This painting depicts a lesser-known story from the Mahabharata concerning the transcendence of caste through meditation and spiritual rigor. It recounts the tale of Eklavya, a tribal boy who passionately wished to become a great archer. The mastery of archery was the sole preserve of the ksatriya caste of aristocratic warriors, whose youth were trained in the necessary spiritual and practical skills. The greatest teacher (acharya) was Drona. When Eklavya was denied an apprenticeship because of his low birth, he retreated to the forest, modeled the guru’s image in clay, and, after prolonged meditation, attained great skill. Then, in disguise, he entered an archery competition and was declared the winner. By meditating upon Dronacharya, the disciple secured the master’s knowledge. In this unprecedented rendering of the subject, Eklavya is shown majestically releasing his arrow in front of the monochromatic clay icon of his guru.
New York. The Metropolitan Museum of Art. "An Artist of Her Time: Y. G. Srimati and the Indian Style," December 15, 2016–June 18, 2017.