India is a country that prides itself on its culture and traditions. A culture that teaches us to respect and obey our elders and, in particular, our teachers, the ones who impart knowledge and learning which enables us to face life and its challenges.
Significance of Guru Purnima
While the teachers must educate their students with utmost dedication and devotion, the students, in turn, are taught to accord respect and regard to their teachers and their gurus. As per the Hindu culture, a guru or a teacher is someone equal to God and, therefore, must be accorded the same kind of respect and reverence.
The Guru spreads enlightenment and removes darkness from our lives. He shows the path that we must follow, and without his guidance, we would be lost. Therefore as the student or the disciple, we must feel indebted to our teachers and hold them in high regard. We are who we are because of them.
An ancient Sanskrit phrase says’ Mata Pitah Guru Daivam’; as per this, the first place in a person’s life is reserved for the mother, second for the father, third for the Guru, and fourth for God. This means that the teacher/ guru has been accorded a higher place than God. This is because it is believed that a guru or a teacher has an exceptional place in an individual’s life. God gives us life, but the way to lead this life comes from the Guru.
History of Guru Purnima
Guru Purnima is a festival that is not restricted to just one community. Not only the Hindus but the Buddhists and the Jains also celebrate it. They all have a history of their own for doing that.
Guru Purnima Hindu History
All holy books of Hinduism talk about the bond between the Guru and his Shishya. Our mythology is brimming with Guru-Shishya tales and stories. And they all depict the same thing: no matter what; a Shishya must have utmost respect and regard for the Guru. Therefore, a Shishya should be there to do whatever the Guru asks of him, as it is his duty to do that. This is steeped in our culture and our values.
This is a tradition that celebrates all gurus, both spiritual and academic.
Though this feeling of respect and regard must be ongoing and continuous, there is a specific day when this bond is celebrated. It is the day when teachers are honoured and acknowledged, and the students express their gratitude and thankfulness to them in various ways.
The day marked for this purpose is the day of Guru Purnima. The name has two parts to it; Guru and Purnima. Guru refers to the teacher, and Purnima refers to the day on which the festival is celebrated. It is celebrated on the Full Moon day, which is the day of Purnima in the Hindu month of Ashadha ( June-July).
So the day chosen for the celebration is the day when the moon lights up the earth. This is pretty much the way the Guru or the teacher lights up the life of his shishya. The light of the moon lights up the world. In the same manner, the light emanating from the Guru’s persona lights up the life of the shishya, that is Guru Purnima. How beautiful is that!
The day is also celebrated as Vyasa Purnima, for it also marks the birthday of Veda Vyasa, the sage who compiled the Vedas and authored the Mahabharata.
Guru Purnima Buddhist History
Guru Purnima is celebrated not only by the Hindus but also by Buddhists. They celebrate the day in honour of Lord Buddha, who gave his first sermon on this day at Sarnath in India, sharing his learnings with his disciples. It was a full-moon day of the Asadha month when he did that.
Guru Purnima Jain History
The Jains also celebrate this day to venerate Lord Mahavira, who became the Guru to Gautam Swami, his first disciple on this day.
Guru Purnima Celebration
Irrespective of their religious affiliations in India, people celebrate this festival by thanking and paying tributes to their teachers. Many people observe a fast in honour of their Guru and also visit a temple or their teacher to seek their blessings. They dedicate themselves to following the Guru’s principles and teachings and putting them into practice.
They refrain from eating heavy foods during the fast, particularly non-vegetarian dishes, salt, and cereals.
Also Read: A Woman, A Teacher, An Inspiration
In schools and colleges across the country, students both past and present visit their teachers and greet them with words and tokens of respect and gratitude.
Though different people may adopt different ways to celebrate the day, the underlying sentiment is the same; a feeling of immense gratitude and thankfulness towards the Guru.
Guru Purnima is the Indian way of celebrating Teacher’s day.