Answer by Raakhee V. Menon
Thank you for the A2A.
I have my own take on this. I may or may not be right. So please bear with me.
It is a fact well known that Ekalavya was denied tutelage under Dronacharya because of his ‘low birth’. It is also well known that he hid behind bushes and watched the Kaurava princes being taught the art of warfare, thereby mastering the art himself.
So he knew the technicalities. But he didn’t know the moralities that come with them. Warfare requires not just physical skill with weapons. It also requires a sound mind that is able to clearly distinguish between what is ethical and what isn’t. Ekalavya had the technical knowledge, but he severely lacked the psychological training imparted to the Kaurava princes.
A little knowledge is a dangerous thing. I believe that Dronacharya had a notion about what this boy could and most probably would do with such tremendous skill without a clear understanding of how and when to use his skills. Ekalavya was exceptionally talented, as good as or even overshadowing Arjuna. But without proper training, his skills could have been misused by mentors with ulterior motives. This was a threat only Dronacharya, being the exemplary teacher that he was, foresaw. The only way to curb it was to invite wrath upon himself as a teacher by asking the thumb of Ekalavya as guru dakshina.
Ekalavya was no doubt a valorous man. There’s no denying that. Whether he was the best archer, that is debatable. Because, like I said earlier, a good warrior has to have not just skill with weapons, but also a clear understanding of the ethics of warfare. It is this understanding that reins in emotions like anger and revenge during a war.