How did an impoverished brahmin become the greatest teacher India has known?

·3 min read

The story of Dronacharya is one that shows that talent can indeed take you places. Dronacharya or Drona is best known as the teacher of Arjuna. Even today, he is considered as the greatest teacher that ever lived. So much so that the highest award in India for an accomplished athlete is named after his disciple, Arjuna, and the highest award for an exceptional coach is named after him!

Mahabharat guru Dronacharya
Mahabharat guru Dronacharya

However, Drona wasn’t always someone who had fame and fortune. What makes his story special is that he lived a good part of his life in relative penury. Drona was raised in his father Sage Bharadwaja’s ashrama. He was always bright and had learnt how to weild the Agneya weapon fairly early on in his life.

Did you know Dronacharya’s son is an immortal?

At the ashrama, Drona met Drupada, the crown prince of Panchala and the two became fast friends. They were so close that Drupada said Drona could approach him any time he wished and ask for anything he wanted.

However, as is wont, after their education ended the two boys went their different paths. While, Drupada became the king of Panchala, Drona went on to learn how to wield different weapons. Among those whose tutelage he sought was the great Parshurama, an incarnation of Vishnu. All in all, Drona became accomplished in wielding all kinds of weapons.

Since he never sought material wealth, Drona lived in abject poverty for a good part of his early life. So much so that when his son Ashwatthama asked for milk from his friends, they offered him flour mixed with water and the poor boy didn’t know any better. Humiliated, Drona approached his old friend Drupada to take him up on his offer made all those years ago. However Drupada ridiculed him in open court and sent him off packing.


A seething Drona walked around to find a way to seek revenge when he came across a bunch of kids leaning over a well. He realised that they’d lost their ball in the well. Using nothing but grass and his skills, Drona pulls out the ball much to the delight of the children. The kids turn out to be Kuru princes who report this incident to their doting granduncle, Bhishma. On hearing the story, the old regent immediately realises that the great Drona had wandered into his kingdom for only he could have pulled a feat like this.

Bhishma immediately sends for Drona and requests him to train the Kuru princes. Over the next several years Drona becomes their guru teaching all the Kaurava and Pandava princes. When their education is over, Drona dispatches them to seek the revenge he once sought from Drupada.

How is Krishna related to the Pandavas?

First the Kauravas attempt to capture and bring Drupada alive but fail. Following this, the Pandavas attack the kingdom and bring the king in chains.

Drona is satisfied to see his old friend humiliated. And while he spares his life, he also takes away half the kingdom.

Even though he now rules one half of a massive kingdom, Drona continues his job as a guru to generations of Kuru princes. Eventually, he even sides by Duryodhana in the Kurukshetra war as he was, at the very core, a guardian of the Hastinapur throne.

Did you know that the 100 Kauravas had a sister?