The story of Ekalavaya is known to most Dalits. This is the story of an Adivasi warrior archer whose aim is so sure that he can shoot arrows in the mouth of a barking dog, by just hearing the sound of the barking dog, without seeing the dog. He does this in order to silence the animal to a whimper without hurting it. Even the famous hero of the epic Mahabharata Arjuna feels that he is unable to duplicate such a feat. Arjuna is so afraid of this Nishad Ekalavaya that he involves his archery teacher Drona into a treacherous plot which would see Ekalavaya cut off his own thumb and offer it as a teaching fee to Drona who had in the past refused to teach Ekalavaya, on the grounds that Ekalavaya is of low-caste tribal person, after which Ekalavaya had taught himself how to shoot arrows.
This is the story of Ekalavaya detailed below exactly as it appears in Wendy Doniger's book The Hindus. The analysis of this myth is to be found under Ekalavaya - The Reality under Dalitica.
Ekalavaya Cuts off his Thumb
Drona was the Pandavaâ€™s archery tutor, and Arjuna was his star pupil. One day a boy named Eklavaya, the son of a tribal Nishada chieftain, came to them. When Drona who knew dharma, refused to accept the son of a Nishada as a pupil, Ekalavaya touched his head to Dronaâ€™s feet, went out into the jungle and made a clay image of Drona, to which he paid the respect due to a teacher. He pracitced intensely and became a great archer. One day the Pandavas went out hunting with their dog. The dog wandered off, came upon Ekalavaya, and stood their barking at him untill the Nishada shot seven arrows almost simultaneously into the dogâ€™s mouth. The dog went whimpering back to the Pandavas, who were amazed and went to find the man who had accomplished this feat. They found him and asked him who he was, and he told them that he was Nishada Ekalavaya, a pupil of Dronaâ€™s.
They went home, but Arjuna kept thinking about Ekalavaya, and one day he asked Drona why he had a pupil, the son of a Nishada, who was even better archer than he, Arjuna. Drona then resolved to do something about this. Ho took Arjuna with him to see Ekalavaya, and when he found him, he said to Ekalavaya, â€œIf you are my pupil, pay me my fee right nowâ€. Ekalavaya, delighted said, â€œCommand me, my Guru. There is nohting I will not give my Guruâ€. Drona replied â€œGive me your right thumbâ€. When Ekalavaya heard this terrible speech from Drona he kept his promise. His face showed his joy in it and his mind was entirely resolved to do it. He cut off his thumb and gave it to Drona and after that when the Nishada shot an arrow his fingers were not as quick as before. Arjuna was greatly relieved.
The Hindus-An Alternative History by Wendy Doniger, Oxford University Press, Oxford, UK â€“ 2010, Page 288.