Tag Archives: obedience

Ekelavya and Guru Dronacharaya


This is a side story in the Mahabharatha. There was a young boy named Ekelavya who couldn’t be trained in the bow and arrow while growing up because his parents were too poor to hire a teacher for him. However, he found the 5 main brothers being trained by a great teacher, Guru Dronacharaya. Day after day, Ekelavya watched from some nearby woods as Guru Dronacharaya trained the five, one of them, by the name of Arjuna, growing to be known as the best archer ever. Arjuna was Guru Dronacharaya’s pride and joy as his best pupil ever. 

Meanwhile, in the woods, Ekelavya had a great respect for Guru Dronacharaya. He built a statue of Guru Dronacharaya and began training in the woods in front of it, pretending that he was being trained by the guru himself. Ekelavya grew very skillful at archery this way. One day, Guru Dronacharaya was passing through the woods when he came upon the statue in his likeness, along with Ekelavya. After observing Ekelavya’s archery for a bit, he realized that this boy was leagues better at archery than Arjuna. Guru Dronacharaya approached Ekelavya and asked how he had become so good at archery. The boy told him that he had watched the Guru training the five brothers and practiced on his own in the woods. 

Guru Dronacharaya wanted to protect his pupil Arjuna’s status as the best archer ever, so he asked for Ekelavya’s right thumb as his gurudakshina. This way, Ekelavya would be unable to draw back a bow. Because of his great devotion to his teacher, Ekelavya complied and cut off his right thumb to give to Guru Dronacharaya. 


This story is from the Mahabharatha, and is a plot point in the main storyline. An extremely simplified synopsis of the Mahabharatha is that it’s about the war between 5 brothers and 100 of their other brothers (Note that brother and cousin are essentially synonymous in this context). The “good guys” are the 5 brothers, and they eventually end up winning the war. 

During these times, archery was seen as the most stylish and elegant form of combat, and thus was highly respected. All nobles were trained in it. 

A gurudakshina was paid to a teacher after your time training with him comes to a close, and the guru could ask you for pretty much anything and you had to pay it. In this specific case, however, Ekelavya only really pays the gurudakshina out of respect for and devotion to Guru Dronacharaya, as there was no formal training or contract of any sort between them. 

The interviewee feels that this story resonates especially deeply with him because it shows that sometimes the world isn’t fair and people can just get in your way despite you doing everything correctly. Ekelavya works the hardest of any character described, and yet gets pushed to the side merely because he wasn’t born into nobility. It’s about realism. 

This story isn’t one that is told to younger children, as it kills their hope by teaching them that they can do everything but still not reach their goal because others get in their way, or things don’t go in their favor. Some families don’t tell their children this story at all because of the cynical way that it describes this world. 


In addition to the life lesson my interviewee notices, I think this story promotes respecting authority and tradition, seen by Ekelavya’s decision to pay the requested gurudakshina, despite it costing him greatly. The authority that is placed inherently in that culture’s nobility is also respected, as Ekelavya doesn’t question his place as separate from the other boys, opting to train from afar instead of asking to join their sessions or something of that nature. It puts an interesting emphasis on hard work. The hard work still pays off, as Ekelavya becomes better than the best archer ever, but he gives up his reward/possible reputation after all the hard work out of devotion. There is also a selfless element to this story, as he is thinking more about what’s good for Guru Dronocharaya than what is good for himself.

Two Oxen

CONTEXT: DM is a current USC student who attended a North Carolina Christian sleep-away camp in the summer of 2011. This is a story that she heard from an elderly woman named Libby. Libby had been raised at the camp, was head of camp for a number of years, and taught Bible Study and Devotional at the camp. DM interprets this story as a warning to choose obedience over freedom. She does not agree with the moral and does not think this was a good story to tell the children at camp.

Okay, this is a story of two oxen. It starts out with two brothers, and they are two wild
oxen that live in the plains a long, long time ago. These two oxen were living happily.
They were brothers, and they lived with their mom, and they had plenty of free space to
roam, and places to explore, and water and food. And then one day, they started seeing
these creatures and objects they had never seen before, because the railroad had been
being built in their area. And these big heavy machines are coming in, and all these
workers and things. And these carriages were coming by and there was a sudden influx
of people and the land around them was being torn up. And one day while the brothers
are out grazing on the field, this carriage comes by, and they get snatched up by the
carriage and are kidnapped into a working ranch that had just been set up nearby. And
the two oxen were basically prisoners. They had to be worked, and whipped, and made
to wear really uncomfortable saddles and people were always trying to ride them or put
yokes on them. So, they’re being put to work, and they have to pull these heavy carts in
the hot sun and are supposed to be really well-behaved, like sharp, come when they’re
called kind of oxen. And one day, one of the brothers while they’re carrying a load, sees
a hole in the side of the fence. And he goes “oh my gosh, now’s our chance, let’s go
escape.” And the other brother goes “No, I want to stay. I’m really proud of all these
beautiful saddles I can wear now, and how strong I’ve gotten, and all these things I
would’ve never been able to do, but I can do now.” And the other brother is like, “You’re
crazy, I’m leaving. I’m out of here. I don’t want to be a prisoner anymore.” And so, he
leaves, and he goes back to the wild. And at first everything is really lovely, and
beautiful and he has plenty of food to eat and water to drink and everything. And then a
couple years down the line a drought comes across the entire land. Everything is
decimated in the wild. The only people who have water are humans ‘cause they knew
how to collect it, and the only people who have food are humans ‘cause the railroad is
bringing stuff through. And so that meant that the other brother who had stayed had
gotten all this food, while the other brother was thirsty and starving and couldn’t find anything. And one day as he was wallowing around in the dust, he looks up and sees
his other brother carrying a whole carriage with this beautiful saddle and bells and
whistles and tassels on him and everything. He’s looking really strong, and his coat is
gleaming, and he just looks at the other brother and then he just keeps on walking.
Because the other one left the path.

ANALYSIS: This story seems to serve as warning to be obedient or suffer the consequences. Since this story was told in the context of a bible study and devotional, it seems that the working ranch may have been meant to represent the challenges of keeping the laws of the religion and remaining faithful even in difficult times, or through trials and tribulations. The suffering of the ox that chose freedom is potentially meant to represent what may happen, or what someone may feel, when they stray from God, or from their religion. This story was told to ten-year-olds who were likely meant to draw a moral from the story, and be like the ox that chose to stay and gained benefits as a result.