thereinthat had shown such skill. And, O king, the Pandavas soon found out theobject of their search ceaselessly discharging arrows from the bow. Andbeholding that man of grim visage, who was totally a stranger to them,they asked, ‘Who art thou and whose son?’ Thus questioned, the manreplied, ‘Ye heroes, I am the son of Hiranyadhanus, king of the Nishadas.Know me also for a pupil of Drona, labouring for the mastery of the artof arms.’
“Vaisampayana continued, ‘The Pandavas then, having made themselvesacquainted with everything connected with him, returned (to the city),and going unto Drona, told him of that wonderful feat of archery whichthey had witnessed in the woods. Arjuna, in particular, thinking all thewhile, O king, Ekalavya, saw Drona in private and relying upon hispreceptor’s affection for him, said, ‘Thou hadst lovingly told me,clasping me, to thy bosom, that no pupil of thine should be equal to me.Why then is there a pupil of thine, the mighty son of the Nishada king,superior to me?”
‘Vaisampayana continued, ‘On hearing these words, Drona reflected for amoment, and resolving upon the course of action he should follow, tookArjuna with him and went unto the Nishada prince. And he beheld Ekalavyawith body besmeared with filth, matted locks (on head), clad in rags,bearing a bow in hand and ceaselessly shooting arrows therefrom. And whenEkalavya saw Drona approaching towards him, he went a few steps forward,and touched his feet and prostrated himself on the ground. And the son ofthe Nishada king worshipping Drona, duly represented himself as hispupil, and clasping his hands in reverence stood before him (awaiting hiscommands). Then Drona, O king, addressed Ekalavya, saying, ‘If, O hero,thou art really my pupil, give me then my fees.’ On hearing these words,Ekalavya was very much gratified, and said in reply, ‘O illustriouspreceptor, what shall I give? Command me; for there is nothing, Oforemost of all persons conversant with the Vedas, that I may not giveunto my preceptor.’ Drona answered, ‘O Ekalavya, if thou art reallyintent on making me a gift, I should like then to have the thumb of thyright hand.’
“Vaisampayana continued, ‘Hearing these cruel words of Drona, who hadasked of him his thumb as tuition-fee, Ekalavya, ever devoted to truthand desirous also of keeping his promise, with a cheerful face and anunafflicted heart cut off without ado his thumb, and gave it unto Drona.After this, when the Nishada prince began once more to shoot with thehelp of his remaining fingers, he found, O king, that he had lost hisformer lightness of hand. And at this Arjuna became happy, the fever (ofjealousy) having left him.
“Two of Drona’s pupils became very much accomplished in the use of mace.These were Druvodhana and Bhima, who were, however, always jealous ofeach other. Aswatthaman excelled everyone (in the mysteries of thescience of arms). The twins (Nakula and Sahadeva) excelled everybody inhandling the sword. Yudhishthira surpassed everybody as a car-warrior;but Arjuna, however, outdistanced everyone in every respect–inintelligence, resourcefulness, strength and perseverance. Accomplished inall weapons, Arjuna became the foremost of even the foremost ofcar-warriors; and his fame spread all over the earth to the verge of thesea. And although the instruction was the same, the mighty Arjunaexcelled all (the princes in lightness of hand). Indeed, in weapons as indevotion to his preceptor, he became the foremost of them all. Andamongst all the princes, Arjuna alone became an Atiratha (a car-warriorcapable of fighting at one time with sixty thousand foes). And the wickedsons of Dhritarashtra, beholding Bhimasena endued with great strength andArjuna accomplished in all arms, became very jealous of them.
“O bull among men, one day Drona desirous of testing the comparativeexcellence of all his pupils in the use of arms, collected them alltogether after their education had been completed. And before assemblingthem together, he had caused an artificial bird, as the would be aim, tobe placed on the top of a neighbouring tree. And when they were alltogether, Drona said unto them, ‘Take up your bows quickly and stand hereaiming at that bird on the tree, with arrows fixed on your bowstrings;shoot and cut off the bird’s head, as soon as I give the order. I shallgive each of you a turn, one by one, my children.’
“Vaisampayana continued, ‘Then Drona, that foremost of all Angira’s sonsfirst addressed Yudhishthira saying, ‘O irrepressible one, aim with thyarrow and shoot as soon as I give the order. Yudhishthira took up the bowfirst, as desired, O king, by his preceptor, and stood aiming at thebird. But, O bull of Bharata’s race, Drona in an instant, addressing theKuru prince standing with bow in hand, said, ‘Behold, O prince, that birdon top of the tree.’ Yudhishthira replied unto his preceptor, saying, ‘Ido.’ But the next instant Drona again asked him, ‘What dost thou see now,O prince? Seest thou the tree, myself or thy brothers?’ Yudhishthiraanswered, ‘I see the tree, myself, my brothers, and the bird.’ Dronarepeated his question, but was answered as often in the same words. Dronathen, vexed with Yudhishthira, reproachingly said, ‘Stand thou apart. Itis not for thee to strike the aim.’ Then Drona repeated the experimentwith Duryodhana and the other sons of Dhritarashtra, one after another,as also with his other pupils, Bhima and the rest, including the princesthat had come unto him from other lands. But the answer in every case wasthe same as Yudhishthira’s viz., ‘We behold the tree, thyself, ourfellow-pupils, and the bird.’ And reproached by their preceptor, theywere all ordered, one after another, to stand apart.'”