In this painting, Ekalavya (Sanskrit: एकलव्य, éklavya) a character from the Hindu epic, the Mahābhārata, is seen to give his thumb to Dranacharya when asked for his Guru Dakshina. Per Wikipedia : One day when Drona and his students were going out into the forest, they saw, Arjuna saw that there was a dog who was unable to bark due to an amazing construction of arrows all around his mouth, that kept the dog from barking yet completely unharmed. Drona was amazed, but also distressed. His favorite student, Arjuna, was the greatest archer in the world. But even Arjuna could not fathom how such a feat could be achieved. Drona and his students investigated, and came upon Eaklavya, practicing archery with a mud statue of Drona looking over him. Eklavya, upon seeing Drona, came and bowed to him.
Drona asked Eklavya where he had learnt archery. Eklavya replied "Under you, Guruji", and showed Drona his statue.
Drona then said "For a Guru to have a pupil, the pupil must be ready to offer his guru a Guru-dakshina". Eaklavya replied "Guru, please ask - all I have is yours". Drona then said "Give me the thumb of your right hand". Eklavya took out his knife, and without hesitation sliced off his thumb and offered it to Drona.
This incident glorifies Eklavya's sacrifice and dedication to his guru. However, it also demonstrates the cruel action that Drona takes to preserve the status-quo. When questioned by Arjuna later, Drona replies "What would happen to society if the lower castes start learning the martial arts reserved for Kshatrias? I had to do this to preserve stability and social order." What is right? Are means justified by the ends (at least a good end as perceived by Drona)? These themes are constantly raised in the Mahabharatha.
He was a young prince of the Nishadha, a confederation of jungle tribes in Ancient India. Ekalavya aspired to study archery in the gurukul of Guru Dronacharya (Drona), the greatest known teacher in the use of weaponry and martial art knowledge at the time. He was son of Vyatraj Hiranyadhanus, a talented soldier in the army of King of Magadha..