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Spark of divine within man  : A Guru is the very essence of creation Shown using #Odissi Dance form by Sri Pravat Kumar Swain #Odisha

The ability to create is the spark of divine within man, and a Guru is the very essence of creation. Gurus do not just create objects and works of art, the create creators. A Guru does not merely teach a set of skills, but gets one in touch with the essence of life itself. A Guru the process of creation at its zenith.

What happens, however, when a Guru demands something that is bound to debilitate the student? Is that a betrayal of the role of a Guru?

A story that hinges precisely on this question is the story of Ekalabya and his Guru Dronacharya. The story of Ekalabya and Dronacharya, the Guru of the Kaurava and Pandava princes is a story from the literary giant, the Mahabharata.

Ekalabya, a young boy of the Nishada caste was an untouchable and thus not allowed to learn the art of warfare, a skill-set meant for the elite Kshatriyas. Undaunted by societal conventions, he sculpted a statue of Drona and practiced in front of it everyday.

Unaware of the Nishada, the princes of Hastinapur continued to train under the tutelage of Dronacharya, who had promised the Pandava prince Arjuna the position of the greatest archer in the world.

Nobody had anticipated the events of the fateful day when Ekalabya would choose to shoot into a dog’s mouth in a way that would stop it barking, without injuring it, and the dog would go running to the princes. The princes and Drona trailed the dog to the clearing that Ekalabya was practising in. “Where did you learn to shoot like that? Who is your Guru?” Drona asked. “You are, Guruji,” replied. “Well then, you must give me Dakshina. I do not educate anybody for free,” said Drona, and demanded Ekalabya’s right thumb. The Nishada paid the debt of a lifetime.

Was Dronacharya merely trying to prevent Ekalabya from surpassing Arjuna? Was the demand of his right thumb actually Dronacharya’s gift to Ekalabya? Was the great Guru, by ostensibly debilitating the Nishada, protecting him from the wrath of a society that functioned through Caste and would have surely ostracised an untouchable for daring to learn the art of warfare? Was Drona actually making Ekalabya stronger, and giving him time to develop as a warrior by apparently demanding the one thing that was vital to an archer? Or did Drona really want to simply destroy Ekalabya? It is this complex narrative, of a complex relationship between a Guru and his disciple that has been brought to life by Sri Pravat Kumar Swain’s ‘Ekalabya’.