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: How was Drona born?
Drona is the son of Bharadwaja, and he is so named because he takes birth from a vessel. (The Sanskrit word for ‘vessel’ is ‘Drona’.) It is said that Bharadwaja was once consumed by desire for a maiden called Ghritachi, and so overwhelming was this want that he releases his sperm into a vessel.
Read on to discover more about how Drona was born, and some details of his early life.
(For answers to all Drona-related questions, see Drona: 12 Questions about the Mahabharata Hero Answered.)
The birth of Drona occurs in a way similar to that of his wife Kripi and her brother Kripa. That story is as follows:
There lives, in the time of King Shantanu’s reign upon Earth, a sage called Gotama who has a son born with arrows in his hand. This boy, Saradwata, shows no interest in Vedic education but is bent on learning the sciences of the weapons.
As soon as he is able, he begins to acquire knowledge of weaponry and warcraft by means of his austerities.
Indra, as is his wont, becomes agitated by the penance of this young sage, and sends a celestial damsel named Janapadi to distract him.
When Saradwata first meets Janapadi, he gets overwhelmed with delight and desire, but with great focus of the will, controls himself. However, despite his best efforts, he succumbs over a fallen clump of heath.
Alarmed at this occurrence, and fearing for the future of his austerities if he continues to yield to temptation this way, Saradwata leaves his weapons (bow and arrow) and deer-skin behind and flees to the safe environs of his hermitage.
The vital fluid that left his body, however, divides into two parts and from it spring two children, one boy and one girl.
Kripa and Kripi
Now it so happens that a soldier from Shantanu’s army chances upon that way and finds the two kids. The king, seeing them, says, ‘Let them become my children, and let them be reared at the court of Hastinapur.’
He names them Kripa and Kripi, alluding to the notion that they were brought to the royal palace out of kindness.
Saradwata (also called Gautama, the son of Gotama), having learnt that his two children are now being fostered by the king, comes to the palace in due course, and teaches his son the four branches of the science of arms.
Under the guidance of his father, Kripa soon becomes a renowned professor in the arms, and he becomes the first teacher to the Kuru princes.
For her part, Kripi later becomes the wife of Dronacharya.
Drona, the teacher who takes over from Kripacharya the duties of furnishing the Kuru princes with their higher education, is born like Kripa and Kripi, by the unintentionally released sperm of a sage.
This time the culprit (so to speak) is Bharadwaja, one of the great sages, and the celestial damsel in question is Ghritachi.
It is said that once the sage was performing ablutions at the source of the Ganga and saw Ghritachi, with her upper garment strategically displaced by the breeze.
Overcome by desire and yet ashamed of it, Bharadwaja releases his fluid into a vessel (a ‘drona’). And after a few months of care, an infant boy develops inside it.
A few years prior, the sage Bharadwaja had presented to Sage Agnivesha the Agneyastra. On the occasion of Drona’s birth, Agnivesha gives the boy the knowledge and science of the divine weapon.
Friendship with Drupada
Bharadwaja is friends with a Panchala king named Prishata, whose son, Drupada, is of the same age as Drona.
Throughout Drona’s childhood and early youth, Drupada comes to Bharadwaja’s hermitage to gain training from the sage. Both Drona and Drupada thus grow up together.
Their paths diverge with the deaths of their fathers; Drupada becomes the king of Northern Panchala whereas Drona continues to live at his father’s hermitage, engaged in the Brahmin way of life.
Around this time he marries Kripi. How he meets her is a mystery because she is being reared at the royal court; but if we’re forced to guess, we could surmise that Saradwata probably had something to do about it.
Marriage to Kripi brings the young sage into a life of a grihasthi, and a son is duly born to them.
At the birth of the infant, he neighs like the divine steed Uchaihsravas, and a voice proclaims from the sky: ‘Since this boy has the voice of a horse, he shall be called Ashwatthama.’
Drona lives with Kripi and their son Ashwatthama in grinding poverty. One day, when he hears that Parashurama, the son of Jamadagni, is giving away all his wealth, he hurries to the Mahendra mountains.
But by the time he arrives, the last of the Brahmins had left the abode of Parashurama, and Drona finds the warrior-sage standing alone in front of his hut, surrounded by all his weapons.
‘You have come a little late, O Sage,’ Parashurama says after the introductions are complete. ‘All I have left to give are my body and my weapons. You can have either of them; decide quickly.’
‘In that case, sir,’ says Drona, ‘present me with your weapons, along with the knowledge of how to use them best.’
And over the next few days, the son of Jamadagni trains the son of Bharadwaja on the science of weaponry, and at the end of the period, gives him all the tools he had used to wipe out the Kshatriya race twenty one times.
Snubbed by Drupada
Armed with his newfound skills, Drona makes for Panchala, the capital of Drupada, his old friend, in hope that the king would look after him. He appears at the court, but Drupada pretends not to have recognized him.
When pressed, he says, ‘A king and a Brahmin can never be equal companions, O Sage. If you wish, I shall give you the respect due a man of your learning, but your insistence upon friendship is nothing short of amusing.’
Slighted by his once-friend, Drona leaves Panchala in anger, vowing silently that he will one day see to Drupad’s pride. Now the family moves to Hastinapur, where Drona, Kripi and Ashwatthama live in Kripa’s quarters at the royal palace.
Drona does not forget this humiliation at the hands of Drupada. Later, after the Kuru princes have finished their education, Drona asks them to invade Panchala, imprison Drupada, and bring him back alive as a slave to Hastinapur.
(Suggested: Mahabharata Episode 9: Invasion of Panchala.)
A Blade of Grass
For a period of time, Drona lives privately in the house of Kripa, unknown to the royals. Then one day, the Kuru princes, playing with a ball, drop it accidentally into a well.
While debating among themselves how to bring it out, a lean and decrepit Brahmin arrives and asks them what the matter is.
On being told of the predicament, Drona laughs and says, ‘You are the mighty princes of the Kuru line, being taught by none other than Kripacharya himself. Are you not ashamed to accept defeat in the hands of a ball and a well so readily?
If you promise to give me a meal from your kitchen, I shall be only too happy to extract your plaything for you, with nothing more than blades of grass.’
And by the power of his aim and that of his incantations, Drona brings out the ball. The astonished Yudhishthir bows to him. ‘Who are you, sir? No one we know possesses skills of this sort that can make missiles out of mere hay.’
Drona becomes Acharya
Drona sends the Kuru princes back to the palace with the words: ‘Tell your grandsire what has happened. He will know what to do.’
When Bhishma hears of the story from his grandchildren’s lips, he immediately realizes that this stranger can be none other than the brother-in-law of Kripacharya who had had the good fortune of receiving all of Parashurama’s weapons.
(Incidentally, as a young man, Bhishma also served a period of apprenticeship under Parashurama.)
He sets out at once to meet Drona at Kripa’s house, and after a few pleasantries have been exchanged, Bhishma offers Drona the position of being the official teacher of the Kuru princes.
From here on, Drona becomes Dronacharya.
(Suggested: Mahabharata Episode 7: Drona becomes Acharya.)
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