Drona is the preceptor of the Kauravas and Pandavas in the Mahabharata. He is the son of Sage Bharadwaja, famously taking birth in an earthen vessel – a ‘Drona’.
Despite being a Brahmin by birth, Drona becomes tired of living a life of penury with his wife Kripa and son Ashwatthama. He comes to Hastinapur in the hope of making his fortune.
Here he is discovered by Bhishma, and given the role of royal teacher to the Kuru cousins.
In the Kurukshetra war, he fights by Duryodhana’s side and plays an important role – among other things – in the killing of Abhimanyu.
In this post, we will answer the question: Did Drona go to heaven?
Despite his many transgressions – the most important of which is his abdication of Brahmin duty – Drona eventually reaches heaven. In fact, his soul is said to have already left his body and to have been rising at the moment Dhrishtadyumna cuts off his neck. He probably spends a little bit of time in hell to atone for his sins, but he is then allowed into heaven.
Read on to discover more about whether or not Drona went to heaven.
(For answers to all Drona-related questions, see Drona: 12 Questions about the Mahabharata Hero Answered.)
Death of Drona
On the fifteenth day, the Pandavas lie to Drona that Ashwatthama had been killed. Believing this, Drona takes a decision to relinquish his arms and adopt a state of meditation on the terrace of his chariot.
Dhrishtadyumna, who had vowed to kill Drona, pounces upon this opportunity and cuts off the praying man’s head with the blade of his sword.
It is said that by the time Dhrishtadyumna had committed this act, Drona’s soul had already left his body and had begun its journey upward. Arjuna and Krishna are among the people to witness this phenomenon.
To all other ‘mortal’ men on the battlefield, it appears as though the acharya is chanting syllables under his breath.
The implication here is that Drona has attained heaven by the manner in which he had lived his life. However, we must remember that even the highest of souls will need to spend a small amount of time in hell – to atone for the few misdeeds they have committed during their time on Earth.
A list of Drona’s sins – as seen by Yama – are as follows.
Apathy toward Brahminism
Of all the sins that a person may commit, the Mahabharata proclaims that abdicating the dictates of one’s order is the most serious. If we take this to be true, Drona’s apathy toward the Brahmin way of life will rank among his biggest ongoing crimes.
A Brahmin is meant to embrace poverty and dedicate his life to spiritual goals. Though Drona begins his journey this way – at the hermitage of his father Bharadwaja – ever since his association with Drupada begins, he finds himself mildly dissatisfied with the ‘Brahmin way of life’.
(Suggested: How was Drona born?)
After his marriage to Kripi, and after he sires Ashwatthama, this disenchantment bores deeper into his heart.
On one occasion, Ashwatthama is mocked by his street friends about being the son of a pauper, and that propels Drona into deciding to live under the wings of a king so that his life may become more comfortable.
He tries his luck at Panchala, where Drupada sends him away with an insult. Then he finds a home at the court of Hastinapur, trading wealth and status for his knowledge about weapons and fighting.
Handling of Ekalavya
Another of Drona’s black marks is the way he handles the Ekalavya situation.
First, he gives his pupil Arjuna an ill-advised promise: that he will make him the best archer in the world. The fact that Arjuna takes his teacher at his word is understandable – children are literalists – but that Drona does not foresee the trouble that may arise with his grandiose statement is instructive.
When they meet Ekalavya, and when Arjuna complains about the Nishada prince’s superior skill, Drona has a couple of options. He might have taken Arjuna aside and told him the truth – that Ekalavya had taught himself without a teacher, so he deserves every bit of the reward he was now reaping.
(Suggested: Was Arjuna the best archer?)
He might have introduced Ekalavya to Bhishma, who would have then (presumably) worked on recruiting the young man into the Kuru army. In time, Ekalavya may have become one of Kuru’s esteemed warriors.
All of this would not have threatened Arjuna’s status in the least. Despite his skill level, Ekalavya would not have challenged Arjuna’s position as prince in any way.
But just to assuage his student’s pride, just to protect his ego, Drona commits the heinous act of demanding Ekalavya’s thumb as dakshina, thus thwarting his progress.
In the final analysis, Yama would count this as one of Drona’s big misdeeds.
Grudge against Drupada
For years after being snubbed by Drupada, Drona nurtures a deep sense of hatred toward his once-friend. For almost a decade he teaches the Kuru princes, and makes for himself a comfortable living at Hastinapur’s royal palace.
At the end of the princes’ education, Drona’s woes are dead and buried in the past. His present life is comfortable, and his future looks to be more of the same. His son is being raised among princes. His wife is happy.
He has achieved what he had set out to achieve. He had worked himself and his family out of penury.
Now, if he wants it, as the royal preceptor of the Kurus, a life of privilege beckons. But Drona finds himself unable to forgive Drupada for the old slight. He thinks that he still has a point to prove to the king of Panchala.
So he asks the Kuru princes to invade Panchala, and to bring Drupada back to him as prisoner. There is no real need for this except to quench his desire for vengeance.
This act by Drona keeps the story of hatred going: as a result of this invasion, Drupada vows to one day kill Drona – and performs the sacrifice that gives birth to Draupadi.
(Suggested: How was Draupadi born?)
Killing of Abhimanyu
Though Drona gets the most criticism for the manner in which he masterminds the killing of Abhimanyu on the thirteenth day of the war, this is perhaps his most sanguine crime.
The official narrative is that Drona resorts to underhanded methods – like attacking from behind – to kill Abhimanyu. But the truth is that Abhimanyu breaks the rules first. Once he realizes that he is trapped inside the Chakra Vyuha, Abhimanyu frees himself of all moral restraints and fights with abandon.
Drona watches the young man with admiration, but eventually does what any other commander in his place would do. He systematically strips the young man of his weapons and then his chariot.
He forces Abhimanyu to fight on foot with weapons that are not his first choice – a sword, a chariot wheel, a mace and so on. Abhimanyu is worn down and killed.
Despite this not being a serious offence, the fact that Drona isolates and kills a sixteen-year-old boy may be held against him when he ascends to heaven and faces the god of justice.
(Suggested: Mahabharata Episode 44: Abhimanyu Dies.)
All of the above sins can be explained away as virtues. After all, whether a given act is good or bad depends on who is judging on the matter. For instance:
- What is wrong with being apathetic toward the Brahmin way of life? It is no crime for a man – even a Brahmin – to want to provide the best opportunities to his family. In moving to Hastinapur, that is what Drona did.
- In his treatment of Ekalavya, Drona displays tremendous loyalty toward Arjuna and toward Kuru. Ekalavya may have risen to threaten Kuru’s superiority if he had not been stopped by Drona.
- For the manner in which Drupada treats Drona, it is understandable the latter nurses a long grudge against his friend. Also, the invasion of Panchala brings huge amounts of gold as tribute into Kuru’s treasury.
- In his killing of Abhimanyu, Drona is only performing his role (as commander) with efficiency and ruthlessness. These are certainly virtues. The last thing that you want in your General is sympathy for the enemy.
All in all, Drona lives a reasonably blameless and quiet life, both before and after his appointment as royal preceptor. So in all likelihood, he spends a short amount of time in hell – to atone for his sins – and is then taken to heaven.
If you liked this post, you may find these interesting also:
- Drona: 12 Questions about the Mahabharata Hero Answered
- Krishna: 36 Questions about the Mahabharata Hero Answered
- Arjuna: 51 Questions about the Mahabharata Hero Answered
- Karna: 41 Questions about the Mahabharata Hero Answered
- Draupadi: 46 Questions about the Mahabharata Heroine Answered