Indian Mythology (by ApamNapat)

The Early Life of Drona

Stories From the Mahabharata

From [Maha:1.131]

The sage Bharadwaja was the son of Brihaspati, by Mamata, the wife of Brihaspati's brother Utathya. He had his hermitage on the banks of the river Ganga, close to the place where Ganga is born from the Himalayas.

One day, he went to the river to purify himself before performing his daily AgniHotra (fire) sacrifice. The Apsara Ghritachi was bathing in the river. As she arose from the river, her clothes got rearranged. When the sage beheld her semi-clothed beauty, he was struck with burning desire. Due to the violence of his emotion, his vital fluid emerged spontaneously from his body. He preserved it in a water vessel (vessel=Drona in Sanskrit). From this water pot, his son Drona was born. He does not have a mother.

Bharadwaja was a great friend of the King of Panchala, named Prishada. He had a son named Drupada who was of the same age as Drona. The two youths struck up a great friendship. Their friendship was strengthened when they both became the disciples of a Brahmana named Agniveshya. This Brahmana had been a disciple of Bharadwaja (In [Maha:1.141], it is said that Agnivesha is a disciple of the sage Agastya). Drupada promised Drona that when he became the king, he shall share all his riches with his friend. Both friends became proficient in the use of the arms. Agniveshya transmitted the knowledge of the great Agneya (fire) weapon (which had been given to him by Bharadwaja) to Drona.

When Drona grew up, he married Kripi, the sister of Kripa. A son named Ashwatthama was born to them. Ashwatthama was so named because he had neighed like a horse when he was born. Drona spent all his time in severe austerities and penances and as a result, he was very poor.

When Ashwatthama went to visit his friends, he saw that they were drinking milk. Being very poor, his parents had never gotten him cow's milk to drink. He wanted some and asked his friends. To tease him, they mixed rice flour in water and gave it to him, claiming that it was milk. The boy was beside himself with joy, and shouted that, "I have drunk milk! I have drunk milk!".

When Kripi came to know of this, she exhorted her husband to acquire riches, so that their son need not grow up in poverty. Around this time, Drona heard that the sage Parashurama was donating all his material wealth (he had accumulated this wealth by conquering all the kingdoms by destroying the Kshatriyas twenty one times). However, when Drona reached the hermitage of the sage, Parashurama had already given away all his wealth.

Parashurama said, "O Drona, all I have left is my life and the knowledge of the divine Astras (missiles). Choose what you want."

Naturally, Drona asked for the knowledge of the divine weapons. With the acquisition of these weapons, Drona became the greatest warrior on earth. However, he was still poor. He then recollected the promise of his childhood friend.

When he went to the Panchala court, a rude shock awaited him. Drupada had been a king for many years, and as a result, had become very arrogant. Sitting among his sycophantic counsellors, he said, "O Brahmana, it looks like your brain has become befuddled with time. It is a well known fact that friendship thrives between equals. When we were both disciples at Agnivesha's ashram, friendship was natural. Now I am the King of the mighty Panchalas, and you are a poor Brahmana. And you dare to come to my court and claim wealth as my friend! If you had come here as a supplicant, I would have given you money in alms. Even now it is not too late, beg from in the proper form, and I shall not disappoint you. Stop this idle talk about childhood friendships!"

When Drona was insulted thus, he left the court silently, but the memory of this humiliation burned deep within him. He wanted revenge, but first he wanted to acquire riches for his family. He visited Hastinapura and there, Bhishma appointed him as to teach the young Pandavas and Kauravas in the use of arms.

Arjuna, the third Pandava was his favorite student. To him, Drona taught the use of all the divine missiles at his command, including the great weapon Brahmasiras. As fee for their education, he asked the Kuru princes to bring Drupada as prisoner.

The Kauravas tried their best, but were routed in battle by the Panchala army led by Drupada. It was the turn of the Pandavas now. Led by Arjuna, they succeeded in defeating the Panchalas, and brought Drupada as prisoner before their perceptor.

Now it was Drona's turn to gloat. He said, "O Drupada, you said that friendship can be only between equals. Now, you are my prisoner, bereft of a kingdom, while all that was previously yours is mine! I still desire your friendship, so take back the southern half of your kingdom. That shall make us equals, worthy of each other's friendship."

Drupada bore this insult silently and with outward calm, but great anger was raging within him. He could not sleep in the night after this incident, so great was his mental turmoil. He perceived that it was not possible to defeat Drona in battle, such was the prowess of that Brahmana. He was constantly thinking about revenge, but that was not to be for quite a number of years....

Last Modified At: Thu Oct 21 21:50:51 2004