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The Margam is dead, long live the Margam!
- Veejay Sai, Bangalore

March 31, 2012

The 'Margam', of late has been a good point of conversation and debate amongst many scholars, gurus, students, dancers and the like. I have been asked for an opinion or a suggestion several times in the last couple of months on what I think of the state of today's 'Margam'. These are just a few random thoughts, scribbling and points of view, all of my own. These statutory warnings need to be strongly emphasized considering the various ways dancers have become touchy about anything and everything and are quick to react. So this article doesn't blame anyone or take anyone's name in specific. While you are allowed to make your own assumptions, it would be appreciated if this is read in the interest of the growth of the art form than in the dubious interest of any one.

Sounding suspiciously close to the word 'margin', the 'Margam' is probably undergoing the same treatment like a margin would. Staying conveniently marginalized and wallowing in self pity while everything else is being repackaged and rehashed to take its place. Not getting into defining the 'Margam' or seeing who has set it (all that and more has been tediously repeated ad nauseam), let's get straight to the point. How many dancers in the last half a dozen years or so have performed a 'complete Margam', with integrity and expertise? Oh! But before that, how many gurus teach or have the patience to teach a complete 'Margam'? How many gurus and holier-than-thou institutions who claim to be the eventual custodians of the 'truth' actually bother to sit with a student one-on-one, uncomplainingly, and groom them like they did half a century ago or even till a few decades ago? It is easier to blame a student for not being attentive, getting eaten into by distractions and not being passionate enough to her art. The fact is many gurus love to be lazy. If it comes easy, why not? Let those stories of hard labour remain stories of the past. Tales, of dancers practicing non-stop for fifteen hours a day and how they climbed to high perfection and fame, are best read in books or heard in conferences and seminars. These stories were supposed to encourage youngsters to sweat it out more to the final state of flawlessness. But when gurus themselves get on stage, doing just about anything (yes, anything from prancing to Bollywood tunes or throwing their own over-weight on and off stage), who is to talk to an already confused student, convince her that it is okay to know that their gurus could be behaving unintelligent and they could move on to another serious and efficient teacher? How does one convince a student that not all teachers are alike or insecure and not all curse their students for leaving them? Most students are struck in a fix of being called a 'guru-drohi' (one who has betrayed the guru) and unfocussed. Some have moved on at the risk of being labeled as such.

What are the reasons that many students these days consider learning dance or music or continuing from where they began a big burden? One of the reasons is certainly the eternal issue of finances, if not just that. Most gurus these days charge the sky for teaching anything. Take an anonymous survey of students and what they pay to learn and the answers are appalling. There are several senior gurus who are more than happy to charge anywhere from fifteen to fifty thousand rupees (yes! You read that right! 15,000 - 50,000 Indian rupees only) from poor and zealous students. May be it is the price they pay for their innocence these days. There are gurus who have set shops, happily price-tagged each of the pieces you want to learn in separate jars and are willing to sell them to you. Varnam for 40,000, Javali and Padam for 30,000, Pushpanjali for 10-15,000, these prices are usually fixed. The prices fluctuate according to their mercies and a student's proximity to them. If you are willing to go do their grocery shopping and stitch saree falls, wash clothes and utensils, clean their cars, walk their dogs, bribe them with an expensive saree or two, maybe, just maybe you could get a rebate. Well, no guarantee on what they will teach you anyhow. Take the risk of learning it and performing it and getting lashed by all the other gurus, students and worse, the media, for presenting something ridiculous. By the end of this sojourn, there are several parents who would have ended up spending a fortune on their child's dance education and are tired and disillusioned of it. Gurus come in all varieties. There are those who are sincere and prefer to remain low-key and stick to their work. Then there are senior celebrated gurus who haven't ever gotten up from their cushioned armchairs for the last several decades and are hailed as exponents of abhinaya. They teach with their face gestures and hands and are considered the ultimate custodians of the real art. Many an innocent student have gone to them with the hope of learning something 'real' and have returned crestfallen knowing that a good dance performance needs a dancer to show her artistry beyond her face and hands. Another variety of gurus are performers themselves who develop a serious inferiority complex because their student has outshone them. These gurus carry on their backs a big load of ego, jealousy and are constantly scheming and conniving to discourage a student, however good she might be. The insecurity of these gurus is more pronounced than the aaharyam they wear to their own performances. God save students from such a windfall of constant wrath! They not only discourage a student by not teaching them properly but also start taking revenge for the severe inferiority complex they have grown. Then there are those gurus who claim to be the real guardians of a certain baani or descendants of some devadasi lineage and market themselves over that to students who assume the knowledge they possess is the 'real' one. A little research into their history and you know how much is fiction.

Does it end there? After all that learning or unlearning from various gurus, the trauma of dealing with sabha secretaries and festival organizers begins. They are current versions of the 'cultural pimps' that were infamous in Victorian England. They have to be pleased, sought after and their egos nursed from time to time, through the year, so they can fling at you a boring afternoon filler-slot in the Margazhi, like an old piece of stale bread flung at a stray dog and you have to accept it in all gratitude. Dancers are expected to wait outside their doors with tongues hanging out in eager anticipation that a miracle will happen and change the course of their miserable careers. Some of these sabha secretaries also need more than a bribe to settle their egos with a casting couch that needs to be updated satisfactorily. There are also several married but closet-gay secretaries who wield their power and crafty ways on the little tribe of male dancers already struggling with their own set of problems. For every taker, there is also a giver for who doesn't want an easy shortcut to success? Yes! Face it! A reality check will reveal some of the most shocking events and untold for incidents what dancers and students have to go through to get a performance. Many of them who have opted for their own dignity have faced boycott and a mouthful of false rumors about them, floating in the market. They have been tagged and flagged on the cultural landscape on a permanently 'ignore' mode. Except to live with it, they have very less choice to make. Many more have quit the industry itself in utter disgust.

Then come to the performance itself. First the war with the musicians. From selection of songs to payments to everything else, the dancers have to often deal with this. A dancer is given nothing more than an hour's duration or lesser to present everything in the world. Where does one begin? A decent Pushpanjali? A serious swarajathi? A 45-minute long varnam? A padam or a javali? The organizers decide most often what goes on stage and never the dancer, in many cases. The dancers are threatened with an empty hall and the risk of no future performances or invitations. So there they go with half a dozen avartanams, a thattu-mette and finish it, almost like an ugly advertisement jingle interrupting a television soap. Manodharma? What is that now? Don't bother! In addition to all this like a glistening proverbial cherry on the cake is this new sense of regional chauvinism that has grown beyond proportion. If the organizer is a Kannadiga or a Tamilian or any regional language evangelist, they would demand the entire performance be in that particular language only. This results in students taking up anything from a Purandhara Dasa devarnama to a Bharatiyar poem and forcefully squeezing jathis and adavus into it to make a tailor-made varnam that will suit the organizer's ego. Not like one must not do it, for that matter one can do the same with any song from Kolaveri to Sheela ki jawaani, and justify that some Bollywood film choreographer said it was all there in the Natya Shastra. Then there are those organizers and sabha secretaries who think of making a quick buck or two by introducing totally unprepared students hailing from NRI families. They chase their dollar dreams and realize them through extorting a good price with the promise of giving their kids ample publicity and what else, a good slot in the Margazhi. The end result is these dancers return to their respective countries with the publicity they get and open new schools of dance and start teaching. Then there are those organizers from foreign lands who lure dancers with an incentive of a foreign trip and make them do anything and everything. There is almost no cure to this cancer nor has a legible solution been thought over.

And then there are those dancers, who would have barely ventured half a dozen or even lesser years into learning when they open their own schools and start teaching hundreds of freshers. Half-baked dancers becoming gurus overnight and imparting half-baked knowledge to a new set of innocent victims is the new trend of the day. It is the new version of becoming a swami or baba for the Aastha/Sanskaar channel TRP's. The money coming from an arangetram is way too dear to let go. Costing anywhere between a lakh and two, these arangetrams are usually three-hour long family gatherings where the young student performs his/her professional debut to an invited audience. These also serve as venues for new age gurus to find their next catch, convince parents that their kids could become star dancers and extort a handsome price. This results in hundreds of students being mass-produced and made to believe they are dancers and scattered across. With abysmal knowledge of the art form or its history, students that would have ripened begin to rot with unprecedented rapidity.

Where do they build their stamina instantly to perform a full Margam? Hundreds of students no longer perform serious varnams because they are way too scared to be caught doing wrong or worse, they are terribly insecure to deal with the fact that they have been cheated and sold into the market-driven politics of the art economy. Result is the same insignificantly fewer set of varnams being circulated endlessly at the cost of making great legendary composers feel like total idiots. As a fresher recently asked, "What is the big deal about this Tanjore Quartet? Every dancer seems to be performing just the same three or four pieces but credit them endlessly for it." It was no fault of hers to ask so because she like her generation of students have grown to believe that fragments were a whole. Who is responsible for that? There are also those students who easily flip gurus like one would change a seasonal wardrobe and end up learning nothing in particular but present a show of mediocre patch-work. Ask them for their CV's and you can see how some of the students have changed over a dozen gurus in less than half a dozen years. You expect them to do any justice to their own dance? When nothing else works, there are always those who suddenly decide to turn to 'contemporary' dance without knowing head or tail of it.

Last, but not the least, are several external factors like the set of new age journalists and self-styled critics whose abysmal knowledge of what goes on stage easily reflect in their writings. Empowered with a pen and publication, most of them have neither been trained in the art form, nor have stayed around long enough to comment. Catering to sycophancy and exhibiting their limited awareness in their writings, they can easily be bought for a bribe. If you don't believe it, try sitting down four or five of the so called 'dance columnists' and talking them out on the basics. How many times haven't we come across rave reviews of absolutely mediocre shows only because the dancer was a celebrity and the writer was either a secret sycophant or clearly biased. Yet another woe for the innocent dance student who started out imagining her journey into a dance career would be smooth and hassle free.

Oh! We are drifting from the 'Margam' talk, are we? Just like the 'Margam' itself has drifted considerably from where it began and lost its way into the dreary desert sand of dead habit that Tagore was anxious about. In today's digital era when dance and music lessons are held on skype and social networking sites, who and what define a traditional 'Margam' or a proper guru? In a time when there are more festivals than dancers, who has the patience to sit and learn a 'Margam' the way it ought to have been done? This is the age of designer Margams. The economics of sabhas and festivals is directly proportional to a deterring performance. Dance is taught more in gymnasiums and human laboratories than in the custody of caring and concerned gurus. From obsession with lines to controversial content, anything can be presented. In an era of 'Global baani', anything can be patched to make an evening's presentation. If one was to say that Bharatanatyam dance form in India was dying a slow torturous death, then the current state of the 'Margam' signifies its decreasing sluggish heartbeat. Who is accountable for this?

Veejay Sai is a writer, editor and a culture critic.

Classical Dance industry is like the Ganges - it is Holy, alright! Yet realistically can we deny that it is so polluted? Can we take a dip into the Ganges...? It totally
depends where you take the dip! Blessed is the student who finds a selfless Guru who themselves consider they are merely a medium taking the Art forward and not make their Art earn for them. And in this Guru - Shishya parampara, it is equally the responsibility of the student to choose a path of dharma in keeping the art tradition sacred. When the integrity of the people involved in the lowest order in the spectrum is intact, rest will fall in place.

My kudos to the writer for writing this article and the editor for publishing it as well!
The Pandora's Box is open; so... now what??
- Deepa Chakravarthy (Mohiniattam dancer) (April 2, 2012)

Veejay should first demonstrate that he is not one of those critics with abysmal knowledge of what goes on stage. Veejay Sai's article is indeed "a few random thoughts" and deals briefly with the concept of margam. He does not even specify which margam format he refers to (e.g. Tanjore, devadasi, etc.). The article is diluted with baseless abstractions that is not worthy of a dance critic who does not indulge in imaginations. He could not specify what are the various ways dancers have become touchy about anything and everything, who are these dancers and how they react. Does Veejay know any gurus who curse their students for leaving them? I am not aware of any institutions or gurus who claim to be the eventual custodians of the 'truth'. This is some mirage that Veejay saw in his bad dream.

Most gurus that I know of do teach and have the patience to teach a complete Margam. I don't know what kind of odd gurus Veejay met in Bangalore. His main misconception is that a margam is a rigid set of items rather than a flexible set of types of items. This is why he did not wish to define what is margam in his view. This approach is foolish and misleading. As misleading as mislabeling a dance teacher with a "guru" title. How many maths gurus or computer gurus do we betray?

I have never heard of any gurus who charge the poor and zealous students the sky for teaching anything. Maybe Veejay would give us a few concrete examples? He sounds like Rukmini Devi who kicked out all dance gurus from Kalakshetra and decided that if she starts teaching herself she would save a lot of money. The younger generation today is no different.

As far as I know there are no senior celebrated gurus who haven't ever gotten up from their cushioned armchairs for the last several decades and are hailed as exponents of abhinaya. If some don't get up from their cushioned armchairs, it is because they are modest and are fully aware of the fact that they cannot demonstrate even 1% of the abhinaya that a talented teenager like Vedavathi Ganesh does with ease and spontaneity. This is why normally it is the senior students who do all the teaching. Moreover, in many schools all new items are choreographed by these senior students, and later the guru attaches his personal brand signature to this choreography as some kind of an endorsement. At one point they start questioning themselves why they cannot set up their own school like Rukmini Devi did. Wasn't she too one of those dancers, who had barely ventured half a dozen or even lesser years into learning when they open their own schools and start teaching hundreds of freshers? This process is absolutely normal and we don't need to whine about it.

Veejay's reliance on rumours and gossip is not worthy of a senior dance critic. He will not be able to provide a single instance when performing gurus developed a serious inferiority complex because their student has outshone them. He could not even describe what exactly these gurus supposedly do while scheming and conniving to discourage a student. Any examples?

As for the trauma of dealing with sabha secretaries and festival organizers, you can ask Rajeshwari Sainath why she never lets her daughter to meet alone any of these perverts. I don't know of any closet-gay secretaries who wield their power and crafty ways on the little tribe of male dancers but I was personally told about one senior organizer in Mylapore who enjoys molesting young girls.

There is a senior dance critic who invited one young Kuchipudi dancer to stay with him in his house for a few days while his wife was away. In exchange, he promised to make her famous. She refused. When her fellow Kuchipudi dancer suddenly started getting promoted by this man, she knew the price of this publicity. I wonder if has the guts to conduct a survey and establish a black list of such wrongdoers. A complete list of the "shocking events and untold incidents on what dancers and students have to go through to get a performance" would be of great value.

Everyone knows that there is no need for sabhas if the dancers are threatened with an empty hall. Had these "dancers" really learnt well, they would draw thousands of rasikas everywhere. The amateurish dancers always have to pay for pursuing their hobbies. If some parents have ended up spending a fortune on their child's dance hobby, they surely spent even more on trips to hill stations, horse riding or on fancy jewelry. All these wars with the musicians exist because musicians who are sought after are professionals, and they hate working for a small fee at some lame hobbyist' performance. Most musicians plainly refuse to play for any amount. If some hundreds of foolish students are mass-produced and made to believe they are dancers, fools will always be fools. After all, isn't it wonderful that 'there are more festivals than dancers'?

Dancers no longer perform 'serious varnams' not because they are way too scared to be caught doing wrong or worse. They just realize that the 17th century creations have no place today. Varnams are boring, and 90% of the audience leaves while or immediately after watching a varnam. Most are asleep during the varnams. There were no varnams danced in 10th century. The 'great legendary' composers of yesteryear were not total idiots, they would assign the expiry date on each of their items. Natya Shastra clearly indicates that only contemporary compositions should be performed. If dance gurus do not want to invest their time in searching for a good contemporary composer, this is their problem. Students suddenly decide to turn to 'contemporary' dance because they realize that there is no such a thing as 'classical' dance, and there is no 'head or tail' in the contemporary dance.

If Veejay knows any new age journalists and self-styled critics who can easily be bought for a bribe, let us know the names and the rates. The era of baseless complaints, rumours and useless dance reviews is over: the era of YouTube and Facebook, where everyone can express their opinion, is unfolding. Welcome to the new age, the digital era.
- Rachana Sundaresan (April 4, 2012)

Dear friends in the world of dance,

First and foremost, congratulations to for publishing such a wonderfully written, thought-provoking article and being open to a debate on some of the most pertinent issues facing dancers today. As I read through the article, all I could do was to sit and nod my head in agreement to every point Veejay has made in his article. His writing must have ruffled a lot of feathers across the dance world and now everyone certainly wants to make their opinion expressed.

I do not agree with what Ms. Rachana Sundaresan has written here in her comments. She clearly seems to have no world view about the art form and its growth in many ways it is right now. She like many others is hungry for good gossip and hence the need to keep pointedly asking for names. Names of students, gurus, perverts, and whoever. I find it totally unnecessary to take anyone's names unless we only want things to get more rotten. Those of us who are in the field and have experienced all those troubles stated in Veejay's article, KNOW who these gurus and people are. Taking any of those names does no good to improve the existing situation either. It only becomes a practical hazard for students who get victimized and socially outcast from the art scene. Yes, we live in a society where taking names only leads to other problems. It leads to people filing defamation cases to nurse their egos. And we, who are lovers of this site surely don't want any such rubbish out here. Veejay's statutory warning in the beginning of the article is well placed to exactly suit people like Ms. Rachana who seem more interested in the gossip about than about the largess of the art form itself.

Quoting her, she writes: "They just realize that the 17th century creations have no place today. Varnams are boring, and 90% of the audience leaves while or immediately after watching a varnam. Most are asleep during the varnams. There were no varnams danced in 10th century. The 'great legendary' composers of yesteryear were not total idiots, they would assign the expiry date on each of their items. Natya Shastra clearly indicates that only contemporary compositions should be performed."

Now is she also going to say our Vedas, shastras and Upanishads that are pre-17th, sorry, maybe pre-5th century are not contemporary enough for today's times? Haven't we all learnt that Natyam is 'Panchama vedam' and hence it remains timeless and is relevant to all ages? What are these strange expiry dates she is talking of, only she knows. I haven't come across a single composition from the last 200 years that says it has an expiry date on it. Don't musicians still sing Tyagaraja or dancers still do an Oothukadu thillana? What expiry date is she on about? Is a 200 year old varnam from the Tanjore Quartet not as beautiful as it was then? Haven't we seen legendary dancers like Malavika Sarukkai or Alarmel Valli perform a 'Mohamana' for the Nth time and not found it as refreshing as it was? What about Yamini and Swapnasundari whose abhinaya to Jayadeva's ashtapadi's continues to remain priceless? Did Jayadeva write them with an expiry date? Research scholars are not fools to dig into the richness of our cultural history and publish so many books, if everything came with an expiry date. INDIAN PERFORMING ARTS (music/dance/theatre/folk cultures) DO NOT HAVE EXPIRY DATES AND THIS IS A FACT FOR LIFE, EVEN IF ONE DOES NOT WANT TO BELIEVE IT. 'Expiry dates' is a western concept and one must get rid of any such thoughts.

With her western-centric mind, like many others, Ms. Rachana seems to think even art works in strongly demarcated slots with shelf life, like things one would buy in a super market. She seems to come from that school of thought where they sell art in those dubious transactions. Her sense of history is ridiculous as she seems to be ok with what Rukmini Devi did. For the record, Rukmini was trained with Guru Meenakshi Sundaram Pillai hardly for a year when she decided to go on stage. The guru never saw her face ever again as he was against such 'market-driven' thought she endorsed then and that ended the relation between the erudite guru and a student who was too eager but not talented enough to prove her worth.

I quote her once again: "If some parents have ended up spending a fortune on their child's dance hobby, they surely spent even more on trips to hill stations, horse riding or on fancy jewelry."

We all know that art cannot be counted in monetary terms like your holiday to a hill station or your hobby for horse riding. Art is a source of livelihood for many and there are many passionate and committed students who have decided to make music or dance their full time profession. The big ugly monies involved have repulsed many genuine learners away from it. Ms. Rachana comes from a school of thought where she feels art is just another market commodity that can be bought at any rate, like her example of hill stations and fancy jewelry. She seems to have no clue of the trouble traditional families of devadasis had to go through when the State betrayed their trust and snatched them of their livelihoods. I would ask her to read the scholarly books written by Davesh Soneji, Sunil Khotari and others and get a better understanding of the socio-economic factors that affect art and artistes. It is sad that today we live in a world where a heritage of art that has flourished for thousands of years uninterrupted is now spoken in the language of 'market values', 'expiry dates' and 'commodities'. We all should be ashamed for this school of thought becoming prevalent, especially in the younger generation.

I find Ms. Rachana's accusations against the article and the spirit with which it might have been written, totally baseless. I find her course of thought very harmful for the future of the art form. She like many others again, think on the lines of market values. I would pray and hope people like her can think beyond themselves in the greater interest of the art form. Otherwise the Margam, as Veejay pointed out, will continue to keep dying and we all will be collectively responsible and sorry for that.

Best Regards,
San Francisco (April 6, 2012)

Brilliant article! Regarding the kind of gurus he has written about, I have personally been at the receiving end of such attitudes from gurus I have learnt from. Many a time I have wondered why on earth I was born with a passion for dance! They don't have to be performers to be bitter, have complexes etc. In fact what is worse is having daughters who perform! They should just be called teachers. 'Guru' is too sublime a word.
- Anonymous
(April 9, 2012)

Rachana Sundaresan's comments are neither apt nor praiseworthy. What does she know about the great legend Smt. Rukmini Devi, her works, teachings and Kalakshetra? I REGRET reading such a comment.
- Anonymous (April 10, 2012)

Dancers should read how Bhishma won the battle against his guru Parshuram. Arjuna went into battle against his own guru too. Dancers should read this story carefully and draw their conclusions (killing your own guru is a great accomplishment):

Ekalavya was the son of a Nishadha chief (tribal), who came to Drona for instruction. Drona refused to train him along with the Kshatriya princes because Ekalavya was not a prince. Ekalavya began study and practice by himself, having fashioned a clay image of Drona and worshiping him. Solely by his determination, Ekalavya became a warrior of exceptional prowess, excelling the young Arjuna. Arjuna was worried that his position as the best warrior in the world might be usurped. Drona saw his worry, and visited Ekalavya with the princes. Ekalavya promptly worshiped Drona. Drona asked Ekalavya for a dakshina, or a deed of thanks a student must give to his teacher upon the completion of his training. Drona asked for Ekalavya's right thumb, which Ekalavya unhesitatingly cut off and handed to Drona, despite knowing that this would irreparably hamper his archery skills.
- Krupa (April 10, 2012)

In my view, Pushpamala's comment and her finding "it totally unnecessary to take anyone's names unless we only want things to get more rotten" resembles the standpoint of our darling Prime Minister, Manmohan Singh, whose government struggled so hard not to disclose the names of those Indians who have stashed over $500 billion in banks abroad. You see... there is no need to make public these names... Taking any of those names (e.g. Rahul Gandhi's) does no good to improve the existing situation.... We live in a society where taking names only leads to other problems. You see, it leads to people filing defamation cases or earthquakes. There is no need to fight corruption because there is no corruption in India. Everything is ok. There is no need to change anything. Please let's not name any names.

"Keep quiet" is the coward's motto. Snivel on.
- Harish (April 11, 2012)

I feel sad that nobody is questioning whether the content of Margam is outdated or not.
What is really shocking is the female dancers still find it respectful to portray the "Nayika" as the man would like to see. What about a woman's perspective? That also when most of the audience members (except organizers), are female in gender.

I think the next community opinion post should be "Does the portrayal of female gender in the Margam relate to the changing gender roles in today's society?"
- Anonymous (April 20, 2012)

The margam is dead and so is dance writing. As another commentator pointed out, there is no focus to this article, nor does it address the topic it introduces. This 'in your face' tabloid style seems to be increasingly encouraged and supported by Narthaki. Like a 45-minute varnam, who wants to read through a well-thought out and well-written coherent essay with examples and backed-up arguments when you can read someone's random rants? A lot more entertaining!
- Anonymous (April 20, 2012)

If the 'Margam' is on the verge of dying then it should die. "Survival of the fittest" is what applies to art too. If dancers and the audience want to get away from the Margam, why not?
Why is the Margam supposed to be a"dogma"? The question is, do we choose to be victims of this kind of cultural talibanism or should Bharatanatyam become a language to explore new structures.

What is important is to understand that Margam is just a structure. We dancers can explore Bharatanatyam with our own structures. All the ancient texts on dance talk about Margi - Deshi, anibaddha - nidbaddha. If the ancient authors were so liberated to understand the expanse of art, why are we dancers and critics so narrowminded ? Why can't we use our mind and body and the beautiful language of Bharatanatyam to create new structures, new margams. Let every dancer create one's own margam. A path which gets charted by one's own personalized aesthetics.
- Anonymous (Apr 28, 2012)

Krupa's comment above about Ekalavya is not in the context here. To set the record straight, that lost thumb does not affect archery skills, as it did not affect Ekalavya's. Ekalavya fought on behalf of Kaurvas in Kuruskhetra - speaks volume about his 'dharma parignana'. What he asked Drona was to teach him royal archery. Just like any Tom, Dick and Harry is not given access to nation's defense secrets, back then royal archery was not taught to everyone. If Ekalavya was so nice, why did he eavesdrop? If he considered Drona his guru, then why did he disobey him and went on to practice the art that was not recommended for him? Why was he denied by Drona?
Back then aptitude was a big deal - reason why Drona did not teach brahmastra to his own son, until Aswaththama made a big fuss about it and finally Drona gave in because of his love for him.

Ekalavya shot not one or 2, but 11 arrows one after the other into a dog's mouth, an animal that survives on its mouth for all its needs, to what? Show off his skill, should tell you that he did not have the right temperament to put the dhanurvidya he learns to right use at the right time. Hence stop demonizing Drona, he was guru, a great one at that. He was a great student too. And stop making a demi god out of Ekalavya.

PS: After taking the thumb as guru dakshina, Drona stays back and teaches him. This learning is what he later uses against Pandavas, while fighting for Kauravas in Kurukshetra. This is written in Mahabharata by Vyasa.
- Anon (March 24, 2016)

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