In India, the word Dronacharya is synonymous with the word Guru. A guru is more than a teacher. A teacher instructs you, and a guru constructs you. A guru is a mentor who overlooks your growth as a human. This is why in ancient India, pupils lived with their gurus. They learned every aspect of life from them. And the greatest guru to ever walk on this earth was Guru Dronacharya.
Drona was born to sage Bharadwaj. He initially learned under him and then under Parshurama, an incarnation of Lord Vishnu. From Parshurama he learned the uses of celestial weapons like Bhramastra, Narayanastra, and many more.
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Drona was childhood friends with the prince of Panchala, Drupada. Drupada had promised Drona that when he will be a king, he would give Drona anything he asked for. After spending their childhood together, both went different ways. One became a king, the other a sage.
Drona had married Kripi and had a child named Aswasthama. Being a sage, Drona had very few material possessions. One day Aswasthama was caught stealing milk and was insulted by other kids. Angered by the incident, Drona remembered the promise of Drupada. He went to the King’s palace to ask Drupada for just a cow. But before Drona could open his mouth, Drupada, not recognizing his old friend insulted him. Drupada arrogantly said that how can a beggar like him talk directly to a king. Drona returned empty-handed but filled with rage. He took an oath of revenge.
Drona then moved to the province of Hastinapur. Here he became the Guru of both Pandavas and Kauravas. Under him, many of them learned how to activate and use celestial weapons. Rising through the ranks, Drona also became an advisor to the king of Hastinapur. He became popular as Dronacharya, acharya meaning teacher.
Once the Kauravas and Pandavas were groomed, he asked for his Gurudakshina (a traditional repay to Guru for his teaching). He asked both the families to attack Panchala and bring King Drupada to him. Kauravas went first and failed. Even though they had warriors like Karna and Duryodhana, Drupada too was as knowledgeable as Drona.
After Kauravas’s failure, the Pandavas attacked. They had the chance to learn from the failed attempt of Kauravas. They planned well and won the battle. Drupada was brought to Drona as a prisoner. Drona kept half of Panchala to himself and gave the other half to Drupada, making them equal in stature. This war also led to Draupadi, daughter of Drupad marrying Pandavas. Hence the spark of revenge in Drona started the fire of Mahabharata.
In the war of Mahabharata, Drona fought from the side of Kauravas. One reason was his loyalty to the throne, the other was his son. Aswasthama had his alliance with Kauravas and Drona could not go against him. He vowed to participate in the war only as long as Aswasthama was alive.
On the 14th day of the war when Drona was commander of Kauravas army, Krishna created a plan to stop him. Bheema killed an elephant named Aswasthama and started the rumour that Aswasthama is dead. Unable to believe the news, Drona asked the ever truthful Yudisthira about it. When Yudhisthira confirmed the news, Drona believed it. In the middle of the battlefield, he started meditating to leave his body. Taking advantage, the son of Drupada, Dhristadiyumna, killed him.
Today the Government of India gives Dronacharya award annually to the best sporting coach in the nation. The city of Gurugram or Gurgaon is a tribute to Dronacharya.
Dronacharya’s life teaches the impact of a Guru on society. His gruesome and somewhat unfair death also teaches us to not use knowledge as a weapon of destruction. Drona used his students to take his personal revenge. A simple decision to let go of vengeance could have saved millions of lives, including his own.