Dhronacharya was the royal teacher to the Pandavas and Kauravas of Hasthinapura ,he was a master of advanced military arts. Arjuna ,who belonged to the Pandavas was his favourite student.
Near Hasthinapura, in a forest lived Ekalavya ,the son of a hunter. Ekalavya once watched Dhronacharya teach archery to the royal princes . Ekalavya wished to learn archery from Dhronacharya and so approached the great guru and begged him to accept him as his student.Dhronacharya , refused to accept Ekalavya as his student as he belonged to the class of hunters who were considered as shudras or people belonging to the lowest social community.
Ekalavya was much disappointed but did not lose hope nor did he give up his desire to learn archery. He returned to the forest , made a clay statue of Dhronacharya and practised archery everyday .He worshipped the statue as his guru and with constant practice excelled at the art of archery.
Years later ,one day Guru Dhronacharya and the princes were hunting in the forest near where Ekalavya lived. A dog from the hunting party reached near Ekalavya , disturbed by its constant barking Ekalavya shot arrows at the dogs mouth in such a way that the arrows stopped the dog from barking without hurting the dog. The dog returned to the hunting party. Dhronacharya and the princes were astonished seeing the dog with the arrows in its mouth. Dhronachaya at once understood that the arrows must have left the most skilled hands of a very talented archer.
Eager to learn about the hunter , the hunting party went into the forest with the dog to lead them, there they saw Ekalavya practising with his bow and arrow. Dhronacharya asked Ekalavya the name of his teacher. Ekalavya took him to the clay statue and replied that Dhronacharya was his guru and inspiration. Dhronacharya was much taken aback, Arjuna who was a great archer was his favourite student . He did not want that to change.
It was the prevailing belief that the full benefit of education can be achieved only by offering guru dakshina (fees) that the teacher asks for. Dhronacharya asked Ekalavya for guru dakshina ,Ekalavya was ecstatic as this means Dhronacharya who he worshipped as his guru for so long has finally accepted him as his disciple . He replied that he would be happy if it is in his means to offer his guru what he asks for. Guru Dhronacharya asks for the right thumb of Ekalavya as his guru Dakshina thereby ensuring that Arjuna has no competition in this art. Ekalavya did not even stop to think , he at once removed his axe and severed his thumb off his right hand and offered it to his guru as guru dakshina.Such was devotion of our dear hunter. Ekalavya will always remain a great example for a devoted disciple.