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: Was Drona a Brahmin?
Drona was a Brahmin by birth. He was the son of Sage Bharadwaja, who fathered him – in an earthen pot – through the act of spiritual union with a divine nymph named Ghritachi. However, during the course of his life, through close and constant contact with the Kurus of Hastinapur, Drona becomes more of a Kshatriya by behaviour.
Read on to discover more about whether or not Drona was a Brahmin.
(For answers to all Drona-related questions, see Drona: 12 Questions about the Mahabharata Hero Answered.)
Drona gets his name from the Sanskrit word – ‘Drona’ – that means an earthen pot. It is said that his father, Sage Bharadwaja, saw a celestial maiden named Ghritachi, and was so consumed by desire for her that he involuntarily released his vital fluid.
Since the genital fluid of great men is considered valuable – not least by themselves – Bharadwaja does the only natural thing: he collects his sperm and stores it inside an earthen vessel.
Over the course of time, a foetus begins to develop in this pot, and when the period of gestation is up, Drona is born.
It is therefore right to say that Drona is born a Brahmin, and that his lineage is purer than other regular Brahmin children because his birth does not involve the contribution of a woman.
He is a direct descendant of Bharadwaja – and if the story is to be believed, none of Bharadwaja’s genes are diluted through recombination that occurs due to union with a woman.
Of course, if we apply our sceptical brains to the tale, and assume that Bharadwaja and Ghritachi had Drona the ‘usual’ way, his pedigree is still quite enviable because he is born to a Brahmin father and an Apsara mother.
Despite being born a Brahmin, though, Drona does not commit to the lifestyle that is expected of him. Brahmins are supposed to be wedded to poverty while keeping a fair distance from material pleasures, so that they can train their mind to achieve spiritual heights that are beyond the reach of normal men.
Brahmins are not forbidden from having families and managing homes, but if a Brahmin is seen abandoning his spiritual path, he is liable to attract scorn.
In addition, it is considered highly irregular for Brahmins to learn how to wield weapons. The only sage that does this before Drona is Parashurama, and he has the excuse of having Kshatriya blood inside him.
By learning the art of weaponry from Parashurama, therefore, and by training under him, Drona distances himself from the accepted path of his order.
Love for Ashwatthama
As a group, Brahmins are meant to practice the art of detachment. But Drona is incredibly attached to his only son, Ashwatthama.
In fact, until Ashwatthama is born, Drona is by all accounts contented with his lot as Brahmin. But after the birth of his son, he begins to get more ambitious in a material sense.
Driven by the desire to provide more material comforts to his family, Drona goes to Parashurama in the hope of being given wealth. But by the time he arrives at the sage’s hermitage, all the possessions had already been given.
‘I only have two things with me, O Brahmin,’ says Parashurama. ‘My body and my weapons. Choose one!’
Drona reasons that he cannot do much with Parashurama’s body, and elects to take all of the older man’s weapons. Along with the weapons, Drona also learns the art of using them.
(While this transfer of knowledge happens instantaneously in the story, in the real world it would have taken Drona a couple of years of harsh training.)
Love for violence
After taking possession of Parashurama’s weapons, a bit of his spirit also seems to find its way into Drona’s body. He exhibits an almost sadistic level of bloodlust and ruthlessness in his dealings from then on.
After the Kuru princes have graduated, Drona does not hesitate to order the Panchala kingdom to be invaded just to settle a long-standing grudge against Drupada.
As teacher to the Kuru princes, Drona displays plenty of partiality toward Ashwatthama, often giving him secret lessons and training him in weapons that are kept out of reach of the others.
In the Kurukshetra war, as commander of the army, Drona presides over the four most dreadful days of the entire battle. It is under his stewardship that the most number of warriors lose their lives.
He throws himself into the act of fighting with almost gleeful countenance, often reminding onlookers of his teacher, Parashurama.
A Brahmin is meant to practice peace and nonviolence. He is supposed to dissuade the violent-prone from the error of their ways. Instead, Drona does the opposite.
Soon after Yudhishthir tells Drona the lie that Ashwatthama had been killed, Bhimasena takes it upon himself to psychologically dismantle Drona with some well-chosen insults.
‘You and your son have taken birth as Brahmins but have lived as Kshatriyas your whole life,’ he says. ‘You have taken up arms even though your order dictates that you should stay nonviolent. You have killed so many thousands of men, shed so much blood!
‘After living such a life, far removed from the principles of your race, now you insist on fighting despite knowing that your son has been killed. At least die honourably like a Brahmin, old man.’
Hearing these words, Drona reluctantly agrees that the time has come to relinquish his weapons. One must note that a Kshatriya is not expected to give up fighting because his son has been killed. Indeed, Kshatriyas are not supposed to ever give up their desire for violence.
But with Drona, since he has lived his entire life flouting the guidelines laid out for Brahmins, the argument goes that with the death of his son, he has nothing for which to fight. It is as good a moment as any to embrace Brahminhood again.
Drona does this, and sits down on the terrace of his chariot to meditate. But all of his violent deeds catch up with him. Dhrishtadyumna cuts off his head without heeding the cardinal rule that one must never strike a meditating enemy.
In his death, therefore, Drona rediscovers his Brahmin roots and puts away the weapons he has picked up from Parashurama.
If you liked this post, you may find these interesting also:
- Drona: 12 Questions about the Mahabharata Hero Answered
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- Draupadi: 46 Questions about the Mahabharata Heroine Answered