Physical impediment, and fighting prowess, in Mahabharata

Edeltraud Harzer Clear eclear at UTS.CC.UTEXAS.EDU
Mon Dec 29 20:16:10 UTC 1997

>I believe that, in Mahabharata, Arjuna (although not blind) learns to fire
>arrows in darkness. Would someone please tell me just where in the epic
>this occurs? Does Mahabharata mention other great blind warriors? (If so,
>where?) Also, I seem to recall that in Peter Brook's movie of [some of] the
>epic there's a contest of martial skills where at least one warrior
>(himself an archer, I think), wanting (or forced?) to demonstrate the
>extent of his mastery, hacks off his own thumb. Is there some such contest
>in the epic? (If so, where?) Thanks--Russell Moxham

Ekalavya cut off his thumb as a "fee" demanded by his teacher. It was
the teacher himself (DroNa) who asked for such a fee, even though he
had not actually been Ekalavya's instructor. DroNa had refused to accept
Ekalavya as his pupil out of prejudice. Ekalavya went away, built a
statue of DroNa for worship, and practised alone until he reached
mastery. Drona asked for the thumb so that his favourite pupil, Arjuna,
would not have a rival in archery. He had said to Arjuna "No archer on
earth shall ever be your equal."
You can read all this in van Buitenen, The Mahabharata, U. Chicago Press,
1973, 1980, book I, section 123.1 (pp. 270 ff.). And of course in the
original Sanskrit, if you prefer. Good luck.

Edeltraud Harzer Clear
Asian Studies, UT @Austin

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