Acharya Dronacharya was giving formal education of weapons to the Pandavas and Kaurava princes. Among those princes, Arjuna was a favorite disciple of Dronacharya because of his great talent and devotion to his Guru. Dronacharya also had a special affection for his son Ashwatthama, so he was also the leader among all the princes in archery, but Arjuna was more talented than Ashwatthama.
One night when all the disciples were having food in the Guru’s ashram, suddenly the lamp went out due to a gust of wind. Arjuna saw that even when it is dark, the hand takes the mouthful of food to the mouth. This incident made him understand that more practice is needed than light to aim.
Now he started practicing to hit the target even in the dark of night. Guru Drona was very pleased with his kind practice. Along with archery, he made Arjun adept in the use of weapons like mace, tomar, sword etc.
In the same days, Eklavya, the son of Nishad named Hiranyadhanu, also came to Dronacharya’s hermitage for the purpose of learning archery, but Dronacharya did not accept him as his disciple because he was of the same low caste as Karna. Disappointed, Eklavya went to the forest.
He made an idol of Dronacharya and started practicing archery considering that idol as his guru. He became very proficient in archery in a short time while doing meditation with concentration. One day all the princes went for hunting with Guru Drona in the same forest, where Eklavya was practicing archery by building an ashram. The dog of the princes went astray and reached Eklavya’s hermitage. He started screaming on seeing Eklavya. Enraged by this, Eklavya shot his arrows at the dog and filled its mouth with arrows. Eklavya had fired arrows with such skill that the dog did not get hurt in any way, but it stopped barking due to being tied with arrows. On the return of the dog, when Arjun saw that skill of archery, he said to Dronacharya – “O Gurudev! The skill with which arrows have been shot in the mouth of this dog, it seems that there is a greater archer here than me.
Dronacharya reached Eklavya with all his disciples and asked – “O Vats! Have you shot this arrow? On Eklavya’s acceptance, he again asked – “Who is going to teach you archery?” Eklavya replied – “Gurudev! I have learned archery by accepting you as my guru. Having said this, he took Dronacharya to his idol and made him stand. Dronacharya did not want anyone to become a greater archer than Arjuna. He said to Eklavya – “If I am your teacher, then you will have to give me Gurudakshina.” Eklavya said – “Gurudev! I am ready to give whatever you ask for as gurudakshina.
On this, Dronacharya asked Ekalavya for the thumb of his right hand as Gurudakshina. Eklavya happily cut off his thumb and dedicated it at the feet of Dronacharya. In this way, Eklavya became unable to shoot a bow with his hands, so he started practicing to shoot a bow with his feet.