Drona was a brahmin and the son of Rishi Bharadwaj. Like his father, he wanted to be great teacher. He learned all the vedas and vendantas and specialized in archery. He was a supreme archer and was later appointed as the teacher of Kauravas and Pandavas by Bheeshma.
Drupad, the King of Panchala, was at the gurukul of Rishi Bharadwaj at the same time as Drona. In those days, the students went to the teacher and lived with the teacher until the education was complete. This was called the gurukul. In the gurukul, all the student were equal and each had to do their share of work along with their studies. The work would include, getting water from the well, chopping firewood, helping in the kitchen, washing dishes, taking the cows out to pasture and plastering the walls and floor with cowdung. When cows eat their natural diet of grass and grain, their dung is sweet smelling and a powerful insecticide. Even today in the villages, houses are plastered with cowdung as they keep away the insects.
Drupada and Drona were best friends at the gurukul. Drupad, being the son of a king, did not want to do a lot of chores and Drona would often cover for him doing both their shares of work. In the boyish enthusiasm, Drupad would often exclaim that when he grew up and became the king of Panchala, he would gladly give half his kingdom to Drona.
Both Drupad and Drona graduated from the gurukul of Rishi Bharadwaj. Drupad became the king of Panchala. Drona married the sister of Kripa and had a son Aswathama. Drona had no desire for worldly riches and hence they were extremely poor. One day, the little boy Aswathama, began demanding for milk. He had never tasted milk as a boy and after hearing about it from the other little boys, he wanted to taste some. Drona and his wife were so poor, they did not have milk to give to Aswathama. Drona's wife mixed some flour in water and gave it to Aswathama. Having never, tasted milk before, he gladly drank up the mixture as milk. The mother however, could not stop her tears and pleaded to her husband to go seek some wealth. Moved by the plight of his wife and son, whom he loved very much, Drona decided to go out and seek some wealth.
He heard that Parsurama had defeated a lot of kings and was distributing their wealth amongst the poor. Drona went in seek of Parsurama. By the time Drona reached him, Parsurama had already donated all the wealth. So, instead he offered to impart to Drona his knowledge of use of weapons. Parsurama was one of the very few teachers who knew how to call the brahmastra. Drona, a skillful archer that he was, learned from Parsurama and became an unrivaled master of military art.
Drona, now had even more knowledge but no wealth. He remembered Drupada, his childhood friend. He decided to go to Drupada and thought he would be received very warmly. In Drupada's court, he addressed Drupada as a friend and reminded him of his friendship and his child hood promise of giving half his kingdom. Drupad, who now was a King, was offended by Drona's poverty. How could Drona, who reeked poverty, address him, a King, as friend in the full court. Drupada thought Drona had come to ask for half his kingdom.
Drunk with power and wealth, Drupada said: "O brahmana, how dare you address me familiarly as your friend? What friendship can there be between a throned king and a wandering beggar? What a fool must you be to presume on some long past acquaintance to claim friend ship with a king who rules a kingdom? How can a pauper be the friend of a wealthy man, or an ignorant boor of a learned scholar, or a coward of a hero? Friendship can exist only between equals. A vagrant beggar cannot be the friend of a sovereign." Drona was turned out of the palace with scorn in his ears and a blazing wrath in his heart.
Drona decided to teach Drupad a lesson. He then decided to go to Hastinapur. Kripa, his brother-in-law was the teacher of Kauravas and Pandavas. As he reached the outskirts of the city, Drona saw some boys playing. While they were playing, their ball fell into a very deep and narrow well. The boys gathered around the well, trying to figure out a way to retrieve the ball.
The boys were Kauravas and Pandavas. As they were looking at the ball, Yudhishtir's ring fell in the well too. The water was clear and they could see both the ball and the ring in the water. The boys did not see the dark skinned brahmin approaching. “You boys belong to the great clan of Bharat, are you not skillful enough in archery to retrieve the ball and the ring?” Yudhishthir, turned around and said in fun, “If you can take out the ball and the ring, we will make sure you get a good meal at our teacher Kripacharya's house.”
Drona took a blade of grass and aimed it at the ball. The blade of grass stuck the ball. He then threw a succession of blades that stuck to the end of the previous one. Soon, Drona could pull out the ball out of the well. The boys were impressed. “Can you remove the ring from the well too?”they inquired. Drona borrowed Arjuna's bow and arrow. He took a aim at the ring and released the arrow. The arrow went through the ring, stuck a stone and rebounded back to Dron who skillfully caught it. Yudhisthir bowed his head in reverence, “O Brahmin, please forgive my boyish impudence. Who are you?” Drona said, “Go ask Bheeshma about me. I will wait for you boys right here.” The boys ran to Bheeshma and told him what had happened. Bheeshma welcomed Drona and appointed him to teach Kauravas and the Pandavas.
Kauravas and Pandavas learned the use of various weapons and the art of war from Drona. When their studies were complete, Drona asked to defeat Drupad and bring him as guru-dakshina(fees paid to the teacher). Duryodhana was the first to go. He took Karna with him and fought Drupad. Drupad was skilled warrior too and he defeated Duryodhana. The Pandavas were the next to try. Arjuna was were very valiant in the battle and defeated Drupad. They tied him up and brought him to Drona.
Drona was avenged, he released Drupad and said, “Drupad you are a great King, do not fear for your life. We were best friends in childhood, but you decided to forget our friendship. You said that friendship can only occur between equals. Having defeated you, your kingdom is mine and you have none. I give you half the kingdom. We are now equals and I hope you learned your lesson. Go rule your kingdom wisely, I do not seek the power of a king.” He then let Drupad go.
Drupad burnt with the insult. At the same time, he was very impressed by Arjuna's archery skill. He performed tapas, underwent fasts and yagnas. He wanted a boy who would slay Drona and a girl who would marry Arjun. His efforts bore fruit and he had a son named Dhrishtadyumna who killed Drona in the war of Mahabharata. He also had a daughter Draupadi who married the Pandavas.
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