Drona looked around at his young class. ‘Children! I am Drona! I will be your teacher! After I finish teaching you advanced weapons….’ Drona looked at the entire class with smoldering eyes. ‘After your education is complete, there is something I want you to do! Will you do it for me?’
The entire class was silent. They did not know what to make out of the dark, tall, slightly scary looking man. That he knew how to wield weapons was not something they doubted. But his eyes had a fire in it. A fire which spoke of a madness hidden inside him. None of the princes were sure of what the man would ask and they did not want to commit.
‘I will!’ The entire class turned to see Arjuna, looking confidently at Drona. Ever since Arjuna had seen Drona, Arjuna looked like a boy who had been possessed. ‘I will give you whatever you ask for!’ Arjuna repeated. Drona studied the boy once again as a beautiful smile lit up his features.
Drona drew up the young boy close to him and studied his fingers. ‘You have learnt archery before?’ Drona asked.
‘From whom?’ Drona asked slightly puzzled. The marks on the boy’s hands were not recently made. And from what Dronacharya knew, Kripacharya had been teaching the boys weapons, only recently. And the bow in the boy’s hands were old…much older…
‘I was living in the forests, before I came here sir!’ Arjuna said looking at the man. There was probably some slight snickering from behind. But he did not care. ‘There I was taught by Suka, the son of Sage Sayyati! He gave me this bow sir!’ Arjuna said without a hint of pride.
‘Come my son!’ Drona said embracing Arjuna. He knew, he just knew that Arjuna was going to be the one who got him his sweet revenge. ‘I will teach you everything….everything there is to know about weapons!’ Drona said wiping a single tear from his eyes.
And so their classes started.
Drona taught all the princes everything. Once Drona started teaching the princes everything, the princes from the other lands like the Vrishnis and the Andhakas also came to learn from Drona. Strangely enough, the Veda Vyasa’s Mahabharatha states that Karna also became a pupil of Drona. It is also said that out of jealousy, Karna frequently fought with Arjuna and was supported by Duryodhana in these events. Veda Vyasa’s Mahabharatha also finally states that Dronacharya was convinced that none of his other pupils could equal Arjuna…..
Before the start of every class, the students were given a vessel to fill water from. Drona gave Ashwattaman, his son, a wider mouthed vessel. As Ashwattaman came back earlier, Drona would start teaching Ashwattamana alone, knowledge of the advanced weapons.
Then one day in class, Drona was telling his students to invoke the Varuna astra, the weapon to invoke water from anywhere….The other students saw no need of it. Arjuna obviously learnt it well.
The next day Arjuna came quickly to the hermitage with his pot full of water and found his teacher teaching Ashwattaman, about some astras that he had not even heard of. He saw Ashwattaman’s pot and realized that it was a wider mouth. Arjuna finally realized that when the other students had been collecting water, Drona had been teaching his own son, advanced weapons.
Arjuna yearned for the knowledge that Drona gave Ashwattaman alone. But looking at his own pot and Ashwattaman’s pot, Arjuna realized that he could not compete with Ashwattaman’s speed. Arjuna was slightly disheartened. But then his eyes brightened. He knew exactly what he had to do….
The next day, Dronacharya was shocked to see not just Ashwattama but also Arjuna with their pots full of water.
Drona then smiled. Because he had realized that Arjuna had invoked the Varuna astra for filling the water instead of going all the way to the river to fetch it….And so the special lessons for the two of them alone started….
A few months later, Drona went to the cook of the royal palace of Hastinapur. ‘You will never serve food to Arjuna in the dark! EVER!’ The teacher thundered to the bewildered cook. ‘And you will never tell him that I told you this!’ Drona said walking away from there.
The cook found the instructions from the teacher strange. But then who was he to even complain about the royal teacher of Hastinapur….
A few days after this incident when Arjuna was eating his food a sudden gust of wind blew away the lamp. Arjuna sighed, but then he did not stop eating…..Methodically Arjuna’s hands put the food in his mouth. This went on when suddenly…Arjuna blinked. That night, the cook was surprised when he saw the third Pandava rapidly washing his hands and walking out of the palace. The cook understood nothing as he saw a servant lighting up the lamp near the place where the boy had finished his hurried dinner and the cook definitely did not understand why Arjuna was carrying his weapons so late in the night….
Drona was about to retire for the night when he heard it. At first he was sure he had heard something wrong. Then it came again…and again. Ignoring the calls of Kripi and Ashwattaman, Drona rapidly went out of his house towards the clearing where the boys practiced daily. There Drona could not hide his smile as he saw Arjuna with his bow and arrow shooting at the targets, which was now completely invisible in the dark. Arjuna already knew where the targets were. He was just learning to shoot it from memory….Drona smiled as he realized that that was also going to help Arjuna fight using his other senses and not just his eyes…..
‘Acharya!’ Arjuna said as Drona realized that the twang of the bow had stopped and Arjuna was bowing before him.
‘There will be no one equal to you, Arjuna!’ Was all Drona said.