Drona in Mahabharata

B. Reusch reusch at UCLINK4.BERKELEY.EDU
Thu Jun 24 18:26:37 UTC 1999

Here is a philological query I received, hoping it would elicit
enlightening comments from you. Thanks.

>       I would appreciate any help with my attempt to understand an
>apparent incoherence in the Mahabharata's account of Drona's feud with
>Drupada. For those familiar with the unique text-critical issues of the
>MBh, I wish to issue a disclaimer: I am not attempting to discern the
>"original" text for this episode. The episode is basically as follows:
>       In the Mahabharata, child Drona, son of the sage Bharadvaja,
>befriends Drupada, the son of his father's friend, King Prsata. When they
>grow up, Drupada becomes king, and his childhood brahmana friend, Drona,
>apparently in need of money to support his young family, approaches
>Drupada to cash in on their old friendship. Drupada, however, haughtily
>rejects Drona, insisting that a rich, powerful king can hardly be friends
>with a poor, powerless figure like Drona, the refrain of this conceited
>sermon being sakhi-purvam kim isyate, roughly "what is the use of old
>       Here are the some of my observations, explicitly stated or
>seemingly entailed by the extant MBh texts:
>1. The Adi-parva, Ch 121-122 clearly states that Drona first married Krpi,
>and had a child, the future serial-killer Asvatthaman, BEFORE approaching
>2. Krpi, and her twin-brother Krpa, were adopted children of the great
>king Santanu, the highly revered grandfather of Dhrtarastra and Pandu.
>3. Krpa enjoyed an unquestioned status as a well-maintained acarya of the
>royal Kuru household, and his saintly sister Krpi, Drona's wife, enjoyed a
>similar, highly respected status.
>4. This means that Drona must have been a most respectable figure in the
>Kurus' eyes, since they gave Krpi to him as his wife. Indeed Drona's
>father is the saintly Bharadvaja.
>5. This makes Drona a virtual son-in-law of Santanu, a brother-in-law of
>Krpa, and a type of uncle to the de-facto king, Dhrtarastra.
>6. That Drona was well-known to the Kurus is seen in the incident where he
>deftly rescues the ball (or whatever they were playing with) that the Kuru
>princes had lost in a well. When the princes ask Drona who he is, he says,
>"Just tell Bhisma about me, and he'll know," and Bhisma does know.
>       Therefore, here are the problems:
>1. With such superlative connections to the richest family in the world,
>how can Drona be a destitute brahmana, who explicitly tells Parasurama,
>for example, "I come seeking money," and then goes to Drupada?
>2. Why would Drupada reject Drona as a poor beggar, since Drona had
>already married into the most aristocratic Kuru dynasty? Drupada mentions
>later that he was a close friend of Pandu, the departed Kuru king, and
>that Drupada had always dreamed of marrying his daughter Draupadi to one
>of Pandu's sons. The texts mention no troubles between the Kurus and the
>neighboring Pancalas after Pandu's death, and Drona is a member of the
>Kuru royal household.
>       In the dialogue between Drona and Drupada, Drupada is a monstrous
>caricature of a haughty, successful man rejecting his old friend. The
>whole episode seems problematic.
>       Have any scholars written on this, to anyone's knowledge? All help
>will be cheerfully appreciated.

Beatrice Reusch
University of California, Berkeley

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