Categories: Hindu Mythology

Dronacharya:The Legendary Warrior and Mentor

Dronacharya, also known as Drona, is a prominent character in the Hindu epic Mahabharata. He serves as the royal preceptor of both the Kauravas and the Pandavas, imparting invaluable knowledge in advanced military arts and weaponry. This article delves into the life of Dronacharya, his birth, early life, acquisition of weapons, role in teaching the Kuru princes, and his significant participation in the Kurukshetra War.


Birth and Early Life of Dronacharya

Dronacharya’s birth is an intriguing tale. He is described as the son of the sage Bharadvaja and a descendant of the sage Angirasa. His unique birth is attributed to a union between Sage Bharadwaja and an apsara named Ghritachi. As the story goes, Sage Bharadvaja’s seed fell into a pot or basket, and inside it, a child developed, whom they named Drona. He was born in a pot and brought to the ashram, hence his name “Drona.”

Dronacharya and Prince Drupada were educated together in Sage Bharadvaja’s ashram and became best friends. Drupada even promised to share his wealth and kingdom with Drona when he became king. However, as time passed, Drupada ascended to the throne of Panchala, while Drona chose the path of a sage and teacher, eventually having a son named Ashwatthama. Drona’s life took a different path, marked by his lack of interest in material wealth and a humble existence.

Drupada’s Insult and Drona’s Quest for Revenge

Drona’s life took a significant turn when his son, Ashwatthama, faced an incident that exposed their poverty. Ashwatthama’s friends mixed flour with water instead of milk, which left Drona ashamed and unable to provide for his son. In his time of need, Drona remembered Drupada’s promise to share his wealth. He went to Drupada’s palace, hoping that his old friend would fulfill his promise. However, Drupada, who had grown vain and proud, not only refused but also insulted Drona by questioning how a beggar could be his friend. This insult and betrayal fueled Drona’s desire for revenge.

Acquisition of Weapons and Training

To seek the power needed for his quest for vengeance, Drona turned to his father’s former disciple, Sage Agnivesha. Agnivesha had learned the use of weapons from Sage Agastya and passed his knowledge to both Drona and Drupada. Drona’s thirst for martial prowess led him to the hermitage of Sage Parashurama, who was donating his wealth at the time. Parashurama had already given away his material possessions, leaving only his weapons and his body. Drona chose to acquire Parashurama’s weapons and gained invaluable knowledge of weaponry.

Teaching the Kuru Princes

Dronacharya, along with Kripa, was brought by Bhishma to educate the Kuru princes. Drona had a special bond with Arjuna, who had once saved him from an alligator. In gratitude, Drona imparted powerful mantras to Arjuna to invoke the divine weapon Brahmashirshastra. However, he advised Arjuna never to use it against mortals.

Under Drona’s tutelage, the Kuru princes excelled in various martial skills. Bhima and Duryodhana mastered the art of maces, Ashwatthama excelled in astras, Nakula and Sahadeva in swordsmanship, Yudhishthira in charioteering, and Arjuna in archery. Arjuna’s exceptional skills in archery deeply impressed Drona, and he prophesied that Arjuna would become the greatest archer in the world.

Education in Archery of the Kauravas and a Unique Challenge

The story of Ekalavya, a Nishadha chief’s son, seeking Drona’s instruction is another fascinating aspect of Dronacharya’s life. Drona initially refused to train Ekalavya alongside the Kauravas and Pandavas due to his tribal background. However, Ekalavya’s determination led him to master archery on his own, crafting a clay idol of Drona to guide his training. His remarkable skill became evident when he filled a dog’s mouth with arrows without harming it. This incident made Arjuna jealous, leading to a unique challenge.

Drona accepted Ekalavya as his student but demanded a heavy gurudakshina (teacher’s payment): the thumb on Ekalavya’s dominant hand

To resolve this challenge, Drona accepted Ekalavya as his student but demanded a heavy gurudakshina (teacher’s payment): the thumb on Ekalavya’s dominant hand. Ekalavya, an exemplary disciple, willingly complied, sacrificing his own capabilities.

Demonstration by the Pupils and the Great Declaration

Dronacharya organized a demonstration of his pupils’ martial skills. During this event, each student presented valuable offerings to their teacher. Arjuna’s extraordinary archery skills stole the show and garnered immense praise. Drona declared Arjuna as the greatest archer in the world, which marked a pivotal moment in the epic.

Drona’s Role in the Kurukshetra War

Dronacharya’s involvement in the Kurukshetra War is significant. He served as the Chief Commander of the Kaurava army after the fall of Bhishma on the 10th day of the war. Duryodhana persuaded Drona to capture Yudhishthira, but despite his prowess, Drona failed to achieve this goal on the 11th and 12th days, thanks to Arjuna’s vigilance.

Abhimanyu’s Tragic End

On the 13th day of the war, Drona devised the Chakravyuha formation to capture Yudhishthira, knowing only Arjuna and Krishna could penetrate it. Abhimanyu, Arjuna’s young son, possessed the knowledge to break into the formation but not the way out. Despite leading the Pandava army, he was trapped when King Jayadratha held the Pandava warriors at bay. Abhimanyu’s bravery shone as he fought single-handedly, killing countless Kaurava warriors. Drona praised Abhimanyu, angering Duryodhana.

Fourteenth Day and Drona’s Demise

The 14th day of the war saw Drona seeking revenge for the death of his son, Ashwatthama, and launching a devastating attack. Sensing his end was near, Drona used the Brahmastra against ordinary Pandava soldiers. However, the Saptarshi appeared in the sky, urging Drona to retract this ultimate weapon’s use on common soldiers. Drona obeyed, but not without criticism for his indiscriminate use of divine weapons.

On the 15th day, Drona killed many Pandava soldiers, including Virata and Drupada. However, a plan was devised to disarm Drona, involving Bhima’s claim of killing an elephant named Ashwatthama and cleverly adding the word “elephant” indistinctly so that Drona couldn’t hear it. This false information was relayed to Drona by Yudhishthira, who, bound by his commitment to honesty, played a significant role in the ruse.

Upon hearing this information, Drona descended from his chariot, laid down his arms, and sat in meditation to find his son’s soul. It was a moment of vulnerability that the Pandavas wanted to exploit. Drona’s end came when Dhrishtadyumna, who was incensed by the death of his father and many Panchala warriors, seized the opportunity and beheaded Drona. This act was a gross violation of the rules of war and would later draw condemnation from Arjuna.


Krishna Das is an experienced article writer. He writes about Hinduism in his spare time.

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